Cowboys Analysis: Cut To 53, Plus Add QB Mark Sanchez!

A meaningless game? Kinda, except inside '20 Takes' shows you how the Cowboys' loss to the Texans in the preseason finale helped form Saturday's cuts to 53. Oh, and how fast things turn? How about QB Mark Sanchez to Dallas?

With No Dez, No Zeke, No Witten and No Dak, Thursday night’s game against the Houston Texans wasn’t about the high-profile players on the Dallas roster. Rather, this one was about the younger players and journeymen players who were hoping to catch on to the final 53-man roster, or at the very least, the practice squad. That night of the preseason was made to find the last couple of roster fill-in’s, and separate those who may have a Dallas future from those who don’t. 

And now we have the Saturday cuts/moves to 53 for the Cowboys:

LB Derek Akunne, C Jake Brendel, DT Rodney Coe, S Isaiah Frey, TE Rico Gathers, LB Brandon Hepburn, QB Jerrod Johnson, WR Andy Jones, LB Deon King, OT Ryan Mack, WR Vince Mayle, DE Mike McAdoo (waived/Injured), DT Lawrence Okoye, CB Deji Olatoye, DE Ryan Russell, OL Boston Stiverson, WR Devin Street, TE Austin Traylor, P Matt Wile, OT Bryan Witzmann.

Additionally, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is on reserve/suspended for four games and running back Darren McFadden is on reserve/non-football injury for six weeks.

And we also have 20 Takes on how the Texans game helped inform the decisions ...

1. Poor Jameill Showers. The kid hasn’t had any sort of chance to play with the starting o-line or skill position players like Dak has, and it has impacted his chance to make this roster. To be fair, Dak deserves the separation and the 1/2 job, as he has played out of his mind this preseason. Showers has also had some accuracy and pocket presence issues that Prescott has not had, but Showers is talented, and will almost certainly be a practice-squad addition. 

Oh, Showers made the Saturday cut. But Dallas' search for his replacement is ongoing. Indeed, moments ago, here Fish ...

And here's RapSheet ...

Seriously. Two weeks ago, Dallas' personnel department was not fond of Sanchez. Times change. is the first to say this is a done deal, so away we go.

2. On the first Cowboys drive, Showers failed to lead the team on any sort of meaningful drive. With a net gain of just two yards, mostly from a Darius Jackson run the Cowboys were forced to punt to the Texans. Showers was just 1-2 for one yard on the drive, checking down to Jackson once, and overthrowing Gavin Escobar on the second. Ah, you wish you could showcase Escobar, but instead you still hope. He's one of the three tight ends who stick. Gathers and Traylor are on the street, with Dallas hoping to get their hands back on both of them.

3. The Cowboys signed Jerrod Johnson on the day of the game as an emergency back up to Showers. Johnson has played for nine different franchises, including stops in the United Football League, and the Arena Football League. Johnson would not be long for Dallas  with the Cowboys, to repeat, on the hunt for a viable backup for Prescott (Fish strongly believed in Aaron Murray, who was not officially waived on Friday but will be on Saturday, making him eligible for a claim that now, with Sanchez seemingly on the way, isn't happening).

4. Showers would take the field yet again following a forced fumble by David Irving on Houston running back Kenny Hilliard, and help the Cowboys cash in for a touchdown on the drive, hitting Darius Jackson on a screen pass for an 18-yard touchdown. Showers continued to struggle with medium to deep throw accuracy, but took advantage of a Houston blitz here, and got the Cowboys into the end zone for the second time this preseason. 

Speaking of Jackson, he has been extremely impressive when given the opportunity in this preseason. The Cowboys love what Jackson brings to the team, and he entered the game a favorite among these young players to make the final 53. He runs with balance, power and quickness, and if able to run behind the No. 1 O-line, has the ability to be even more successful. He’s not going to unseat Zeke for the starting gig, or Alfred Morris for the primary back-up spot, but he can play a role on this team moving forward if given the right opportunity. 

And that opportunity has begun with him making the final 53, along with Lance Dunbar behind Elliott and Morris. ... and again, with McFadden stashed.

5. The Devin Street thing has run its course. The Cowboys wide receiver group heading into the regular season is as follows: Dez, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Lucky Whitehead and Brice Butler. Me? I had Vince Mayle ahead of Street, who just hasn’t done anything to improve his position since being drafted. But in the end, Mayle and Street are both out, as is Andy Jones, who flashed early in camp but never after.

6. Deon King out of Norfolk State continued to intrigue the coaching staff with his play on Thursday. He finished the game with 10 total tackles, and seven solo. His talent on the field flashes, and it could end up helping him down the line. For now, however, it looks like the practice squad for King. 

Along with King, Derek Akunne had another solid night at the linebacker spot as well, finishing with nine total tackles. It was tough to see either of the guys making the final roster, but both are P-Squad-worthy.


