Victor CruzWilliam Perlman/USA TODAY SportsVictor Cruz missed two weeks of camp with a calf injury and is still recovering from last year's knee issue.

Eli Manning was scheduled to play Thursday night in the New York Giants' preseason finale, but he did not. Neither did star wideout Odell Beckham Jr., who dressed but stood on the sideline with Manning while the rest of the first-team offense spent a couple of series trying to score against Patriots backups.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after the game that he "didn't want to play them, didn't have to play them," which was different from what he said about it earlier in the week. At halftime, in an interview with the local TV station broadcasting the game, Manning said, "I think the offense is ready."

The Giants had better be ready. Nine days will pass before the first Sunday of the regular season. Manning, Beckham and the Giants will play the Cowboys in Dallas on Sept. 13. The Cowboys went 12-4 last year, and the Giants haven't beaten them since 2012. It's about to get real. And while some things happened in the Giants' final tune-up that might make you feel OK about what's to come, a lot of questions remain with this team.

Jason Pierre-Paul is due back next week, but no one knows when he'll play or how. The pass rush needs him, even if it did generate some pressure Thursday against backup Patriots. Rookie Landon Collins played well at safety Thursday, but unless he's going to clone himself and play both safety spots, they still have questions to answer at that position. Middle linebacker Jon Beason is still hurt.

On offense, Victor Cruz has missed two weeks' worth of practice with a calf injury and still is recovering from last year's major knee injury. Rueben Randle's knee has been bugging him all summer. Thursday night, they were still shuffling pieces on the right side of the offensive line, and rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers had a rough game with penalties.

The Giants have a better idea what their roster will look like, but they have so many holes that they're liable to pick over other teams' cuts this weekend after they make their own. They'll show back up for practice Monday and get ready for the opener six days later in Texas. And when they arrive at AT&T Stadium that day, they'll surely feel ready to start the season.

But outside expectations for the Giants right now seem about as low as they've been in more than a decade, and they're going to have to look at lot more ready Sept. 13 than they've looked at any point this offseason if they want to avoid losing their season opener for the fifth year in a row.

Rasheed BaileyAP Photo/Mel EvansRasheed Bailey summed up his first NFL touchdown grab with one word: "Wow."

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If this was it for Rasheed Bailey with the Philadelphia Eagles, he sure went out on a high note.

“That showed that I accomplished something,” Bailey said. “I scored a touchdown in the National Football League. Wow.”

Bailey’s touchdown catch from Tim Tebow and his other reception may have been enough to keep Thursday’s preseason game at the Meadowlands from being it for Bailey. The rookie from Delaware Valley University in Doylestown opened a lot of eyes during this preseason.

“Rasheed Bailey makes a lot of plays,” Tebow said. “He had a step on the secondary and I gave him a shot. He’s making plays every single day.”

Bailey finished the preseason with 10 catches for 100 yards.

“I think the one thing I showed was maximum effort,” Bailey said. “I left it all out there. No matter what happens, I can go home and say, 'I gave it everything I had.’ I’m happy.”

For Bailey, a good crowd in college was 5,000 fans. In the past four weeks, he has played two games at Lincoln Financial Field, one game at Lambeau Field and this game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.

It won’t be easy making the 53-man roster. If the Eagles keep six wide receivers, as expected, first-round pick Nelson Agholor and second-year receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff are virtually locks. Riley Cooper and Miles Austin are veterans whose contracts make it unlikely they will be cut.

That leaves one spot, which is expected to go to Seyi Ajirotutu, a good special-teams player who signed as a free agent.

But Bailey said he would count it as an accomplishment if he is signed to the Eagles’ practice squad. That is a distinct possibility. He has done enough in the preseason to give himself a good chance.

“It would mean so much to me,” Bailey said. “To be a part of this team, to be a part of this culture. To be around guys like Jordan and these other receivers, it’s a true blessing to be around here.”

Dustin VaughanRonald Martinez/Getty Images Dustin Vaughan got a full four quarters to state his case as the Cowboys' third quarterback.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dustin Vaughan wanted to stay in the moment after the Dallas Cowboys won their first preseason game since 2013 on Thursday. Thinking of the next 48 hours in which his football future could be decided could wait.

"Coach [Jason] Garrett told us to enjoy tonight, look in the mirror and say, ‘We did enough,'" Vaughan said in the middle of the locker room after the Cowboys' 21-14 win against the Houston Texans. "Hopefully that's reality."

The final cuts come Saturday and Vaughan admitted it will be "nerve-wracking, just like for everybody."

A year ago the Cowboys kept Vaughan on the 53-man roster, carrying a third quarterback behind Tony Romo and Brandon Weeden because of the promise he showed last summer. This summer has not been as productive, but Vaughan had his best moment when the Cowboys needed him most.

His final numbers are average -– 11 of 20, 115 yards, no touchdowns and no sacks. But on the Cowboys' game-winning drive that was set up by a long Lucky Whitehead punt return, Vaughan was able to hit A.J. Jenkins for 7 yards on a third-and-3. Two plays later he led Clyde Gates into a 15-yard pickup to the Houston 5.

Ben Malena scored on the next play to give the Cowboys the lead.

"I think that was really important for me to be able to go in there and lead the offense to a winning drive like that as far as confidence level," Vaughan said. "But also just this is what we came here to do, win the game. And we weren't going to leave this stadium without that happening. I like the way that the offense played together. So, yeah, overall a good performance."

The Cowboys planned to give Jameill Showers work in the second half but Vaughan played the entire game. It was his chance to state his case.

"I thought he handled himself well," Garrett said.

But was it well enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster for the second straight year?

"I think so, but there's a lot of guys in this room that think they have showed enough," Vaughan said. "Fact of the matter and the brutal reality of the NFL is it's out of our control now and so you hope you showed enough. And, yes, I think I did."

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Greg Hardy's absence from the Dallas Cowboys the last two days had to do with the birth of his child.

Hardy was not at Thursday's preseason game against the Houston Texans after also missing the team's kickoff luncheon Wednesday.

"We've had a number of those with guys over the course of training camp where guys have been gone for a day or two," coach Jason Garrett said.

Hardy's four-game suspension starts at 4 p.m. Saturday, but a source said Thursday he will confer with the NFL Players Association about possibly going through the court system to seek a further reduction. In April, Hardy was suspended 10 games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy but it was reduced to four games in July by arbitrator Harold Henderson.

With Tom Brady having his four-game suspension vacated by a judge, the NFLPA might want to continue to challenge Roger Goodell's authority.

Hardy played 46 snaps in three preseason games. If he elects to accept the suspension, he will not be around the team again until Oct. 5 and will be able to play Oct. 11 against the New England Patriots. His absence would affect the Cowboys defense.

"We just have to pick up the slack," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "I like what Randy [Gregory] has done. I think [DeMarcus] Lawrence has gotten better and better. I'm counting on Ty [Tyrone Crawford] taking a big step. I look at Jack Crawford taking a step. So that's what we're banking on."

video
LANDOVER, Md. -- Something wasn’t working for Washington Redskins receiver Rashad Ross so he decided to make a change. Getting cut does that for a guy. So Ross dedicated himself more to his craft -- and gave himself his best chance to make a roster.

Ross finished a strong summer with a 10-catch, 103-yard performance in a 17-16 preseason finale loss to Jacksonville on Thursday night. He finished the preseason with 25 catches for 266 yards. No other member of the Redskins had more than eight receptions. Special teams will play a big role in deciding the final receiver -- rookie Evan Spencer is better in coverage; Ross is a returner, but the Redskins don't necessarily need him for that role. Still, he has a rare commodity: speed.

“Even in practice he makes splash plays every day,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “We talk about taking advantage of opportunities. He’s one of the guys that really has opened our eyes. It’s going to make it very tough. He just made it very interesting.”

For all that he did, Ross still might not make the Redskins’ roster, though he’s in much better shape than he was a year ago at this time. Last year, he signed with Washington during the middle of camp after Kansas City cut him. So he knows the offense.

“When he knows where he’s going, he gets there in a hurry,” Gruden said. “He shows no fear, he caught a couple inside breaking routes. Took some hits, obviously we know he can run outside. I’ve been very impressed with him.”

Rashad RossPatrick Smith/Getty ImagesRashad Ross finished a strong summer with a 10-catch, 103-yard performance against the Jaguars.

