Cowboys Players with Most to Prove in Preseason Game vs. Cardinals

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2021

Cowboys Players with Most to Prove in Preseason Game vs. Cardinals

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys will have another opportunity to look at their roster against another team when their preseason continues against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night at 10 p.m. ET. 

    The Cowboys already got their bonus preseason game out of the way. They played very few starters against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. This week's game should feature a more traditional appearance from some of the Cowboys' key starters. 

    Preseason games aren't really about those guys, though. It's about those with something to prove getting an opportunity against another NFL team. 

    Whether they're locked in a position battle, fighting for a role or working to make the roster, these guys are looking to prove something against the Cardinals Friday night. 

CB Jourdan Lewis

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    The Cowboys may have signed Jourdan Lewis to a new three-year contract this offseason, but that doesn't mean his role is set in stone. The slot cornerback has faced some serious competition from Maurice Canady throughout camp. 

    Canady was a 2020 COVID-19 opt-out and has previously spent his career on and off the injured reserve list before being cut by the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets. He signed with the Cowboys last season. So far, the 27-year-old has impressed in camp, even picking off Matthew Stafford in a joint practice with the Rams

    The journeyman outperforming the veteran on a new contract has been a common theme in camp, per Kyle Youmans of the team's official site:

    "Overall, Lewis will most likely be the starter in the slot come Week 1, but he may need to look in the rearview mirror because Canady has already done enough to receive extra snaps. And he may not be far from earning the job outright."

    Lewis's best advantage is his experience. But if he can't look better than Canady against competition in actual game scenarios, there could be a real competition for those slot corner snaps. 

QB Ben DiNucci

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    Ben DiNucci is a perfect example of how quickly things can change for a Day 3 draft pick in the NFL. Last season he was a seventh-round selection who had to earn his roster spot in training camp. Through a series of injuries he ended up starting a game in the regular season. 

    Now it's coming full circle with the former James Madison passer working to make the team. 

    The Cowboys' depth behind Dak Prescott could be important. With the franchise quarterback coming off a major ankle injury and dealing with a shoulder issue, the team must develop a contingency plan. 

    DiNucci did not have a great day in the team's preseason opener against the Steelers. The second-year player went 7-of-17 for just 89 yards and threw the game's only pick. 

    Maybe that can be chalked up to preseason rust. Maybe it was the pressure of playing for his hometown team. But whatever it was, it can't be repeated if he's hoping to make the roster. He was clearly outplayed by current No. 2 quarterback Garrett Gilbert, and Cooper Rush also made a better impression. 

WR Michael Gallup

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    Michael Gallup is the forgotten man in the Dallas Cowboys receiving corps. CeeDee Lamb has turned in an impressive camp, and Amari Cooper has consistently posted strong numbers with the Cowboys. But Gallup doesn't always get his due. 

    Fortunately for him, he has the respect of the coaching staff. 

    For the first time in his career, he has worked in all three receiver positions for the Cowboys in camp, including the slot. It's giving him some new things to work on. 

    "That's a whole different route tree than playing outside. ... Everybody labels me as just a 'deep-ball threat,' but I know I can do a whole lot more," he said, per Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News

    However brief his appearance is against the Cardinals, he should have the opportunity to show off the new routes he's been working. It doesn't hurt that he's kicking off a contract-year campaign.