It appears that Dallas Cowboys fans, who have waited patiently to see some of the biggest names on the field return to action, will have to wait until the regular season kicks off on September 11 after head coach Mike McCarthy laid out the game plan for Friday’s contest against the visiting Seattle Seahawks.
“We’re gonna work our [starters] as much as possible these next two days [of practice] … We anticipate we will play the third game as we did the last two,” McCarthy said on Tuesday ahead of practice.
The Cowboys decided to sit many first-round players in the first two preseason games against the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers. Quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliot, and linebacker Micah Parsons are among the big-name players that are now expected to be on the sidelines when the Seahawks come to Dallas.
Though disappointing to many fans who may have been hoping to save a little money on game tickets, the Cowboys are hoping to minimize the risk of injury during the preseason for the key players the team will rely on during the regular season.
In addition to keeping players healthy, starting the second- and third-string players and getting some of the players who are on the bubble involved early will be vital in evaluating who the team will keep once final roster cuts are made on August 30.
The Cowboys currently have several battles for important positions underway, including open slots at backup quarterback, third-string running back, and jobs in the receiving room once the regular season opens.
Last year’s option at backup QB, Cooper Rush, is currently duking it out with the recently-claimed Will Grier. Both quarterbacks had extensive time in the previous preseason game, with Rush starting and Grier getting in on the action.
The Cowboys also have QB Ben DiNucci on the roster, though he is most likely headed for the practice squad where he spent last season. DiNucci saw limited action in Preseason Week 1 but did not play in Week 2.
There is little doubt that Elliott and Tony Pollard will be RB1 & 2, respectively, when the 2022 season begins, leaving plenty of room for one of the team’s younger players to step up and earn a spot as the third running back.
Currently, the Cowboys are primarily working Rico Dowdle and Malik Davis, while Aaron Shampklin has also been used mainly for late-game scenarios. Davis currently has the edge over Dowdle with an average of 4.4 yards-per-carry against 3.6 yards averaged by Dowdle over the course of two games.
The Cowboys will also be evaluating the offensive line as the team looks to replace several key players from last season who are no longer in the building. Connor McGovern is battling with Tyler Smith for the starting left guard spot, with both players performing well through the two preseason games.
Wide receiver will also be a focus as the team anticipates beginning the season with Michael Gallup on IR as he rehabs a torn ACL he suffered in January. Gallup is hopeful to be active by late September, giving Simi Fehoko, Noah Brown, and Dennis Houston an opportunity for a shot at the WR3 spot.
The Cowboys may have struck gold with the emergence of KaVontae Turpin against the Chargers.
Turpin returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the game and has been performing well in practice, according to sources with the Cowboys. He may end up as a special teams player on kick returns.
Pollard had been anticipated to take that spot after CeeDee Lamb was named WR1 following the trade of Amari Cooper to Cleveland this offseason.
The Seattle Seahawks will travel to Dallas for the final preseason game of 2022. Final roster cuts to reduce the number of players from 80 to 53 will be due by the Tuesday following the game.