Cowboys Preseason Ends with 0-4 Record, Roster Cuts to Come by Tuesday

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Photo by cowboyswire.usatoday.com

From players to coaches to fans, no one wanted to see the Cowboys drop four preseason games this season, but hold back the clouds of doom and gloom — the last two times Dallas failed to win a preseason game, they won the NFC East. Considering that superstar starters like Quarterback Dak Prescott and Running Back Ezekial Elliot were relegated to team cheerleaders throughout the preseason, the Cowboys team that takes the field against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday will bear little resemblance to the unit that took the field over the last four weeks.  

The final preseason game is always the best opportunity to examine fringe players and help illuminate some of the tough decisions coaches will have over the next two-ish days. Final roster cuts are due on Tuesday, August 31 by 4 PM eastern. The Cowboys currently have 77 players on the roster not counting three starters still in Covid-19 protocol but will have to reduce to 53.  

Probably the most fascinating and headline-worthy competition for the Cowboys this week is the competition for the backup quarterback. Heading into the preseason, it seemed as though Garrett Gilbert simply needed to show up to earn the spot but stiff competition from Cooper Rush has made the question all the more entertaining over the last few weeks. 

Facing the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first-team defense while operating mostly second-string players, Rush struggled in his two series of plays on Sunday. After spending the week taking first-team snaps, Rush’s inability to connect on several passes and a total of only 16 yards doesn’t speak well for his chances, particularly with Gilbert coming in and guiding the offense to paydirt in the second quarter.  

The only question at QB that got a little more clear after Sunday was that Ben DiNucci isn’t ready. The 2020 seventh-round selection by the Cowboys managed to put points on the board, albeit in garbage time against a Jacksonville defense primarily staffed by guys who’ll be looking for a job on Wednesday. DiNucci has looked uncomfortable under center and makes far too many decision-making errors. Should DiNucci be cut, he will be exposed to waivers, perhaps the only thing that may keep him in a Cowboys jersey after Tuesday.  

Newly-minted Jacksonville starting QB Trevor Lawrence was more than the Dallas D could handle in his brief outing. Lawrence posted an 11 of 12 completion record with two touchdowns. Backup QB Jake Luton didn’t struggle either when he stepped up to the line in the second quarter. Luton went 16 of 18 and added another score.  

The lone bright spot for the Cowboys throughout the preseason has been the revamped defense led by Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn who is among the members of the team currently in Covid protocol. Despite struggling in the secondary against Lawrence and Luton, the Cowboys did an admirable job of shutting down the run game. The Jaguars managed to compile only 82 yards in the game as Linebackers Jabril Cox and Luke Gifford combined for 20 tackles. Safety Israel Mukuamu, who returned to the team after being held out due to Covid protocols, came up with the Cowboys-only interception along with six tackles and a QB hit.  

The next step for Cowboys coaches is the most challenging of the season — deciding who gets a spot and who doesn’t. There are many ways the team can shuffle players around, including cutting veterans who aren’t exposed to waivers on the promise to be re-signed in 24 hours, to get the numbers down to 53 without having to let other teams get a chance to snag players that might be on the edge of breaking out.  

Regardless of the winners and losers from training camp and preseason performances, the only thing that will matter is winning games in the regular season. Coaches and owners will no doubt be spending many hours pouring over film during the next several days while fans can only wait to see if their favorite preseason and “Hard Knocks” players make the team in 2021. 

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