Thanks again to the Coronavirus, not only will the Cowboys not play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the inaugural Hall of Fame Game to open the 2020 preseason, the NFL has eliminated the preseason in their latest proposal to the NFLPA.
That only further delays any football we might see this year. Players fighting for position on the depth chart and those on the roster bubble will be hit by this hardest. Players who were fringe starters or even players fighting for those last few roster spots now have fewer opportunities to earn a job.
Looking at the roster as it stands today, there are at least 43 spots that are locked up. So training camp and those preseason games would’ve gone a long way for these men.
It should be mentioned that this list doesn’t include undrafted free agents. Instead, it focuses on rookie draft picks, vets still on their rookie deals, and vets on manageable contracts the team could get out of if they didn’t pan out.
None of these players are assured significant playing time, let alone a roster spot. Shortening the preseason might’ve just shortened their time with the Cowboys.
Aldon Smith is attempting to make his NFL comeback despite not stepping foot on a field since 2015, and having no preseason games to get reestablished won’t help him.
Smith served suspensions for violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy, and a domestic violence allegation in 2018 led to his release from the Oakland Raiders. He’s been reinstated and is on a one-year deal that could earn Smith up to $4 million. A team-friendly agreement that if the team wanted to, could cut ties with before the season started, with minimal effect to the salary cap.
These five preseason games were massive to a player who’s 30 and hasn’t played in almost five full years. Arguably no one needed the preseason more.
Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton are the unquestioned starting and backup quarterbacks of the team. Having a third quarterback on the roster is usually a luxury, either as a developmental piece or as a way of not risking them to the waiver wire.
Ben DiNucci is a seventh-round pick who, if he works out, could be the Cowboys version of Jacoby Brissett or Jimmy Garoppolo: A player they can shelve, develop, and eventually trade down the line.
However, with a shortened preseason, and already long odds to make the roster, the Cowboys might have to keep DiNucci on the practice squad and hope he doesn’t get signed away.
Having less time to prove he’s worth a roster spot as the third quarterback, he might have to wait a whole extra year before being able to show what he can do.
The team has arguably the best starting receiving trio in the NFL with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and rookie CeeDee Lamb. Behind them, there will be a lot of competition for the final few spots on the wide receiver depth chart.
Cedrick Wilson was a receiver the Cowboys highly coveted out of Boise State in 2018, with many believing he was a steal. After missing all of 2018 due to injury and not playing much in 2019, one has to wonder how short of a leash he has in 2020.
Devin Smith seemingly resurrected his career in 2019 and is probably the only other receiver on the roster that has a firm grasp on one of the receiver spots. Since the Cowboys only usually keep five or six players at the position, the competition for these jobs will be tight.
A fully healthy offseason and preseason games would’ve been great for Wilson, but now his opportunity to prove himself is limited.
Similar to Cedrick Wilson, an injury during his rookie year hurt his ability to compete for snaps. He likely wasn’t going to be a starter as a rookie anyway. Given the competition at the center position, a spot he’s played before, this would’ve been his opportunity.
With All-Pro center Travis Frederick unexpectedly retiring, there’s an open spot at center. McGovern will compete with veteran Joe Looney, who filled in for Frederick during the 2018 season, and former All-American and Remington award winner Tyler Biadasz.
McGovern could’ve benefited greatly from this as a second-year player. Joe Looney is going to get the first look since he’s filled the spot before, and Biadasz likely wasn’t going to see the field his rookie year anyway. McGovern is a high ceiling player who had the most to gain and secure the spot in the middle of the line.
Dalton Schultz is entering his third season with the Dallas Cowboys, and it could be his last if he doesn’t prove to be more than just a reliable blocker. With the addition of Blake Bell, the team not only wants to push competition for the second tight end spot but sends a message that there’s only room for one blocking tight end.
Aside from Bell, the only other players fighting for a spot are a pair of undrafted rookies: Sean McKeon and Charlie Taumopeau. Both are raw but do come in as more polished in the passing game than Schultz was when he was drafted.
Schultz needs to show more in year three. Otherwise, he could be looking for work elsewhere. The preseason would’ve helped answer some of these questions, but now he’s going to be in real competition for the last tight end spot.
Donovan Wilson was a fan favorite coming out of the preseason last year. The number of turnovers he caused had people hoping that he could be the safety the team has been looking for. However, he didn’t get many opportunities to play during the regular season.
Xavier Woods has one of the safety spots locked down. With the signing of HaHa Clinton-Dix and rumors that Chidobe Awuzie might get tried out at safety, Wilson will have to fight for snaps.
His roster spot is likely not in danger, but now he’ll have fewer opportunities not only to earn playing time but a possible chance to start as well. Preseason is where he shined last season and was probably hoping to replicate his success.
Last year was by far the best season of Maurice Canady’s career. Despite being traded midseason from Baltimore to the Jets, he was active for more games than any of his previous three. In Dallas, it will be tough to gain a job, especially with the offseason emphasis on improving the secondary.
The safety position is up in the air right now, but the cornerback group got a complete overhaul after Byron Jones left for Miami in free agency. Now, Canady will have a tough road to make the roster competing with Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Daryl Worley, CJ Goodwin, and rookies Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson,
Despite having what looked like a turnaround season, Maurice Canady is going to have fewer opportunities to prove 2019 wasn’t a fluke and that he’s got staying power.
It’s no secret that last year’s second-round pick was not a very popular pick at the time, with many in Cowboys media and fandom wanting other players. Maturity issues and the relationship with his UCF coaching staff were both red flags that seemed to resurface during his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys. He’s a player that needs a rebound.
Not only did the Cowboys go out and spend for Pro Bowl veterans Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, but there’s also a returning healthy team captain Tyrone Crawford, a reliable Antwaun Woods plugging the middle and a favorable rookie tackle in Neville Gallimore. Rod Marinelli is gone, so Trysten Hill doesn’t have anyone on the coaching staff pounding the table for him moving forward. Without a strong preseason, Hill’s days in Dallas could be numbered.
Draft position can only carry you so far on an NFL roster. At some point, you have to prove you belong. Preseason was supposed to give everyone a glimpse at how much Hill has improved if any. With it being reduced, it could be a numbers game, and he could be another Taco Charleton.