Everyone has their pet cats and persons of interest in tonight's preseason game between the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams. Here are three players that I'll be paying some extra attention to during tonight's match-up in Hawaii.
Wide Receiver Devin Smith (pictured above) has been gaining momentum recently and could be pushing for a spot on the 53-man roster. His first four years in the NFL have been marred by injuries, but Devin is showing signs of why the Jets made him an early 2nd-round pick in the 2015 draft.
A former teammate of Ezekiel Elliott's at Ohio State, Smith's rookie year with New York was cut short by a torn ACL. The rehab continued into 2016 and limited him to four games, and then he suffered a repeat injury in 2017. After taking all of 2018 away from football, Devin returned and was signed by the Cowboys last January.
Draft pedigree doesn't mean everything, but it's worth nothing that only Amari Cooper and Tavon Austin would have higher draft selections than Devin Smith among the Cowboys receivers. That says something about his perceived upside at one time.
Recent reports from Oxnard have Smith standing out among the WR prospects fighting to make the team. He also showed well in the first preseason game, leading all players in receiving yards against the 49ers.
If Devin Smith has another notable performance tonight, it may be time to start penciling him as a member of the 2019 roster.
QB Cooper Rush
This is hardly an original take. I imagine most of us are excited to see how Rush builds on last week's solid play and if he can further distance himself from Mike White as the Cowboys' backup quarterback.
Hopefully, Cooper's receivers won't have the same jitters that we saw last week. His good game last week could've been great if not for some drops.
We also so Rush overthrow the tight ends on a couple of passes, so there's room for improvement on his end as well. But last week's game had to go a long way to restoring his confidence after a rough 2018 preseason.
Not only does strong play from Cooper help our confidence in the backup QB position, but it could also prompt the Cowboys to only go with two quarterbacks.
If Rush outclasses Mike White in this preseason, Dallas may not see the need to keep White on the 53-man roster this year. They would likely accept the risk of putting him on the practice squad and free up a roster spot for another position.
So if you have some WR, DL, or CB prospect that you're worried is going to be lost in a numbers crunch, root hard for Cooper Rush tonight. He just might help save someone else's job.
K Brett Maher
Honestly, is there any one player in camp right now we're more worried about? While Maher reportedly had a great week of camp, how he kicks in games is ultimately what will pacify fans and keep the front office from looking elsewhere.
Of course, we'd love to see the Cowboys scoring touchdowns instead of attempting field goals. But part of me says that Maher needs every opportunity he can get to prove himself, or to give Dallas the evidence they need to make a move.
Kicker is so easy to underrate compared to the rest of an NFL roster. We do it often despite knowing how easily a game, and maybe a season, can come down to just one field goal.
Maher went 3-of-4 last week but missed from just 35 yards out, plus has a made kick from 40 that was close to going outside. It was a very shaky performance.
After years of watching Dan Bailey boot them right down the middle consistently, perhaps we're a little spoiled in Cowboys Nation. But even if Maher can't be Bailey, he has to be better than what we saw last week if he wants to avoid losing his job.