For the first time since January (worry not, we won’t go into the details of THAT game), the Dallas Cowboys will play a football game on Saturday. It’s preseason football time in the NFL and while starters will likely be very limited, there are plenty of reasons to watch.
Let’s dive into four specific players that must win this preseason to secure either a roster spot or a more significant role. We’re going for under-the-radar players here, so keep that in mind.
1. OL Isaac Alarcón
This will be Alarcón’s third year with the Cowboys. As an international player with no FBS or FCS experience, his path to the 53-man roster is difficult. But if there’s one thing we know about “The Great Isaac” (Dak Prescott’s nickname for the 6-7 lineman) it’s that he’s put the work in to improve.
Mike McCarthy praised Alarcón’s versatility on Tuesday. The Mexican player has worked at tackle and guard since joining the Cowboys and he’s played both sides on the outside.
Alarcón counts with an International Player roster exemption that allows the Cowboys to keep without him counting against the 90-man roster or practice squad. However, to be a member of the 53-man roster (or to be elevated for gameday during the season), such designation needs to be removed first.
If Alarcón is able to put together a strong preseason, could he be a surprise member of the 53-man roster? It’s an uphill battle, but expect that to be a big storyline throughout August.
Dallas has little depth inside and outside, giving Isaac a shot.
2. DB Israel Mukuamu
Last preseason, Mukuamu’s versatility was clear as day. The former sixth-round draft pick can play multiple spots along the Cowboys’ defensive backfield but he’s worked primarily as a safety. It’s safe to say he’s now on the roster bubble.
Here’s how I’d project the Cowboys’ safety room if they’re to carry five safeties (keep in mind Dan Quinn’s defense will feature three starting safeties):
- Malik Hooker
- Jayron Kearse
- Donovan Wilson
- Markquese Bell (UDFA)
- Israel Mukuamu / Tyler Coyle
So far, Coyle has had a strong training camp. His battle with the second-year safety is one to watch this preseason.
3. K Lirim Hajrullahu
Even after signing Brett Maher, you could make Hajrullahu the current favorite for the Cowboys’ starting job at kicker. He’s been trending up in Oxnard and Maher is far from a sure thing. Fans likely haven’t forgotten his release in 2019 after kicking for 67% through 13 games.
Hajrullahu can solidify his role with a strong showing this preseason.
4. QB Will Grier
Last year, Cooper Rush beat out Grier for the QB2 job in Dallas. It ended up being quite significant when the Cowboys needed the backup to step in and win against the Minnesota Vikings. As impressive as it was, that doesn’t seem to have secured Rush’s role.
McCarthy talked about Grier’s development on Tuesday, praising his moxie. He talked about his play speed picking up compared to what he showed on the scout team last year.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy on QB Will Grier: “I think Will’s made a step. Clearly.” His first offseason with team after being signed last September. “You can feel the command. …He’s playing much quicker.” Offers playmaking with arm and athletic ability. pic.twitter.com/kpZqSXKEG0— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 9, 2022
It remains to be seen if Grier is cleared to play on Saturday, but there’s a legitimate battle for backup quarterback brewing within the Cowboys.
Featured image via Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports