Final preseason game for Cowboys still means plenty for some

Emmett Cleary will be fighting for one of the final spots on the Cowboys' offensive line when the team takes the field on Thursday. Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

FRISCO, Texas -- A preseason game -- the fifth for the Dallas Cowboys, by the way -- means little compared to what is happening in the Houston area because of Hurricane Harvey. But if the NFL says play, then you play.

The NFL opted to relocate Thursday's preseason game between the Cowboys and Houston Texans to AT&T Stadium because of the damage inflicted by the storm as well as public safety concerns.

"I think there are much bigger things at hand, absolutely," Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. "I think that the most important thing right now is family and friends in the city of Houston back home, making sure that they're safe, making sure that they're taken care of. And if there is something played this week, I think we should definitely involve some sort of fundraiser, some sort of way to benefit the people back home because I think, like I said, this is a much bigger issue than just a football game."

Details on tickets, parking and other game day functions will be announced later in the week.

But for the players still fighting for a spot on the Cowboys' roster, the game represents another chance to impress, especially since the starters and even key backups will not play.

"It's certainly important from an evaluation standpoint for us," coach Jason Garrett said. "A lot of the young guys will get their most extended playing time. We have been fortunate that we've already played four preseason games, and a lot of those same guys who will play Thursday night played in that Hall of Fame Game up in Canton. So we've seen them a lot in game action. But we have to prepare ourselves to play in this ball game."

For rookies, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, wide receiver Ryan Switzer and Xavier Woods, it will be a chance to show the coaches they can handle game day roles. All three have been slowed by hamstring strains. Switzer, who is slated to be the punt returner, has not played in a preseason game. Awuzie and Woods have played in two of the four games.

Along the offensive and defensive lines, the final spot could be up for grabs. With the injury history of Chaz Green, could Emmett Cleary claim the ninth spot if the Cowboys add an extra offensive lineman. Will Lewis Neal, Joey Ivie or Jordan Carrell claim a tackle spot? Neal, who was undrafted, can also play defensive end, which might give him an advantage over the draft picks.

The game might be meaningless to a lot of players and a lot of families affected by the storm, but it won't be meaningless to those hoping to make a lasting impression.