But he also prepared better. Ross worked out with fellow receiver DeSean Jackson this summer and would stay after practice quite a bit.

“That’s big but a guy in my position, that’s what you have to do,” Ross said. “In the past, I wasn’t doing that so this year I was like, enough is enough I’ve got to stay and I’ve got to prepare for this.”

He prepared a lot with quarterback Colt McCoy.

“When I didn’t get any reps in practice, I would keep him afterwards and he would continue to run routes and he wanted to get better,” McCoy said. “I appreciate the way he handled everything and handled himself. He deserves a shot.”

Sitting at home changes a man.

“Wondering 'why me' all the time,” he said. “I just looked in the mirror and it can’t be nobody else. If more than one team cuts me, it’s got to be me. I was like, I need to change inside.”

Ross’ speed would be a big help, but what he showed this summer is he can help on other routes. In fact, he did not catch any deep balls and he did show an ability to come out of a break hard. On his 19-yard touchdown catch, his plant foot drove off the corner and Ross cut inside with extra separation. Once he caught the ball, his quickness juked another defender and allowed him to slice through the last defenders.

“Everyone knows me as a deep ball threat,” Ross said. “But I’m happy about my route-running and showing people I can do more than go deep.”

Fast receivers often need to learn how to play at a slower level during some aspects of their routes. That’s why Ross worked with Jackson.

“They say I’m fast, but that I don’t know how to come out of my breaks as crisp as he does,” Ross said. “So just working with him and watching him and training with him every day paid off.”

And now he waits -- but he won’t worry. He’s comfortable with what he did and confident that if the Redskins cut him, someone else will take him.

“It’s not that nerve-wracking to me,” he said. “I gave it my all.”

Dustin VaughanAP Photo/Brandon WadeDustin Vaughan completed 11 of 20 passes for 115 yards in his bid to secure the No. 3 quarterback job.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dustin Vaughan was given every chance to earn the Dallas Cowboys’ No. 3 quarterback job in Thursday’s 21-14 win against the Houston Texans.

Will the Cowboys go with him again when they make their final cuts Saturday? He completed 11 of 20 passes for 115 yards, avoiding the big mistake and delivering the game-winning drive with two solid throws to set up Ben Malena’s touchdown run.

But one thing to consider: In the four preseason games, Vaughan directed 26 non kneel-down drives and the Cowboys scored on only three of them.

Excused absence: Defensive end Greg Hardy was excused from the game by the team for personal reasons. He was not likely to play anyway given how few regulars dressed, but it was not related to his looming suspension or health related. He also missed Wednesday’s kickoff luncheon.

Take the night off: As they have done for a long time, the Cowboys did not dress their starters or most of their regulars in the final preseason game: Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Doug Free, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams were the offensive starters rested. On defense, Jeremy Mincey, DeMarcus Lawrence, Nick Hayden, Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lee, Andrew Gachkar, Randy Gregory, Brandon Carr, Tyler Patmon, Morris Claiborne, Jack Crawford and Rolando McClain did not play.

Extra work: Gavin Escobar was not able to rest despite his status. Fellow backup tight end James Hanna did not play because of a knee injury, leaving Escobar and Geoff Swaim as the only tight ends available. In the first half, Escobar played every snap and converted a third-and-17 with an 18-yard pickup in the first quarter after breaking a number of tackles. Swaim played the second half.

Rookie watch: While Gregory, the second-round pick, got the night off, Byron Jones, the first-round pick, started at free safety. With J.J. Wilcox slowed by neck spasms during the week, the versatile Jones has spent most of his time at free safety. In the second half, he moved to left cornerback and gave up a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.

Stating a case, defense: The Cowboys will have some difficult decisions along their defensive line. Two years ago, they didn’t have enough quality. This year, they will cut some players that should play in the NFL. It’s possible the Cowboys could keep as many as 11 defensive linemen, but that doesn’t seem feasible. On Thursday, Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman, Ben Gardner and Lavar Edwards had moments to show they are worthy of one of the final spots. It’s possible only two of them make the team.

Practice squad possibilities: The Cowboys are fairly well set at tailback for the 53-man roster, but they normally keep a runner on the practice squad. Gus Johnson started Thursday and had 68 yards on 16 carries and a 21-yard touchdown. Malena had 15 carries for 88 yards and a 5-yard TD. Malena’s quickness helps but the coaches have liked Johnson’s toughness working through a shoulder injury.

