Preseason football is finally upon us as the Dallas Cowboys will take on their historic rival from the 1980s and 90s, the San Francisco 49ers. Though it's only preseason week one, because of the long wait that Cowboys Nation has had to endure from the divisional round of the playoffs until now, there's a lot of buzz surrounding this game.
It's the next step to figuring out what this team's 53-man roster will look like a month from now. While there are a ton of players who are unlikely to see action Saturday night against the 49ers, there are a quite a few that are playing for jobs with each of these preseason snaps.
This is a huge training camp and preseason for Taco Charlton. A player that looked to be a lock on the 53-man roster has seen Kerry Hyder and Dorance Armstrong shoot past him on the depth chart putting his position on the roster in serious doubt just two seasons into his NFL career. His potential to make the roster just got new life with the suspension to Robert Quinn for the first two weeks of the regular season.
In his first two seasons, Taco Charlton has had solid stretches but hasn't been able to put together a complete season. He has some skill and talent that can translate to the NFL, he just hasn't been able to find the consistency in his game yet. In order to stand out, he's going to have to start stringing good practices and games together.
The problem is that Charlton hasn't yet shown much more than being a depth player for the Cowboys. If there are players that are out-performing him during the preseason, Joe Jackson, Daniel Wise, and Jalen Jelks come to mind, then Taco could be looking for work in September.
It would be a hard pill to swallow for the Cowboys who spent their 2017 first-round pick on Taco Charlton only to release him a little more than two years later. If he's unable to outperform the competition this training camp and preseason, they'll make a move to trade him or release him.
The wide receiver competition at the bottom of the depth chart is heating up, but unfortunately for Cedrick Wilson, he's not the player that's been standing out among the guys that are competing for the fifth and sixth wide receiver spots.
Jon'vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton, two undrafted free agents, along with Reggie Davis are the players that have been standing out through the first two weeks of training camp. That's not to say that Wilson hasn't had his moments, but Johnson has been so good that in the Blue-White Scrimmage held last Sunday night, he got a lot of work with the first-team offense.
Wilson is a player that has a lot of potential to be a solid down-roster option for the Cowboys, but the competition thus far could potentially have him on the outside looking in. What Wilson has going for him is that he has practice squad eligibility because he spent his rookie season on the IR.
The second-year wide receiver out of Boise State has an excellent opportunity to make the team with Noah Brown still working to get back in and Allen Hurns recently released. However, in order to beat out Johnson and Guyton, he'll need to start performing and that opportunity comes on Saturday night.
There isn't a question of whether rookie Running Back Tony Pollard is going to make the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster when the team trims the roster. The thing that Tony Pollard has to prove is that he's a running back who can split out wide and play wide receiver, not the other way around.
If you've been following the Dallas Cowboys since the draft, you've heard people call Pollard "Alvin Kamara-lite." The insinuation is that Pollard has the ability to be a dual-threat player for the Dallas Cowboys and with what he showed at Memphis, there's no reason to believe that he can't be. Unfortunately, without playing a snap in the NFL, many seem to think that Pollard is really only a wide receiver because he didn't receive a ton of work as a running back behind former starter and now Rams running back Darrell Henderson.
Though Pollard did a lot of his work at Memphis as a wide receiver, he averaged more than seven yards per carry in the running game. He has the size at 6-0 and 205 pounds to be an effective running back in the NFL. If Phillip Lindsay can rush for 1,000 on 5.4 yards per carry, I don't see why Pollard can't be as effective with more height and weight to his frame.
While Ezekiel Elliott sits out of training camp hoping to get a contract extension, Pollard is the man that benefits the most. He gets the opportunity to show the Dallas Cowboys what he's capable as a potential lead back with the first-team offense. How Pollard performs in the preseason could have huge implications to the Dallas Cowboys' negotiations with Elliott.
The team hopes Pollard and the rest of the running back room has an excellent preseason in order to put pressure on Elliott and his representation to get a deal done. If Pollard and the running back group struggle to run the ball, primarily with the first team, then the pressure shifts to the front office.
Either way, despite his security on the 53-man roster, Pollard has a lot to play for this preseason.
The Dallas Cowboys didn't really make a big move at the safety position but instead added veteran safety George Iloka. Iloka's been slated to compete with Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and Donovan Wilson for the strong safety role while providing some help at free safety as well.
With Xavier Woods ascension and the play of Darian Thompson during training camp, the Cowboys could go into the season with that duo at free safety. At strong safety, the Cowboys still like Jeff Heath, despite some of his inadequacies, they invested a sixth-round pick in Donovan Wilson out of Texas A&M, and Kavon Frazier is a valuable special teams player.
With the depth and performance of that depth in training camp thus far, there may not be much room on the team for Iloka out of training camp.
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The training camp battles begin to heat up this week as the Dallas Cowboys play their first preseason game. It may not be a game that has significance in the standings, but to the players and the coaching staff, it carries a lot of weight. These games help to confirm the things they're seeing in practice. These games separate those who will be on the team from those who will be looking for a team.
Taco Charlton Isn’t Going Anywhere After Strong Preseason Week 3
Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Taco Charlton might be turning things around. The former first round draft pick didn't have a great couple of seasons to start his career off, which forced him to be in a battle to earn a spot on the Cowboys 53-man roster this offseason. Three weeks into the preseason, it looks like he's a lock to make the team. In a "Dress Rehearsal" game that went great for the Cowboys, Charlton's performance was among the best players.
