2013-2014 ROSTER BATTLE: Many Dallas Cowboy backups struggle in preseason finale

2013-2014 ROSTER BATTLE - Many Dallas Cowboy backups struggle in preseason finale

ARLINGTON, Texas – The preseason ended in underwhelming fashion for the Dallas Cowboys’ backups trying to make their final impressions Thursday at AT&T Stadium.

The backups got the work all day against a Texans team that rushed for 190 yards in a 24-6 loss in the fifth and final preseason game for the Dallas Cowboys.

“They did a good job running the football on us,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “It didn’t seem like we were getting lined up very quickly on defense and some of that goes to a lot of young players playing and those guys responsible for making those calls and adjustments. That goes into the evaluation as well.”

The thrashing doesn’t mean a whole lot going forward outside of deciding final roster spots. Tackle Jermey Parnell and linebacker Ernie Sims were the only potential starters to find the field Thursday.

Just three years ago, the Cowboys played the Texans in the fourth preseason game of the year and lost by 16 points in the dress rehearsal. Dallas faced Houston again when it actually mattered in Week 3 of the regular season and won by 14, so the score of Thursday’s lopsided defeated shouldn’t be dwelled upon.

But many of the backups didn’t exactly leave a lasting impression in the game.

The offense managed just 219 total yards to the Texans’ 427. Houston had eight more first downs than Dallas and finished with a 42 percent third-down efficiency to the Cowboys’ meager 21 percent. The special teams didn’t make any drastic mistakes this week and Chris Jones dropped five punts inside the 20-yard line, but the Cowboys also allowed a 29-yard punt return to the Texans.

“You want to play better than we played tonight in all three phases of our football team, but again, a lot of young guys were playing, a lot of different combinations of guys for us and for them,” Garrett said. “You try to evaluate individuals as much as you evaluate the whole group.”

While the game didn’t mean much to the starters who were held out, it did hold significant value for the players on the bubble attempting to make the 53-man roster.

Alex Tanney threw 31 of the Cowboys’ 32 passes, as he got the majority of the work throughout the day but was pressured and battered around constantly, getting sacked seven times. The Cowboys failed to score a touchdown throughout the day, despite getting into Houston territory multiple times.

Tanney finished 17-of-31 with 177 yards and one interception. Garrett and the coaching staff will take into account the barrage of defenders in his face as they assess the quarterback.

“But then you have to assess how he responds to that,” Garrett said. “That’s part of playing this position. It looked like he kept his composure, moved around, kept his eyes up the field, but just couldn’t get into much of a rhythm throughout the football game.”

Some of the players entering Thursday’s game knew beforehand they had a decent chance at cracking the final roster. But they know that doesn’t mean their spot is completely safe.

Cole Beasley, who could hardly put weight on his injured foot a week ago, managed to heal up enough in time to make a final impression, catching two passes for 30 yards and nearly breaking enough tackles on a catch in Texans’ territory to get past the defense. Beasley said he may have had enough pep in his step to break free if he wasn’t injured recently, but the foot felt good enough to play through.

“Hopefully I did enough to make it, and at least I’ll have another opportunity to get better and keep improving and come back and try to get a role somehow,” Beasley said.

The Cowboys now have one day to make decisions on their 53-man roster. As the backups wait to hear their fate, the starters will continue to prepare for the opener against the Giants, which they’ve had their sights set on since training camp.

“It’s what everybody wants to see,” Bryant said. “Both teams are going to come in, and we want to put on a show.”

RELATED: 2013 preseason finale confirms no need for 3 QBs on roster

2013 preseason finale confirms no need for 3 QBs on roster - Alex Tanney - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

ARLINGTON, Texas – Honestly, this article was planned out long before the final outcome of the matchup with the Texas Thursday – a night that mercifully ended a five-game preseason schedule.

So it’s not actually news-breaking at this point, considering the Dallas Cowboys barely did anything on offense in this 24-6 loss to Houston.