On to New York: The players are off through Sunday and will return to work Monday to begin their full practice week for the New York Giants. The Cowboys did some planning for the Giants while in Oxnard, California, for training camp.

New York Giants wide receiver Geremy DavisStew Milne/USA TODAY SportsGiants wide receiver Geremy Davis made the most of his final preseason opportunity and showed enough to make the team.

Quarterback Eli Manning and star wide receiver Odell Beckham didn't play in the New York Giants' final preseason game Thursday in Foxboro. But several rookies who could play big roles this year did. Safety Landon Collins, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa and wide receiver Geremy Davis all showed well in their final tune-up before the regular season. Here are some quick thoughts on the Giants' 12-9 exhibition victory against the New England Patriots.

QB Depth Chart: Manning went through what the team described as an "extended warmup" before the game but did not start. "I think the offense is ready," Manning explained to Channel 4 at halftime. Backup Ryan Nassib got the start and played into the fourth quarter, finishing 16-for-32 for 193 yards. He's in no danger of losing his backup job to Ricky Stanzi, but this wasn't Nassib's best-ever pregame showing. He moves well and seems to handle pressure well, but he has major accuracy issues from the pocket and seems to need more development.

Maybe That Guy Could Start: I feel like I've written about him every week, but Odighizuwa keeps showing up. He fights through blockers in a way a lot of the Giants' defensive linemen haven't been able to this preseason. He still needs to work on his pass-rush moves, but his technique is developing quickly. And in the meantime, his raw athleticism and on-field attentiveness make him an asset in the run game. His role should expand as the season goes along.

Who got hurt?: Wide receiver Corey Washington (shoulder) and cornerback Trevin Wade (back) were both announced as late scratches due to injuries, which is poor timing for them. Both guys are on the roster bubble and final cuts are due Saturday at 4 pm ET. Blocking tight end Daniel Fells injured his shoulder in the second quarter but returned to the game late.

Who stood out?: Defensive end George Selvie had two sacks in the first half. The Patriots' didn't put any starters on the field, so Selvie was pushing around backups, but it was good to see him looking healthy. And the way the preseason has good for the pass rush, the Giants had to like seeing anyone get through the line, no matter who was wearing the opponents' jerseys. Defensive end Kerry Wynn had a couple of good, penetrating run stops and appears set to play a role early in the defensive line rotation until Jason Pierre-Paul is ready to play.

Rookie Watch: In addition to third-rounder Odighizuwa, second-rounder Landon Collins had a strong game, showing pretty good range in coverage and knocking down a pass attempt to Reggie Wayne in the first quarter. And sixth-rounder Geremy Davis had three catches for 65 yards, including a 40-yard sideline catch from Nassib. Davis plays on special teams and has shown enough as a receiver to make the team. First-rounder Ereck Flowers looked all right again at left tackle, though he had a couple of first-quarter hiccups including a missed block and a face mask penalty.

One Reason to Freak Out: A game like this provides no legitimate reason to freak out in either direction, but it's at least a bit worrisome that with 10 days before the opener the Giants don't have their starting offensive line set. They alternated first-team series with Geoff Schwartz and John Jerry at right guard, then Schwartz got in with the second team at right tackle. Marshall Newhouse is still the starting right tackle, but things are unsettled on the right side of that line.

Why Moore doesn't play more: Defensive end Damontre Moore, whose playing time early his career has been limited due to maturity and concentration issues, was flagged for three 15-yard personal foul penalties. The 2013 third-round pick will make the team, but he's got to show more discipline if he wants to see the field on a regular basis, even with the Giants short on the defensive line. But he also showed the upside. Two plays after his third personal foul, in the fourth quarter, he got a sack and forced the fumble that ended the game.

Mr. Versatile: Fullback Nikita Whitlock changed his number from 49 to 35 for this game because the Giants wanted to be able to use him on defense (and linebacker Cole Farrand wears 49 and they can't put two guys with the same number on the field at the same time). Whitlock, 5-foot-10 and 250 pounds, got some reps at defensive tackle in the fourth quarter and recovered the fumble Moore forced. He also played all over the special teams units. He had some experience playing defense in college at Wake Forset. Could the ability to contribute on defense help him make the team? Or some other team?

