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Dustin Vaughan gets the win; does he get roster spot?

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dustin Vaughan was given every chance to earn the Dallas Cowboys’ No. 3 quarterback job in Thursday’s 21-14 win against the Houston Texans.

Will the Cowboys go with him again when they make their final cuts Saturday? He completed 11 of 20 passes for 115 yards, avoiding the big mistake and delivering the game-winning drive with two solid throws to set up Ben Malena’s touchdown run.

But one thing to consider: In the four preseason games, Vaughan directed 26 non kneel-down drives and the Cowboys scored on only three of them.

Excused absence: Defensive end Greg Hardy was excused from the game by the team for personal reasons. He was not likely to play anyway given how few regulars dressed, but it was not related to his looming suspension or health related. He also missed Wednesday’s kickoff luncheon.

Take the night off: As they have done for a long time, the Cowboys did not dress their starters or most of their regulars in the final preseason game: Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Doug Free, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams were the offensive starters rested. On defense, Jeremy Mincey, DeMarcus Lawrence, Nick Hayden, Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lee, Andrew Gachkar, Randy Gregory, Brandon Carr, Tyler Patmon, Morris Claiborne, Jack Crawford and Rolando McClain did not play.

Extra work: Gavin Escobar was not able to rest despite his status. Fellow backup tight end James Hanna did not play because of a knee injury, leaving Escobar and Geoff Swaim as the only tight ends available. In the first half, Escobar played every snap and converted a third-and-17 with an 18-yard pickup in the first quarter after breaking a number of tackles. Swaim played the second half.

Rookie watch: While Gregory, the second-round pick, got the night off, Byron Jones, the first-round pick, started at free safety. With J.J. Wilcox slowed by neck spasms during the week, the versatile Jones has spent most of his time at free safety. In the second half, he moved to left cornerback and gave up a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.

Stating a case, defense: The Cowboys will have some difficult decisions along their defensive line. Two years ago, they didn’t have enough quality. This year, they will cut some players that should play in the NFL. It’s possible the Cowboys could keep as many as 11 defensive linemen, but that doesn’t seem feasible. On Thursday, Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman, Ben Gardner and Lavar Edwards had moments to show they are worthy of one of the final spots. It’s possible only two of them make the team.

Practice squad possibilities: The Cowboys are fairly well set at tailback for the 53-man roster, but they normally keep a runner on the practice squad. Gus Johnson started Thursday and had 68 yards on 16 carries and a 21-yard touchdown. Malena had 15 carries for 88 yards and a 5-yard TD. Malena’s quickness helps but the coaches have liked Johnson’s toughness working through a shoulder injury.

On to New York: The players are off through Sunday and will return to work Monday to begin their full practice week for the New York Giants. The Cowboys did some planning for the Giants while in Oxnard, California, for training camp.