The Dallas Cowboys will play their final preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday and shortly thereafter, they'll have to cut down their roster to 53 players. A good portion of the team is already figured out, but there are still a handful of position battles up for grabs. This means that Sunday's game will be extremely important for certain players who are trying to land one of the team's final roster spots. Here are five key roster battles entering the final week of preseason.
Back that Dak up
Garrett Gilbert vs. Cooper Rush
After a good performance against the Houston Texans, Cooper Rush's name has been thrown into the hat as a potential candidate for the team's backup quarterback. While it's nice to see Rush finally start doing well, it's hard seeing that small body of work trump what we've seen in camp from Garrett Gilbert. It's certainly possible the coaching staff is questioning whether Gilbert is their guy, but unless Rush keeps that hot hand going, I have a hard time seeing him winning the backup gig. A more realistic conclusion if Rush plays well is they opt to keep a third quarterback on the roster.
Predicted winner: Garrett Gilbert, Cooper is rushed to the practice squad
Deep star six
Simi Fehoko vs. Malik Turner
Before camp began it seemed like a foregone conclusion that fifth-round draft pick Simi Fehoko would earn one of the team's wide receiver spots. Maybe his roster security came because people had forgotten just how much this team values guys like Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown. With Wilson and Brown likely to once again make the team, this means Fehoko's path to the roster relies on the team keeping six receivers. But even that guarantees nothing as veteran Malik Turner has shined in training camp, bringing his name into the conversation. This one is particularly tricky because while Turner is the better player right now, does he offer the team more than the potential upside of Fehoko? And there lies the dilemma. This one could come down to the wire and be decided in the preseason finale.
Predicted winner: Simi Fehoko, protect their investment
I asked Dallas Cowboys staff writer David Helman what he thought of this situation and he opted to go another direction.
Edge of tomorrow
Bradlee Anae vs. Ron'Dell Carter
The Cowboys have some veterans edge rushers occupying the top half of their depth as DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory hold down the starting jobs with Dorance Armstrong and Tarell Basham as the backups. But there could be a little room for some youth as well. With Chauncey Golston's health up in the air, the team may make room for second-year players Bradlee Anae or Ron'Dell Carter. Both have flashed some good play with Anae offering up slightly more splash plays. However, Carter is a guy I keep seeing running around on special teams.
Predicted winner: Ron'Dell Carter, special teams ability gives him the edge
Eliminate the middle man
Carlos Watkins vs. Justin Hamilton
The team is running a little light at defensive tackle with injuries to Neville Gallimore and Trysten Hill. This opens the door for either Justin Hamilton or Carlos Watkins to earn one of the final roster spots. Hamilton quietly does a solid job in the middle which continues to keep him in the good graces of the coaching staff. Watkins is currently in the COVID protocol, so it's unclear if he'll be back in action before the team's final game.
Predicted winner: Justin Hamilton, rounding out their depth with a safe floor
Jayron Kearse vs. Darian Thompson vs. Israel Mukuamu
It's crazy but there isn't much difference between the team's top safety and their fifth-best safety. That speaks to the lack of strong talent at the top and the solid depth the team has at the bottom. Donovan Wilson and Damontae Kazee are the team's starters with Malik Hooker as another quality coverage safety. It's hard to see much difference between Jayron Kearse and Darian Thompson as both are decent contributors. Kearse has shown up on tape a little more and his versatility to play both strong and free safety spots gives him an advantage. I'm not sure what they'll do with Israel Mukuamu as he's a nice piece for the future, but hasn't really done enough to be an immediate contributor.
Predicted winner: Jayron Kearse edges out Darian Thompson with Israel Mukuamu going to the practice squad.
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