IRVING, Texas -- By Saturday the Dallas Cowboys have to make their final cut to 53 players. Tonight's preseason finale against the Denver Broncos represents the last chance for many players to make a favorable impression.
And that might not even be good enough.
The Cowboys will look for help on the waiver wire and through potential trades over the weekend so the 53 players settled on Saturday might not be the same players on Sunday or Monday or even Tuesday.
But coach Jason Garrett insists players can still make the team tonight.
"Fourth preseason games, they were my life," Garrett said. "Guys all over the league, fighting for this opportunity."
Many of the spots on the Cowboys' roster are taken. A handful will be up for debate.
Who can make a difference tonight?
Dustin Vaughan: The undrafted quarterback from West Texas A&M can make the Cowboys think longer and harder about keeping a third quarterback with a solid performance. If he can lead the Cowboys on multiple scoring drives while making good decisions, he might be too valuable to expose to the waiver wire. With so many roster spots needed elsewhere keeping a third quarterback is a little bit of a luxury, but the Cowboys might view Vaughan as a quarterback worth developing without exposing him to the waiver process.
Dartwan Bush, Kenneth Boatright, Caesar Rayford: There are jobs to be had on the Cowboys' defensive line, especially at defensive end. Anthony Spencer will be on the active roster to start the season, but won't play Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers. DeMarcus Lawrence will have to be on the roster at least until Tuesday to be eligible for short-term injured reserve with his broken foot.
Bush earned a late invite to training camp after making a favorable impression in a rookie minicamp. Boatright was signed during camp. They have shown some flashes of pass rush. Rayford is a worker and will not quit. There might be room for only one of these guys at Saturday's deadline.
Tyler Clutts: Do the Cowboys keep a fullback or not? It's Clutts' job to win. Garrett has talked about the need for a fullback to be a physical team. Maybe the team looks outside the building for that guy, but Clutts has some versatility and can play special teams.
Will Smith, Keith Smith: Do the Cowboys keep a seventh linebacker? Will Smith is a draft pick, so he gets the edge, but even if they make the team Saturday, the Cowboys will look at the waiver wire. Remember last year they added Kyle Bosworth after the cuts.
Terrance Mitchell, Jemea Thomas: The seventh-round pick earned praise from coaches for his willingness to work and always being around the ball. He also seemed to be around a lot of penalty flags. With Orlando Scandrick gone for the first four games because of a suspension, maybe the Cowboys go heavier than expected at corner. For now Mitchell is fighting for a spot with B.W. Webb and Tyler Patmon. Thomas was claimed off waivers Wednesday from the New England Patriots and will play without the benefit of a practice. Is he an emergency pickup? My gut says no. The Cowboys liked him in the draft. If he can show anything he might be able to snag one of the final defensive back jobs.