Stevie's back: Safety Stevie Brown, who had eight interceptions for the Giants in 2012, missed all of 2013 with a knee injury, got benched in 2014, left as a free agent, signed with the Texans, got cut by the Texans and re-signed with the Giants just last week, picked off a tipped pass in the fourth quarter. Back in 2012, the ball seemed to find Brown, and that's what happened here -- right place, right time. But with the score 12-9 in favor of the Giants and 3:12 left on the clock and the Patriots driving deep in Giants territory, this interception was absolutely massive as it helped ward off the scourge that is preseason overtime.

videoPHILADELPHIA -- The Tom Brady decision will not directly affect the Philadelphia Eagles. Brady was always cleared to play when the Eagles visit the New England Patriots in December.

The overturning of Brady’s Deflategate suspension Thursday will have an impact on the Eagles. Brady was originally scheduled to be suspended when the Patriots visit the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 11.

The Patriots are scheduled to play all four NFC East teams in 2015. The Cowboys were the only one of the four that was set to face Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. In a division that has been decided by a game or two each of the past four seasons, and figures to be tight again this season, that was a major advantage for the Cowboys.

That advantage disappeared Thursday with the judge’s ruling.

Of course, conditions are never exactly the same from game to game. By December, any number of players could be injured, including Brady. The Cowboys could now face Brady in October while the Eagles face Garoppolo in December.

Two years ago, the Eagles beat the Green Bay Packers after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. The Cowboys played the Packers a few weeks later, after they were better acclimated to being without their quarterback, and lost, 37-36. The Eagles went on to win the NFC East by one game.

But injuries are a part of the game. Depth and coaching adjustments allow some teams to get by without key players while other teams flounder. That’s different from the league office making a decision that gives one team an advantage over its rivals.

The Cowboys seemed to have an advantage when it came to facing the Patriots without Brady. As of Thursday’s decision, that advantage is gone.

Colt McCoyAlex Brandon/APColt McCoy completed 22 for 33 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in the preseason finale.

LANDOVER, Md. -- The Washington Redskins received what they needed: a full game from quarterback Colt McCoy and a good opportunity to evaluate their backups. Other than that, not a whole lot mattered in the preseason finale. Here are some quick thoughts on the Redskins' 17-16 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars:

QB Depth Chart: Holding Steady? Nothing changed after the preseason finale: Kirk Cousins is the starter; Colt McCoy is the backup. McCoy played the whole game, completing 22 for 33 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. At times he held the ball too long, trying to extend plays, and was sacked.

Maybe That Dude Could Start: Nobody came out of this game looking that good, but linebacker Trent Murphy looked like a guy ready to start -- as he'll need to do. He beat the left tackle on one rush, swatting him with his right hand and turning the corner for a pressure.

Who Got Hurt? Center Josh LeRibeus injured a calf muscle early in the third quarter and did not return. Running back Trey Williams hurt his left ankle in the first half and did not return.

A Player Who Looks Amazing: Receiver Rashad Ross finished the preseason strong. He showed he should win a roster spot here or elsewhere, catching 10 passes for 103 yards. He also returned four punts for 28 yards. But the question he faces is this: Will the Redskins keep six or seven receivers?

Rookie Watch: Inside linebacker Terrance Plummer had a strong preseason and has a real chance to make the roster as an undrafted free agent. If they keep five inside linebackers, he'll make the cut.

One Reason To Freak Out: Not many, but one disappointing part from Thursday was the play of right guard Spencer Long. He was called for holding twice and missed on other blocks in protection. The coaches say they're pleased with him, but he struggled against Jacksonville.

Cornered: Last year, DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson started at corner for the Redskins. Thursday, they started in the fourth preseason game. Both needed work, but that each was playing in the final game suggests both need work -- and there are interesting decisions to make at this spot.

Tight end lock: Derek Carrier only caught one pass for 13 yards, but he did a nice job as a blocker. Though he's slender at 241 pounds, Carrier showed strength and a good use of hand placement, especially on Mack Brown's 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

videoMonths ago, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz set Week 1 as a goal for his return from the serious knee injury that cost him the final 10 games of last season. He maintains that goal, holding out hope that he can take the field with his teammates Sept. 13 against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. And what a story it would be if he did.

