The Dallas Cowboys' first preseason game of the year left a lot to be desired. The secondary got shredded by Josh Johnson and the rest of Denver Broncos backup wideouts. The offensive line struggled mightily, and the team was sloppy and undisciplined as a whole. Preseason games are a chance for players to prove they have a place on the roster ahead of the regular season. Others fail to seize the opportunity. These three players need to make themselves indispensable on Saturday when the Cowboys take on the Los Angeles Chargers on the road. If they don't, they could fall victim to roster cuts.
Cowboys players who must impress in preseason Week 2
3. Cooper Rush
Will Grier might have seen his stock rise as much as anyone else in the Cowboys' offense against the Broncos, and he didn't play a snap. Last year's backup quarterback Cooper Rush was dismal for the entire first half of the game, completing 12 out of 20 passes for 84 yards and an interception. To make matters worse for the fourth-year veteran, Ben DiNucci flew off the bench and ignited the offense in the second half.
Rush has an NFL win under his belt, something neither Grier nor DiNucci can claim. As bad as he looked against Denver, he has flashed competency and an ability to run Dallas' offense at times during his career as well. Grier's training camp excellence and DiNucci's hot start to the preseason make them threats to Rush's status on the 53-man roster nonetheless. In 2021, Rush appeared in five games (with a lone start) and amassed just 422 passing yards and three touchdowns with an interception while completing 63.8 percent of his pass attempts.
Rush battled tough circumstances in the preseason opener. Jalen Tolbert was the only projected starting skill player to take the field in Denver for the Cowboys, and the offensive line struggled mightily to protect their quarterback. With more weapons on the field and better offensive line play, Rush could come out in Los Angeles and prove he's still the best man for Dallas' backup job. After his performance in Denver, he might have to.
2. Josh Ball
Aug. 13 was a tough night in Denver for the Cowboys' offensive line. Aside from successfully clearing a path for Dallas' running backs, not much else went right for the position group. Josh Ball wasn't the only player on the line to struggle, but he might be the player with the most to lose.
Terence Steele has moved from depth piece to bona fide starter in a short amount of time. Steele's move to full-time starter at right tackle left a hole at swing tackle, presumably one the Cowboys front office felt they could fill with Ball.
Ball spent last season sidelined with an injury. The inaction of Jerry Jones and company in the market for offensive tackles shows a measure of confidence in the former fourth-round pick's abilities.
Those abilities appeared to be lacking against the Broncos. Ball committed two holding penalties on the same drive in the third quarter, and he struggled to contain the Broncos' pass rushers. Baron Browning made quick work of Ball on his way to batting down a pass on one rep.
"NOPE!" – @baronbrwnng, probably.
📺: #DALvsDEN on @NFLNetwork (check local listings)
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/e04k8BVewG pic.twitter.com/k5afx1bVfB
— NFL (@NFL) August 14, 2022
Someone is going to have to step up and provide depth for the Cowboys' offensive line. Unless Ball proves he can be the guy to do it, the front office will have to look for other options.
1. Nahshon Wright
Josh Johnson made mincemeat of the Cowboys secondary for the entire first half of the Broncos game. Nahshon Wright was certainly not the only one to struggle. Kelvin Joseph had a bad night coverage-wise and he committed a careless penalty on Brandon McManus' failed field goal attempt at the end of the first half.
Wright is in hotter water than Joseph simply because of how much the Cowboys have already invested in Joseph. If roster cuts come down to a choice between the two, Wright could be in trouble.
Wright's struggles started early when he got flagged for a holding penalty during Denver's first possession of the game. Johnson targeted Wright again midway through the second quarter when he delivered a 24-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Hinton.
The other big blow to Wright's position on the depth chart was an eyebrow-raising performance by DaRon Bland. Bland allowed two yards in coverage against the Broncos on seven targets and showed a willingness to play physical.
DaRon Bland 👀 #DALvsDEN pic.twitter.com/i057IvkPPc
— Dylan (@TheBeardedPod) August 14, 2022
Likely, one of the trio of Joseph, Wright, and Bland won't make the 53-man roster. After Aug. 13, Wright might be the odd man out as everything currently stands.