The Cowboys' 2021 preseason has ended. With final cuts due in just about 48 hours, the team will now begin cutting the roster down to 53 from its current number of around 80 players. While Dallas went 0-4 in these meaningless August games, including today's 34-14 loss to Jacksonville, the real stories from them is how they will affect the decision over the next two days.
This game highlighted how goofy preseason can be as QB Trevor Lawrence and many other Jaguars starters played today against the bottom third of Dallas' projected 2021 roster and a lot of guys who won't make the team. Just about everyone you expect to have a meaningful role for the Cowboys this season never put on pads.
There was plenty on the line for the guys who did take the field, though. Garrett Gilbert and Cooper Rush are still duking it out for the backup QB job and various offensive linemen and defensive players are hoping for the last spot or two at their positions.
And even if making the 53 isn't in the cards for some, 16 jobs on the practice squad are also up for grabs thanks to the recent rule changes.
So what did we see today that could impact things for these hopefuls?
- After a month of assuming that Gilbert was QB2, Rush's superior play last week against Houston led Mike McCarthy to declare that the team was still undecided about who'd be the backup. But today was a reverse of last week; Cooper had a rough start and then Garrett came in and looked much better. Hopefully the practice field has given the coaches enough to go on to make the best choice, because the evidence from preseason games hasn't separated one QB from the other.
- One thing we do know is that Ben DiNucci won't be in that QB2 discussion. In fact, nothing he's done this year suggests he'll earn a roster spot or even be a sure thing for the practice squad. Don't be surprised if Dallas goes after a prospect from another team's cuts to make their new developmental quarterback.
- I have felt bad for the WR prospects this year because they haven't ever had much of a chance. The depth chart is already full with the established veterans and ousting Simi Fehoko from that sixth spot was always unlikely. Hard to say who will make the practice squad from the large group that Dallas had in camp as we've seen Brandon Smith, Johnnie Dixon, Reggie Davis, Aaron Parker, Malik Turner, and Osirus Mitchell all make plays at times.
- OT Ty Nsekhe was one of the veterans who got the day off and that seems to indicate who your swing tackle is for 2021. Terence Steele and Brandon Knight are the other contenders and so far nobody has really stood out for the job.
- The TV broadcast highlighted some strong moments from rookie G/C Matt Farniok and it was nice to see the 7th-rounder making some noise. He may very well make the roster given his versatility on the interior line.
- DT Justin Hamilton was active and has made a great case for a roster spot. The numbers may not be in his favor with the other options but he's worth keeping if they can.
- LB Luke Gifford led in tackles today and is clear favorite to be the team's sixth linebacker if they keep that many. It seems likely given the health risks that Keanu Neal and Leighton Vander Esch bring to the table.
- It was a bad day for the cornerbacks. Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright are safe as 2nd and 3rd-round rookies but you saw why they'll be at the bottom of the depth chart to start they ear. Deante Burton got toasted a few times and ended any lingering thoughts that he might make the roster.
- Israel Mukuamu had an interception off a deflected ball but also struggled at times. He's an intriguing prospect and has to be given some leeway for transitioning to safety from corner, but he's definitely on the bubble.