The players on the roster bubble had their last opportunity to impress the coaches on Thursday night. Most of the veteran starters had the night off so many of the younger players got extended playing time for the first time in the preseason.
One thing I really liked about Jason Garrett's plan was that Tyron Smith and Bill Nagy were both in the starting lineup. Those guys need all the work they can get heading into the regular season since they will be counted on to start. There is no reason to rest a player who is still learning on every game rep they receive. Nagy even got some playing time in the second half although Tyron Smith sat for the second half.
The Cowboys have to be planning on keeping Kevin Kowalski on the final roster as a backup. He started at center again and there is no way he would be able to clear waivers now that he has played two full games at center this preseason and done a good job. I think the Cowboys are getting him as much work as they possible can in case he has to step in for Phil Costa at any point this season at center.
DeMarco Murray had a big gain on a screen pass to start out the game. The blocking on the play was exceptional so I can't say the play had much to do with Murray. Murray is much bigger than I thought he was but he doesn't have the top end speed I expected when he was drafted. He is quick but he is not that fast. He looks great running the ball both in the middle of the field and in space. He is going to be a factor in the offense this season.
Stephen McGee really looks comfortable running the offense now and I have more confidence that he is going to develop into a solid backup. He looked controlled and confident throughout the game but he made a bad decision and throw on an interception in the end zone.
Kevin Ogletree got a chance to start and show that he deserves the #3 receiver role. He made a nice move after the catch on an option route for a first down. But he looked slow on an end around later in the game.
Dwayne Harris returned punts and he looks much more dynamic as a returner than Akwasi Owusu-Ansah has looked over the last few weeks. I don't know how Harris could not make the final roster. He ended up leaving the game early with what appeared to be a slight concussion. He has so much potential he seems like a keeper.
The backups on defense started out strong but then allowed a long run by Larry Johnson for a touchdown. The score doesn't bother me. What bothered me was the atrocious tackling on the play.
If Barry Church isn't starting at strong safety next season I will be surprised. He gets better every time he is on the field.
Phillip Tanner is making the decisions at running back very difficult for the coaches. Every time he carries the ball he looks good. There is no way the Cowboys can sneak him onto the practice squad. On that same note I have come away unimpressed by Lonyae Miller after 4 preseason games.
In the kicking battle David Buehler made an extra point length field goal at the end of the first half. Later in the game he missed a 48 yard field goal wide to the right. He was also kicking off through the end zone as usual coming off of his hip injury. Dave Rayner missed from 51 yards and 36 yards. No one has made the decision at kicker easy for the coaches. It seems as though they will have to go on a gut instinct. My gut tells me that Buehler keeps the job.
As the game entered the 4th quarter it became very difficult to watch. The vast majority of the players on the field will not make the team. The 3rd/4th string offensive line was very bad and the offense couldn't move the ball at all. The only thing I watched for at this point was another field goal attempt. Unfortunately I got my wish but it was another ugly miss by Rayner.
The worst part of the night was Rayman Radway's injury on the last offensive snap of the game. He went out on the cart with an air cast on his leg and he is undoubtedly done for the season. That is sad to see.