Dallas Cowboys: Two promising players will decide fate at Chargers


The day has arrived Cowboys Nation. Your first taste of 2015 Dallas Cowboys football will begin at 9:00 PM CST in San Diego. While the initial game rarely decides the fate of highly involved camp players, tonight there are a few unique circumstances.

One expects players hanging on by a thread to feel such immediate pressure to produce. These types are already receiving limited practice reps as they jockey for back-end roster spots.

More from The Landry Hat

In San Diego, the performances of two promising Dallas Cowboys will greatly determine future worth to the team.

Both have received sizable practice reps the last week. Unfortunately they play positions with unique preseason demands in Dallas.

This will likely be their longest showing of the summer. The starters ahead of them won’t be in pads, so the spotlight is theirs.

A bad performance by either could result in dismissal from the team. More likely a reduced practice workload would ensue, which still signals the writing is on the wall.


When the Cowboys decided to part ways with running back Ryan Williams in late July, they immediately added Gus Johnson in his place.

Johnson was an undrafted rookie free agent who won Southland Conference Player of the Year at Stephen F. Austin. In college, he piled up an impressive 6.2 yards per carry average, 3,682 rushing yards, and 51 TD’s.

With the Cowboys top three running backs all missing time with injuries, the 5’10, 215 pound runner made the most of his opportunities. So much so that he earned the start in tonight’s opening preseason contest.

"It’s been going pretty good from my perspective,” Johnson said. “I just came in with the mindset that the reps that I get just take advantage of them because at one point and time this didn’t seem possible to me. Now that I’m here, I just have to make the most out of every opportunity I get. — Gus Johnson"

Johnson is smart to realize this may be his one big chance. Once practice resumes after this game, all three of Dallas’ top rushers are expected back to practice. A big performance would signal to the coaches that keeping him around as insurance and involved in practice would be wise.

On the flip side, if Johnson turns in a subpar performance equal to his undrafted status, it’s likely he would fall by the wayside. While he may tag along a little longer, his practice reps would severely dwindle, along with hope to secure a practice squad spot.


Dustin Vaughn showed enough promise last summer that the Cowboys burned a spot on the 53-man roster just to secure his rights. Designating him to the practice squad would’ve allowed other teams the chance to sign the quarterback to their roster.

In his second year, and with Brandon Weeden proving less than reliable last season, it was supposed to be Vaughn’s coming out party. The youngster had a real opportunity to show he’s improved enough to get a serious look as Tony Romo‘s back-up.

Vaughn at least needs to show his future potential holds more value after a year of experience. So far neither has occurred. He hasn’t played awful, but isn’t showing the poise and precision to indicate significant steps forward.

With Romo sidelined tonight, Vaughn should get no less than two full quarters under center. This will be his largest amount of playing time unless he proves worthy of more. The next two games will involve getting Romo and Weeden sharp.

Normally, his snaps would heavily increase in the final game as starters rest. However, the third quarterback role is not uncontested like last camp.

This time undrafted rookie Jameill Showers is turning heads. The athletic, versatile rookie played for Texas A&M before transferring to UTEP his last two seasons.

While Showers shows promise throwing the ball, it’s his other unique contributions that are propelling him forward. Showers not only is a passer, but he plays on special teams units for the Cowboys.

If Vaughn has an average or poor night against the Chargers, not only could he lose his spot on the 53-man roster, but he may forfeit a practice squad place to Showers.

A key role of practice squad players is to imitate upcoming opponents. Showers has the ability to practice as a running back, receiver, special teamer, and mobile QB. That’s a lot of value for Vaughn to overcome if not excelling.

The Chargers game will provide a strong indication if Vaughn has a place with the team going forward. To remain in the Cowboys’ future QB plans, he’ll have to shine.

Next: Dallas Cowboys Fan Poll: Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson or Ray Rice?