- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Preseason game No. 3 is usually about the starters, but for the Cowboys it’s still about finding players to fill roles, in part because of injuries.
That being said, we give you five players to watch after Tony Romo & Co. pack it up for the night.
Matt Johnson – The fourth-round pick has practiced only three more times than you or I in training camp because of a hamstring injury. He missed all but one day of the organized team activities and minicamp because of league rules. Now he gets to put those months of frustration to work against St. Louis. He never really had a chance to earn a starting safety spot because of the hamstring injury, but the Cowboys like his potential. He has to be considered a lock to make the roster even with the limited work but he can show tonight whether he can handle a special teams role.
Danny Coale – A stress fracture and quadriceps injury kept Coale in much the same boat as Johnson, but Coale’s roster spot just doesn’t seem as secure. Such is the price of seeing guys like Cole Beasley, Andre Holmes, Tim Benford and Kevin Ogletree get more snaps. Coale had some nice work in the two practices against the Chargers and showed some good hands and the ability to get open. He is still working on getting his speed and quickness back. He has not worked much on special teams but he was a holder for Delbert Alvarado on field goals.
Adrian Hamilton – The Cowboys like how he can get after the passer. That seems to be a natural trait, but there are some adjustments he is still making at outside linebacker in terms of run responsibilities and coverage. But teams just don’t let pass rushers go. What Hamilton has to do is show he can cover kicks. It’s been a little adventurous in that regard but if he wants to claim one of the final linebacker spots, he better do it tonight.
Phillip Tanner – The broken hand came at the wrong time, but Tanner has a lot of value as a special teamer and the third tailback. He runs with pretty good power. He is pretty good in pass protection, too. If there is a player pushing Tanner for a spot, I believe it’s Lance Dunbar, who might get in the return game mix, and not Jamize Olawale, who had a touchdown run last week. Tanner is a better all-around back and will get his chance to show his toughness. He will play with his right hand wrapped tight, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
Clifton Geathers – I had him in the five to watch for the San Diego game and I’m still waiting. He looks the part, but he just has not made enough plays at this point. Coaches and scouts do not want to give up on his size and potential, but sometimes potential can be a killer, too. I wondered if Geathers could push a veteran like Marcus Spears out of a spot, but he’s not done enough yet to warrant that. If he flashes tonight vs. the Rams then he could get in the mix again.