The Dallas Cowboys have only played one of four scheduled preseason games thus far, but there is already quite a bit we can learn from what took place in San Francisco last Saturday night against the 49ers. Some players rose to the occasion, while others faltered. For those who happened to play well a promotion of sorts could be in the cards. That's what I want to discuss today.
For the most part, the Dallas Cowboys played pretty well in all three phases of the game against the 49ers. It didn't result in a victory, but there is probably more good tape than bad when the coaching staff sits down to review film. It's that good film that could earn a few of the Cowboys backup players more playing time.
Let's take a look at five backups who I believe could receive an increase in playing time based on their play against the San Francisco 49ers.
DE, Jalen Jelks (#74)
Rookie Defensive End Jalen Jelks' first snap against the 49ers resulted in a QB sack. He couldn't have scripted a better start to his professional career if he was writing the story himself. He's performed well in offseason practices and was able to carry that over when the lights came on Saturday night in San Francisco. With injuries to DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, and the suspension of Randy Gregory, Jelks is doing his damnedest to make his case for a roster spot in 2019. The same can be said for fellow rookie DE Joe Jackson, although he didn't show up on the stat sheet as much in the first preseason game. It's time to get both these of DEs more playing time to see what they can do.
S, Donovan Wilson (#37)
I don't know how open the safety competition is to start next to Xavier Woods this season, but Donovan Wilson is certainly starting to stand out amongst the Dallas Cowboys current stable of safeties. He continuously makes plays in practice and was able to follow that up in the preseason match up with the 49ers by notching the only interception by the Cowboys secondary. Dallas seems to still favor Jeff Heath as the starter opposite Woods, but if Wilson can continue to impress he could make the coaching staff long and hard about switching things up. Giving him more playing time is absolutely justified.
WR, Cedrick Wilson (#16)
Other than Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson was really the only Dallas Cowboys wide receiver who made an impression on me against the San Francisco 49ers. He has been quietly flying a little bit under the radar this offseason, but that may no longer be the case. He has the ability to play on the outside as well as in the slot and that alone can make him a valuable asset this season. If not for Randall Cobb's addition, I think he'd be the favorite to be Dallas' slot WR this season. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him receive an increased amount of playing time moving forward.
S, Darian Thompson (#23)
If the season were to start today, Darian Thompson would likely be one of the safeties the Dallas Cowboys kept on their 53-man roster. He's been having a pretty solid offseason and was able to carry that over into the first preseason game against the 49ers. Every time his name is mentioned it's in a positive way, which is a good thing considering the unknown outside of Xavier Woods about the Cowboys safety position. I think he's earned more playing time and would love to see what he could do with the first-team defense if paired with No. 25.
DT, Ricky Walker (#68)
The Dallas Cowboys seem to have better depth along the defensive line than they have had in recent memory, with plenty of unknown players still. That's why a guy like Ricky Walker might have been the biggest surprise standout from the Cowboys preseason match against the 49ers. He was absolutely disruptive Saturday night and continuously played on San Francisco's side of the line of scrimmage. DT Daniel Wise probably played just as well as Walker, although he didn't show up as much in the stat sheet. Sadly, they both outplayed Trysten Hill, a 2019 second-round draft pick, and absolutely deserve more playing time.
* Honorable Mention: LB, Luke Gifford (#57)
I felt like I had to give a shout out to Linebacker Luke Gifford by the way he played pre-injury against the San Francisco 49ers. He was all over the field making plays in both the passing and running game, but unfortunately left the game early due to an ankle injury. It's an injury that will likely sidelined him for a bit, possibly the rest of the preseason, but I believe he's already done enough to earn a roster spot. If he can somehow return before the regular season starts, I'd love to see him receive more playing time.
Any Dallas Cowboys backups you believe have earned more playing time?
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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