The Cowboys don’t need three quarterbacks on the roster.

Alex Tanney got all but one series Thursday night – a golden opportunity to showcase his skills. He had the chance to prove he could orchestrate drives, throw the ball on the run and make plays in and out of the pocket.

Plain and simple, Tanney had nearly four quarters to prove he needed to be on this 53-man roster.

At some point, he might be on this team. Right now, the Dallas Cowboys simply can’t afford to keep him. With the offensive line injuries, they need to go longer with guards and centers. They likely need to keep more safeties than normal and keeping a sixth receiver or a fifth tight end is actually more of a debate than keeping a third quarterback.

You know, we’ve seen this before.

Just three years ago, the Cowboys were in this same situation going into this very game – the fifth and final preseason contest against Miami. Heading into the game, it seemed like Stephen McGee was on the outside looking in, in terms of making the 53-man roster. He needed a great game to basically save his roster spot – and he delivered. Not only did he lead the Cowboys to a win, but he threw for 304 yards and a touchdown.

Tanney needed that performance Thursday night. Needless to say it didn’t happen. Was it all his fault? Not at all, considering the second-team offensive line might have been the worst-looking group the Cowboys have thrown out there in several years. But then again, if you’re worried about the first-team line, certainly the second group is going to struggle.

But back to Tanney, who was 17 of 31 for 177 yards and one interception (58.1 QB rating). He was on his back most of the night, getting sacked seven times, although it felt like 22 times with that dreadful final drive in the fourth quarter. 

It was 10 years ago when Tony Romo was pretty much in the same situation. Only that year, Romo and Clint Stoerner were battling for the No. 3 spot. Romo fired a 60-yard touchdown to Randal Williams and that was just enough to prove he had potential and was worth keeping. We all know what happened next.

And yes, I might have been the first one to say this early in training camp, but Tanney does remind me of a YOUNG Romo. Not the Romo that has started for this team since 2006. But the young, athletic, live-arm thrower who really doesn’t know everything there is to know but is just out there slinging it. That’s the Romo I remembered 10 years ago and I’ve seen Tanney flash the same type of skills.

Obviously, keeping Romo was the right call. But right now, it’s not something the Cowboys should do.

For every Romo, there’s a Matt Baker, Matt Moore, Jeff Mroz, Nick Stephens, or Dalton Williams. Earlier this week, a reporter asked Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones if the club had learned its lesson by cutting Moore back in 2007. Jones was quick to reply with some honesty, pointing out that Moore not only has been a so-so quarterback on a so-so team, but he wouldn’t have ever played over Tony Romo.

I think Tanney should be one of the 22 cuts the Cowboys make Saturday afternoon to get down to 53 players. Certainly, he’s good enough to bring back to the practice squad. And he’d be a good scout team quarterback because not only does he give you a strong arm in the pocket, but he’s also athletic enough to at least run the zone-read stuff that they’ll see a few times this year. No, I’m not saying he’s quick like Robert Griffin III or Michael Vick, but he’s a lot closer to that than Kyle Orton.

The point is, there will be other Alex Tanney’s out there.

If, and it’s a pretty big if after this performance, Tanney gets claimed by another team that wants to put him on the 53-man roster, the Cowboys will be fine. I really don’t see any NFL team deciding Tanney is good enough for their squad.

Maybe that’s the silver lining in Thursday’s night game. Tanney likely will get cut but his performance here probably doesn’t have any team foaming at the mouth to sign him.

I hope this doesn’t come across as a rip-job toward Tanney. I actually like his potential. I think he’s got a nice arm, good awareness in the pocket, quick feet and he’s got that moxie that all good quarterbacks must have.

And obviously he’s got good accuracy or he wouldn’t have a YouTube video on his trick-shot passes. But he certainly wasn’t filming that video with a pass rush in his face. It makes a difference.

I think Alex Tanney should and will be with the Cowboys next week. But it’ll likely be on the practice squad. And if he doesn’t make it, the Cowboys can’t worry about it.

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