But at this point, that seems like a crazy idea.

Cruz's comeback from a torn patellar tendon was going pretty well until a couple of weeks ago, when he strained a calf muscle in the opposite leg. He has not practiced since Aug. 17 and won't play in Thursday night's preseason finale against the Patriots. The Giants' next practice is a light walk-through on Monday, then they have a day off Tuesday before beginning regular-season "game week" preparations for the Cowboys on Wednesday.

Is it possible Cruz could be on the practice field next week and ready to go for the opener? Sure it is. It just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. After all Cruz has done to get to the point where Week 1 is even possible, why rush him back just to meet an arbitrary goal? Compensating for the left calf injury could result in a catastrophic re-injury of the right knee he's worked so hard to rebuild. Until he's a billion percent sure he's not putting himself at risk for further injury, the only principle at work here should be extreme caution.

"Obviously, coming off a major knee surgery, you want to be careful, you want to be cautious with it," Cruz said Monday. "I think that’s what we’re doing. We just want to make sure that it’s really back to 100 percent and strong and able to cut, and all those things before we try it out on the field."

It should be a relief to Giants fans to hear Cruz preaching caution. In the same interview, he said he hoped to be able to return to the practice field next week and play in the opener. That remains his goal, as it has all along, and it's an admirable one. But Cruz is smart, and deep down it seems he knows careful might be the way to lean here. As of Tuesday, which was 12 days before the opener, he wasn't even allowed to jog on the side during practice. Given his condition and the severity of his knee injury, it feels as though more than 12 days should pass between his first jog and his first appearance on an NFL field in front of a huge crowd and against an angry defense.

Until the calf thing came up, Cruz had passed all of the tests his rehab had presented. But there were -- and are -- more critical tests to come. What the Giants don't know and won't know, since they won't have seen him in a preseason game, is how the rebuilt knee responds to unpredictable game actions. Can he drive off that leg? Can he make a sudden jump like the one he made on the play where he got hurt in the first place? Can he produce the kinds of explosive in-game movements that made him a great player in the first place. These are the hold-your-breath moments that await Cruz and the Giants no matter when he gets back on the field. It would be the height of folly to rush him back out there just so they could say he made it back for Week 1.

video
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys close the preseason tonight against the Houston Texans at AT&T Stadium.

On a team that did not have very many open competitions at the start of training camp, only a few spots remain up for debate at the bottom of the roster.

“There are spots open and they are competing not only against what’s here on this team, but they’re competing against all of the other players in the NFL right now,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “They know it’s not just on this team where the competition is. It’s going to be a big game for a lot of players that are looking for those last four or five roster spots that are on the line. I know they are aware of that. And I know the coaches make them aware of it. But nothing is given to you, so it’s going to be a big deal.”

The Cowboys have to reach the 53-man roster limit on Saturday and already have had discussions regarding how many players to keep at each position, but they have not finalized their thoughts. Jason Garrett said a player can’t win a job with one solid performance in the final preseason game, that the team used the entire summer as an evaluation period.

But a strong showing tonight won’t hurt.

Here are some players who have something to prove:

Dustin Vaughan
He made the Cowboys keep a third quarterback last year by showing promise in the preseason games. He has not shown the same promise this summer, but will get another opportunity tonight. Vaughan possesses a strong arm and is coachable.

He has had a difficult time cutting it loose this training camp, seemingly getting frustrated with the work of the backup offensive linemen, receivers or both. After a good showing in the first preseason game against the San Diego Chargers, Vaughan has locked in on receivers and forced throws.

The Cowboys want to have a young quarterback in their system, especially with Brandon Weeden in the final year of his deal and Tony Romo entering his 13th season. Could Jameill Showers get in the mix? Yes, but Vaughan has the leg up.

Darrion Weems
Weems can’t complain about a lack of action. He has seen a ton of time in the first three preseason games and should see a ton of time tonight.

In May, the Cowboys hoped Chaz Green would be their swing tackle when they took him in the third round but he will miss the first six games of the season on the physically unable to perform list due to offseason hip surgery.

That has allowed Weems the chance to win the job. He started slowly vs. San Diego but has played better. The Cowboys will have a decision to make if they want to go with Weems’ inexperience behind Tyron Smith and Doug Free or opt for another potential inexperienced tackle who comes off another team’s roster.