7. The Texans picked on Deji Olatoye quite a bit on Houston’s early second quarter drive, and got beat badly on a double move by Keith Mumphery. Olatoye has been very solid during this preseason, and has probably solidified a roster spot, but he didn’t help himself on the drive. Dallas would eventually force Houston to turn the ball over on downs, when Brandon Weeden was sacked by Mike McAdoo, stopping the drive in its tracks. 

Houston went up 14-7 after Deji Olatoye was beat yet again by Keith Mumphrey on a deep ball thrown by Weeden with just over 30 seconds to go in the half. It was a rough night for Olatoye all around. ... and now Deji is gone, with Dax Swanson sticking instead.

8. A Houston sidebar: The second half began with the Cowboys letting Houston march down the field, thanks to a couple of boneheaded penalties by Cowboys linebacker Brandon Hepburn which extended the drive. Texans running back Akeem Hunt would punch it in the end zone on a short pass from Tom Savage, giving the Texans a 21-10 lead. It was the first TD pass of the game for Savage, who finished the game 12-18 for 119 yards and one touchdown. 

Savage and Weeden rotated throughout the game for the Texans, with both of them performing rather well against the Cowboys youngsters on D. The two were battling it out for the back up spot behind Brock Osweiler, but if you ask me, the job has to go to Savage. He’s far younger, far more talented, and potentially has a much brighter future ahead of him.

Besides, every Cowboys fan knows what Weeden brings to the table, and I say it’s just not very much. (Though Dallas just dressed Jarrod Johnson, so, who knows?)

9. Anthony Brown had some action thrown in his direction, and when the ball went his way he did some good things. Late in the third quarter, he picked off a poor quick out thrown by Brandon Weeden, and took it to the house, showing great eyes and anticipation on the play, and cutting the Texans lead to 21-17. He also notched seven tackles and a pass deflection in the game. 

10. I thought that Dax Swanson also had a very solid night in the secondary for the defense in this one. He made a couple of plays against bigger receivers, breaking up passes in both the end zone, and one for a first down in the third quarter. His biggest asset might be his special teams play and return ability, but the Cowboys are pretty set in the punt return department already. And yet, here he sticks -- for now.

11. Kavon Frazier also looked good out there at the safety position for Dallas. He finished the game with nine total tackles, and though you could still see some rookie kinks out there -- a missed tackle or two -- overall I was impressed with the way he played. Barring injury, he won’t be asked to go help Orlando Scandrick cover Odell Beckham on a deep route, but his value to the roster is apparent. 

It was interesting to see what they did with the safeties by Saturday’s deadline. Byron Jones, Barry Church and Jeff Heath were locks back there, with J.J. Wilcox and Frazier battling it out for the final spots. But for now, both Wilcox and Frazier are Cowboys.

12. Former Baylor basketballer Rico Gathers made an uber-athletic play in the fourth quarter after catching a pass from Showers, keeping his feet after getting hit low and almost going to the ground. Gathers managed to get a couple extra yards on the play, and put the Cowboys in position for a first down. Rico seems bound for the practice squad here, and maybe Austin Traylor is, too -- though doesn't Dallas need a blocking tight end here?

13. So the tight end position group? Witten, Escobar and Swaim ... but Dallas isn't done here.

14: The Biggest Roster Decision in The NFL? That's Romo-related. He's on the 53, and now Dallas needs to decide -- with the help of the medical team -- whether he can come back before eight weeks into the season. If not? They IR him.

15. The D-Line room? No Ryan Russell, who broke the news of his release on Twitter on Friday evening. No Coe, who has potential. No McAdoo, who does, too. Oh, and Okoye, same boat. Dallas is surely shopping for waiver-wire help at end.

16. The best O-line in football? You know the first five. Leary is here but wants to be traded. Chaz Green is here and you hope he gets better fast. Maybe more shopping here.

17. Special-Teamers. Fish says the special-teams coach was "pounding the table'' for help. Rod Smith and Keith Smith are both on the team for now. Romo's status, and waiver shopping could change that, but for now? In. And don't think of them as "fullbacks,'' but rather as "Rich B guys.''

18. The entire roster is here ... but remember that it's subject to change.

19. Why review the Houston game in such detail? Look one more time: The Cowboys defense was able to get Houston off the field with just under three minutes to go in the game, and give the offense one final chance at taking home a win in the final preseason game of the year. Those were jobs won and lost. Unfortunately, however, Showers threw a pick six on third down, giving Houston the 28-17 lead, and ending the Cowboys hopes at a last minute win. Showers finished the game 10-25 for 91 yards with one touchdown and a pick. And that impacted Showers greatly, I think.

20. In the end, the Cowboys dropped to 1-3 in the preseason, and can now fully devote their attention to the New York Giants, and getting Dak Prescott ready to lead this team into the regular season. Well, and more moves, because this final 53 isn't final. Soon , though? The time for real NFL football will be upon us. ... and the time for a real Cowboys 53-man roster is, too.

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