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Final decisions hard for different reason

8/29/2014

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The hardest part for teams when they make their final cuts is trimming the last few spots.

For the Dallas Cowboys that will be difficult as well, but for a different reason. They might not have 53 players worth keeping. Seriously.

After Thursday's 27-3 loss to the Denver Broncos left the Cowboys winless in the preseason, coach Jason Garrett talked about the effort he received from players fighting for their lives. And he was right. There was plenty of effort. That's not been an issue. The players have bought into Garrett's "fight" mantra.

The problem is talent, especially on defense.

The Cowboys had their worst defense in franchise history last year and you would be hard-pressed to find enough players to fill out this year's defense to make it better. That's not a good thing going into the regular season against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 7.

"We believe we have guys that are worthy of making this football team," Garrett said. "You saw a lot of those guys out there tonight. Guys who made plays and kind of stuck their hand up in the air saying 'Hey, I deserve to be here.' But unfortunately some of those guys aren't going to be able to be with us. So that's what makes it hard."

That's a nice thing for the coach to say, but is it really true?

In the past the Cowboys have cut players who have gone on and had success with other teams. This year it looks like the Cowboys are choosing among different levels of backups.

Of the players on the bubble Thursday, only Kenneth Boatright and Dartwan Bush might have helped their chances. Backup offensive linemen Uche Nwaneri and John Wetzel struggled. You didn't see many plays from linebackers Will Smith or Keith Smith.

At safety Jemea Thomas was claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots on Wednesday and played Thursday. Can he beat out Ryan Smith, who has been with the Cowboys since May, now that Jakar Hamilton has been suspended the first four games of the season?

Those are the kinds of decisions the Cowboys have to make over the next 24 hours.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys will be active in looking to add players before, during and after the final cuts. Last year the Cowboys added four players the first week of the season. It's possible they could add more this season.

The Cowboys named Will McClay the assistant director of player personnel because of his ability to find players off the street to contribute. He's done it with guys like Laurent Robinson, Tony Fiammetta, Ernie Sims and Eric Frampton.

The Cowboys will study the waiver wire hard. They will look to potentially make trades to bolster the back end of the roster, but not the top-end. This isn't a team that is one player away from a Super Bowl.

The game is trying to find players that are "better than." In other words better than they have right now or could be better than in a few weeks.

The Cowboys might have to find a lot of "better than" players.