A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how the Cowboys' younger defensive ends could force the team to move on from Taco. From Dorance Armstrong to Jalen Jelks, there's a handful of promising players that were participating in a positional battle that one way or another, included Taco Charlton.
However, the Michigan product showed up to play versus the Los Angeles Rams with two passes batted down. Despite making such plays, we still hadn't seen much from him in the pass rush department.
That changed against the Houston Texans last Saturday when he managed to get two sacks (one strip-sack), two forced fumbles and a recovery. This was undoubtedly Taco's best game in his career. He still has a lot to prove, but it was definitely good to see him have a "breakout" preseason game.
With such performance, it doesn't seem like he'll be going anywhere in 2019. Charlton won't be a starter for this team, but he could become a very important rotational piece for Rod Marinelli's defense. He has a great opportunity to find playing time during the first two weeks of the season before Robert Quinn returns from suspension.
One unfortunate note was that in his best game yet, Taco went out injured twice (ankle). The first time he went back to the field to get some more but had to walk off the field for a second time. Hopefully, he's able to play next Thursday but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't after having a breakout game versus the Texans.
Taco Charlton still has a very long way to justify being a first-round pick, but his play against Houston was a start. It will be very interesting to see how he plays in the 2019 regular season. He'll have to fight for playing time and he'll have to make every snap count to turn his career around.
Cowboys’ Taryn Christion Gets Time at QB; More Coming?
Last night was the first time we've seen Taryn Christion, the Dallas Cowboys' fourth quarterback on the current depth chart, actually playing the position in preseason. Could we see more of Christion at QB in this Thursday's finale, and at what point should Mike White be worried?
Signed just a few days before training camp began, Christion has been tried at running back, receiver, and various special teams units while the Cowboys were in Oxnard. But last week he started getting more time at quarterback, and last night's win over the Houston Texans saw him playing a few drives at QB to close the game out.
Sure, Taryn came in fourth behind White in the rotation. But that Dallas thought to give him reps in that game, the critical dress rehearsal game, is telling.
Jason Garrett doesn't get cute with rotations and playing time. He's old school, and there's meaning in every decision he makes about when and how guys get time in preseason.
Ironically, the decision came following Mike White's best preseason game this year. He went 6-of-9 for 56 yards and a touchdown, plus avoided any sacks or turnovers.
Rather than let White keep building on that, though, Dallas pulled him for Taryn Christion in the 4th quarter. It seemed as if the Cowboys were determined to get him some time at QB.
An even better showcase will come this Thursday night. The Cowboys host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final preseason game; we know Dak Prescott won't be playing, and the team may even protect Cooper Rush with limited time on the field.
Dallas likely intends to give Christion some significant playing time on Thursday. And to help make that easier, they played him last night to get some of those butterflies out of his system.
No, Taryn Christion probably isn't going to make the 53-man roster. Neither is Mike White, for that matter. It feels like the battle for the number-three QB is more about the practice squad now.
But whatever the case, the battle seems to be heating up. Dallas appears more invested in Christion now as a quarterback than at any other point since he arrived; some added intrigue for Thursday's final preseason game.
HOU 0, DAL 34: Defense Dominates in Dress Rehearsal Game
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't have scripted a better result in tonight's dress rehearsal game against the Houston Texans. All three phases of the game made big plays as they dominated 34 to 0.
The night belonged to the defense as they terrorized Houston's starters and reserves along the offensive line with 8 sacks. Taco Charlton, a former first-round pick turned outcast was the star of the night with 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. In my opinion, if there were any doubts about him making the roster he put them to bed tonight.
Kerry Hyder showed once again why he's one of the smartest free-agent signings of 2019. After being a lost man in the 3-4 defensive scheme with his former team the Lions, he's done a really good job applying pressure even though he hadn't recorded any sacks in the first two preseason games. However, tonight he recorded 2 sacks and reminded everyone of the player who had 8 sacks in 2016.
The young guys weren't to be left out in this defensive clinic. Dorance Armstrong, Trysten Hill, Daniel Wise, and Joe Jackson all had half sacks. Rookie Safety Donovan Wilson had one of the plays of the night with a beautiful interception as he tapped both feet before heading out of bounds. Cornerback C.J. Goodwin, who will probably make the roster on his special teams ability, got in on the interception party himself high pointing a contested pass.
Dak Prescott was only 2 for 5 (11 for 14 in the preseason) but managed to escape what looked like a sure sack and roll to his left and threw a rope to Michael Gallup for a touchdown. The two have shown a lot of growth and chemistry during training camp, something that was missing at times in 2018.
Wide Receiver Devin Smith had 6 receptions for 79 yards while Cedrick Wilson snagged 3 passes on 4 targets. Both receivers are fighting for the final roster spots in the receiver group which they'll have to continue to do next week against the Buccaneers.
Tight End Marcus Lucas had a very solid game with 4 catches for 50 yards. He will definitely be a player to watch in the final preseason game before final cuts are made. Cooper Rush went 15 for 25 and further solidified his position as the primary backup to Prescott. Mike White was also solid going 6 for 9 and tossing a touchdown.
Special teams got in on the action themselves when Linebacker Joe Thomas recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Now the Cowboys have only one more preseason game before the 2019 season begins. All that's left now is figuring out the last few roster spots and staying as healthy as possible. September 8th is right around the corner.
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