ARLINGTON – The time has come for the Dallas Cowboys to make decisions about the roster of players they will start the regular season with.
Coach Mike McCarthy says he has no doubts about the depth of the team, despite losing the four preseason games they played, mostly with substitutes.
Offensive starters barely played in the setup games, including quarterback Dak Prescott, who is confirmed to start the opening game of the regular schedule on Thursday, Sept. 9, when they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I’ve always thought it’s irrelevant,” McCarthy said of the 0-4 record in the preseason following a 34-14 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at AT&T Stadium. “It’s just about putting combinations and series for your players, creating and watching young people try to excel and do some things.
“We would have liked to see cleaner games from our guys, but it didn’t happen, but like I said, the best thing is the amount of activity that this particular draft generation was able to have,” added the strategist.
The Cowboys had very similar setbacks against Jacksonville as they experienced in the first three games of preseason. His offense struggled to get into the rhythm and create plays with his backup quarterbacks, either on the ground or in the air.
In defense of Ben DiNucci, Garrett Gilbert and Cooper Rush, starting receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb were almost never on the field and against the Jaguars, the other two who will remain in the team, Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown, who were among the more than 30 Dallas players who did not equip.
By land, the Cowboys generated little or nothing in the preseason, which did not include starting running back Ezekiel Elliott as a precaution, so Dallas used its fourth and fifth running backs. Tony Pollard only saw action in the second and third warm-up games for the same reason and who is supposed to be his third running back, Rico Dowdle, was out for the entire season with a hip injury.
The offensive line, which suffered with several injuries in 2020, closed the preseason with only substitutes, among them the Mexican lineman Isaac Alarcon, who participated in all the preparation games.
Against the Jaguars, Alarcón was one of the three captains of the team in reward for the effort, work, discipline and development that the coaches have seen in the Mexican, McCarthy said, but his chances of staying on the active roster are few, because most of as many as 10 spots on the offensive line the Cowboys could have on the 53-player roster are already filled.
“We missed some opportunities to practice with Dak, so now that he’s back, our focus should be to make up time. We did so last week. We have to maximize the chances before the game in Tampa, ”McCarthy said of Prescott.
On the defensive end, the Cowboys must be concerned that their young safeties were overwhelmed in exhibition games. Against Jacksonville, for example, in just over a quarter that he played, Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 11 of 12 passes, two of them for touchdowns.
And it could be worse.
With three quarterbacks, Jacksonville added 362 yards passing among the 451 total yards allowed by the Cowboys defense, which gave the entire game to two young linebackers. One who will stay on the team, rookie Jabril Cox, and another who was fighting his place on the roster, Luke Gifford. The others did not even equip themselves.
The defensive line is also another area the Cowboys will need to be on the lookout for, because two starters, Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore, will not be available when the season begins.
Also, the Cowboys have trouble covering and returning punt and kickoff kicks. The good news on special teams is that kicker Greg Zuerlein is back on his feet and played the Jaguars on Sunday.
On Tuesday, the Cowboys must deliver the list of players who will open the regular season on the active roster and the next day, the list of the practice team, where it is almost a given that Alarcón will be.
“These are the worst days,” McCarthy lamented about the task of briefing several players in his court. “The next 24 hours are clearly the worst part of the job.”