1. The Cowboys secondary was without Carr, Claiborne, Patmon, Church and Wilcox, but several guys still stood out vs the Texans. Corey White is someone that I've mentioned every week in my post-game articles. He has done nothing but make plays this preseason. Thursday night was no different. White read Savage perfectly, intercepted him deep in Houston territory and returned it 3 yards for a touchdown. Later, Savage kept the ball and tried to run for a 1st down. White was able to get off his block and make the stop in the open field. White finished the preseason with 3 QB hurries and a team-high 4 pass breakups. White is turning out to be a huge offseason pickup by the Cowboys.
Byron Jones was all over the field again. He played both CB and FS. He gave up a TD catch but was in tight coverage. Jones is a great at sticking with the WR and not allowing separation, but he needs to work on attacking the ball and locating it early enough to make the play. With his athleticism and instincts, he should be able to improve in this area. Overall, it was a promising preseason for the 1st round rookie.
Another DB that stood out to me was undrafted rookie FS Tim Scott. In fact, I thought he may have earned himself a spot on the 53-man roster over Danny McCray. McCray is a veteran but you know what you get with him - he's strictly a special teams player. Scott plays special teams as well - he made an impressive tackle on the opening kickoff of the 2nd half, stopping the returner short of the 10-yard line. He finished the night with a team-high 7 tackles, including a 4th down stop to give the Cowboys the ball. What gives Scott the nod over McCray for me is the fact that he has some ability as a defender as well and has far more upside. And for the record, he was one of 5 UDFA signings that I said had the best shot of making the team back in May. Alas, CHQ is reporting that McCray is sticking and Scott is a PS guy.
2. Most of the DL spots on this team are pretty much set at this point. The Cowboys are cutting Ben Gardner, which leaves guys like Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman, Lavar Edwards, Terrell McClain and Ryan Russell fighting for 2 or 3 roster spots. They didn't make this coaching staff's job any easier on Thursday. ... and we believe Dallas will actually keep 11 here.
Lavar Edwards had 4 tackles, a tackle for a loss a sack and a QB hurry vs the Texans. He finished the preseason with 2 sacks and 3 QB hurries. Edwards has flown under the radar this preseason, but has been consistently disruptive. Ryan Russell had 3 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and 2 QB hurries vs the Texans in what was arguably his best game so far. Russell finished the preseason with 3 QB hurries and 2 sacks. Ken Bishop had 5 tackles, a tackle for a loss, 2 QB hits and 2 QB hurries vs the Texans. He also had a tackle for a loss. He finished the preseason with 4 QB hurries and 2 QB hits. Davon Coleman had 3 tackles, a tackle for a loss, a sack, a QB hurry and a QB hit vs the Texans, including the hit that took Tom Savage out of the game. Coleman finished the preseason with 5 QB hurries but was especially impressive vs the run, recording 6 tackles for a loss/run stuffs. Terrell McClain had 4 tackles, a tackle for a loss and a sack. He finished the preseason with 2 QB hurries in 2 games. He's had some trouble staying healthy, but has a chance to be a very disruptive player for this team if he can stay on the field.
3. Another position that has an opening is LB, which could come down to Jasper Brinkley or Keith Smith. If I were a betting man, my money would be on Smith. ... though Fish says both are sticking for now.
Brinkley has played well this preseason, finishing with 13 tackles and a sack. However, Keith Smith has been playing like a man possessed. Smith was cut and re-signed several times by the Cowboys last season. While that might discourage or frustrate some guys, Smith has continued to stay focused and give it his all.
Smith had 6 tackles, a tackle for a loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery vs the Texans and finished the preseason with 16 tackles, 2 QB hits and a QB hurry. However, the thing that gives Smith the nod over Brinkley is the fact that Smith can be a major contributor on special teams. This comes into play when Ro is again eligible.
4. Dustin Vaughan was better vs the Texans than he was in the last 2 games. He was much smarter with his throws and didn't make any major mistakes. He also didn't seem as panicky. Having said that, I don't know if it was enough to earn him a roster spot. Vaughan still went 11-for-20 and while he didn't have any interceptions, he didn't have any touchdowns either. Also, the Cowboys chose to sit Jameill Showers for the entire game, which suggests that they want to try and sneak him past waivers so they can sign him to their practice squad. Vaughan is a good guy who showed enough potential last year to stick around. However, he just didn't improve or progress the way I think the coaches would've preferred. At this point, I'd much rather stick with just Romo and Weeden at QB and keep an extra DL, LB, RB, etc. rather than a 3rd QB. I have a feeling that Vaughan's stint in Dallas has come to an end in terms of being on the roster ... though Fish reports both guys are bound for the PS. Which is ... unusual.
5. Stephen Jones said this week that the Cowboys could consider trading for a young RB before final cuts happen. However, there are a couple of young RB's the Cowboys have on their current roster that they might want to keep around as well..
Gus Johnson had 16 carries for 68 yards - an average 4.2 - and a 21 yard touchdown run. Ben Malena was even more impressive, gaining 88 yards on 15 carries - 5.8 yards per carry - and a touchdown. Malena also had a 22-yard run with the Cowboys pinned back at their own 3-yard line. I don't see either of these guys making the 53-man roster but both of them are prime candidates to make the practice squad if they clear waivers. Look for Gus ahead of Ben. Don't get too crazy on Montee Ball ... and stay heads-up for whether Joe Randle returns to knucklehead form, requiring Dallas to eventually do something big here.
6. Another battle to watch was for the 5th wideout spot between Lucky Whitehead and A.J. Jenkins. I think it's safe to say that Whitehead won it. Jenkins had a very good preseason with the Cowboys, and had a nice game on Thursday - catching to passes and showing his ability as a blocker in the run game on Johnson's TD - but Whitehead is more valuable due to his ability as a returner.
Lucky led the team in catches and yards on Thursday (4 for 40) and finished the preseason with 8 catches for 61 yards and a TD. Whitehead also had two 25+ yard kickoff returns, including one for 31 yards, and a 33 yard punt return vs Houston. Whitehead has done a nice job of bouncing back from his fumble in the first preseason game and has shown that he could bring a much needed spark to the Cowboys special teams unit.
7. One guy who has had an inconsistent preseason is Gavin Escobar. However, in limited playing time on Thursday, Escobar made several big plays. He moved the chains on 3rd & 17 by breaking several tackles and dragging defenders over the marker and nearly converted on 3rd and 16 a little later. Escobar could be a huge weapon for the Cowboys in the red zone this season.
8. I'll admit, I was worried about Chris Jones coming into this season. I really wanted the Cowboys to upgrade that position. However, Jones has eased my worries and made me feel much more comfortable. His performance vs the Texans helped even more. Jones had one 54-yard punt that he kicked out of bounds at the 1-yard line and had 2 other punts end up inside the 20-yard line, averaged 42.6 yards per punt.