The Cowboys’ first preseason game is in the books, and the less said about that experience the better. Now, the coaching staff turns their attention to the first round of roster cuts. They’ll have to release five players by Tuesday. Let’s look at eight players that are likely feeling the heat right now.
K Lirim Hajrullahu
One of the biggest storylines through training camp has been the kicking competition, which has been more or less abysmal thus far. After Jonathan Garibay did everything in his power to lose the job, Lirim Hajrullahu found himself competing against Brett Maher, with this preseason game the first real opportunity for either to state their case since Maher’s signing.
Of course, the equally abysmal performance of the Cowboys offense led to limited opportunities for each kicker. Hajrullahu missed a 56-yard field goal, while Maher made the sole extra point Dallas attempted Saturday night. While it’s unlikely that this game moved the needle significantly, Hajrullahu failed his first test in this new iteration of the Cowboys’ kicking battle. And after Garibay’s swift departure, there’s no telling how patient Dallas will be with Hajrullahu going forward.
OT Amon Simon
The Cowboys opted to rest the vast majority of their starters for this game, so there’s something to be gleaned from looking at snap counts. In the case of undrafted rookie tackle Amon Simon, things don’t look too promising right now.
Simon played just five snaps against Denver, the lowest of any offensive player for Dallas. Part of that is because tackles Josh Ball and Aviante Collins were left out there for so long, itself an indictment of their poor play, but it speaks volumes that the coaching staff didn’t even seem interested in giving Simon a chance to show them something until the end of the game.
CB Isaac Taylor-Stuart
The Cowboys’ secondary is already a crowded room right now, and it appears that the team has their starters sorted out. That creates a very low margin of error for undrafted rookie Isaac Taylor-Stuart to make the roster, or even survive this first round of cuts.
His play on Saturday didn’t do him any favors, either. While the Dallas defensive backs struggled pretty much all around in this game, Taylor-Stuart was routinely on the wrong end of big pass completions. While other players like Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright struggled as much, if not more, their roster statuses aren’t nearly as in question as Taylor-Stuart, who may be sweating on Tuesday.
iDL Josiah Bronson
The interior of the Cowboys defensive line has been a quiet question mark for them this offseason, but Saturday brought plenty of chances to glimpse Neville Gallimore, Trysten Hill, Quinton Bohanna, and John Ridgeway. The skinny is that all of these big men looked solid.
That translated to just 15 snaps all night for Josiah Bronson, who’s become a bit of an afterthought in training camp thus far. As with Simon on the offensive line, Bronson’s low snap count mixed with his current status with the team makes him a prime cut candidate.
EDGE Big Kat Bryant
From the moment the Cowboys signed Big Kat Bryant after the draft, he was labeled as a Dan Quinn project. Bryant was a highly-touted high school player who never quite put it together in college.
That continued into Saturday’s game, as Bryant got some solid playing time but had little impact. Fellow undrafted rookie edge rusher Mika Tafua showed significantly more in roughly the same amount of snaps, and the EDGE position is already pretty loaded. Could his status as a Quinn reclamation project save him for another week? Only time will tell, but Bryant didn’t do himself any favors.
WR Ty Fryfogle
We know by now that Dennis Houston has emerged as the best of this bunch of undrafted rookie receivers, and Dontario Drummond had some nice moments late in the game as well. But there was once some strong anticipation for Ty Fryfogle that seemingly had its last flame extinguished on Saturday.
Fryfogle didn’t play at all in the game, and it wasn’t because he’s in the same league as CeeDee Lamb. This receiver room is in flux right now with the absences of Michael Galllup and James Washington, and Fryfogle hasn’t grasped the opportunity. This could be the end of the line for him.
TE Jeremy Sprinkle
Jeremy Sprinkle is a veteran who suited up in all 17 games for the Cowboys last year, so he would be a bit of a surprise to see him on the receiving end of this first round of cuts. However, Sprinkle arguably saw the biggest stock drop of any Cowboys player on Saturday.
Tough start for Cowboys TE Jeremy Sprinkle, who is competing for roster spot this summer. Beat inside on offense’s first play from scrimmage, as Rico Dowdle halted for no gain. In third drive, a holding penalty on third down.
—Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 14, 2022
Not only did Sprinkle struggle on the field, he was thoroughly shown up by the other three tight ends in this game. Rookies Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot especially stole the show, further building upon what’s been impressive camps for both of them. That, in combination with Sprinkle’s rough night, could make him an early surprise cut candidate.
EDGE Dante Fowler
This would undoubtedly be a surprise decision, as Dante Fowler is expected to be a core piece of the Cowboys’ defensive line rotation. However, it was also a surprise to see him be the one that Mike McCarthy benched for penalties early in the game:
Mike McCarthy said he benched Dante Fowler for his penalty in the first half.
—Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) August 14, 2022
Fowler is also playing at a loaded position, one that has seen rookie Sam Williams emerge more and more each day while Fowler has been largely quiet. Fowler was one of the Cowboys’ “big” free agent signings, but his contract certainly isn’t one that would preclude the team from cutting him if they decide they want to do that. This might be a player to watch even if he survives this first round of cuts.
Honorable mentions: QB Cooper Rush and OT Josh Ball
Cooper Rush and Josh Ball both deserve a mention here because, while it would be highly unlikely for them to be cut just yet, they should both be looking over their shoulder from now on.
Rush entered the game with a golden opportunity to lock up the backup quarterback job with Will Grier not playing with an injury. Instead, he completed just over half of his passes and looked largely incompetent while doing so. He even got shown up by Ben DiNucci before it was all said and done.
Ball, on the other hand, is going to be counting his lucky stars if the Cowboys don’t look to add a tackle this week to challenge him. The injury to Matt Waletzko pretty much anointed Ball as the top swing tackle, but he’s been doing everything in his power to reject that crown since. Ball routinely got beat and penalized Saturday, which resulted in the coaching staff playing him the majority of the game. They’re clearly not satisfied, and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle Ball moving forward.