The safer bet would seem to be Weems, especially with a good showing tonight.

Ben Gardner, Lavar Edwards
Gardner had a strong spring and a solid start to training camp. He even had a sack against the San Francisco 49ers. Gardner and Edwards could be fighting for the final defensive end spot and could benefit from the four-game suspension looming for Greg Hardy.

Gardner has some special teams ability, which helps his cause. Edwards has the more prototypical size and more experience.

Without Hardy, the Cowboys have DeMarcus Lawrence, Jeremy Mincey and Randy Gregory as their top defensive ends. Fifth-round pick Ryan Russell has showed enough promise. If the Cowboys want to go heavy at defensive end, then it’s up to Gardner or Edwards to force their hands.

A.J. Jenkins
There was a thought Jenkins would be among the first receivers cut in camp, but he has shown up much more in the final 10 days of camp. He was unable to make his mark working with the first-team offense last week against the Minnesota Vikings, but it’s not like the Cowboys are loaded at the receiver spot after Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley.

Devin Street and Lucky Whitehead appear to have the fourth and fifth spots sewn up but carrying a sixth receiver is not out of the realm of possibility. Of course, that sixth receiver could be on another team, which Jones alluded to.

Jasper Brinkley
The veteran is guaranteed $2 million whether he makes the final roster or not. The Cowboys paid him a $1.25 million signing bonus in the offseason and $750,000 of his base salary also is guaranteed. On price alone, it would appear Brinkley is safe.

Plus, the Cowboys don’t have a thumper-type at middle linebacker with Rolando McClain missing the first four games due to a suspension.

But Brinkley has seen Kyle Wilber and Andrew Gachkar start at middle linebacker in the base defense the last two weeks. He is the traditional two-down linebacker, so he does not bring much to the passing game or special teams.

Can the Cowboys afford to keep him without much of a role? Can they afford to pay him $2 million to not be on the team?

video
The Washington Redskins have their preseason finale at 7:30 tonight against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here are three areas of interest for your wake-up call:

The decision. The Redskins said a neurologist would look at Robert Griffin III Thursday or Friday, though that could mean more about when they might release him rather than when he would play here again. While no decision has been made, it’s clear that Griffin’s future in Washington is shaky at best. It’s hard to see how Griffin sticking around would be beneficial to the Redskins at this point. And it’s hard to see why someone would want to stick around where they’re not wanted.

Position battles. The Redskins still have other decisions to make aside from just Griffin. There are a number of spots up for grabs and in some cases the final player at a position is competing with someone from another position for the final spot. Some of it will depend on how they view Tom Compton. He’s a lock, but will they consider him more of a tight end or offensive lineman? If he’s more of a tight end, then tackle Ty Nsekhe has a shot to make the roster. They’re still deciding a lot on defense, especially at corner (remember: Bashaud Breeland will miss the opener).

Final audition. One thing to keep in mind Thursday night -- players are trying to impress all 32 teams. Yes, they want to make the Redskins but sometimes it’s just about the numbers, and other teams are paying attention as well. So if running back Trey Williams doesn’t make the Redskins, he could open eyes for another team. It’s a meaningless game unless you care about guys getting one last shot to realize their dream.

NewtonAP Photo/Matt RourkeEagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox has been a force in his brief NFL career.

PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly has made a lot of changes to the Philadelphia Eagles' roster in 2015. He hasn’t really made the team significantly younger, however.

Two Eagles were chosen by Mike Sando and Mel Kiper Jr. for ESPN’s 25-under-25 team Insider, an array of the NFL’s best players under the age of 25. Defensive end Fletcher Cox and linebacker Mychal Kendricks, both 24, were with the team before Kelly was hired in 2013. They were drafted by Andy Reid and Howie Roseman in 2012.

No one from Kelly’s three drafts as head coach made the cut. The Eagles' No. 1 pick from 2013, Lane Johnson, is already 25. So is Benny Logan, the third-round pick from 2013.

Tight end Zach Ertz, a second-round pick in 2013, is only 24. He turns 25 in November, making him eligible for Sando and Kiper’s list. But no tight ends made the under-25 team.

As for other possible Eagles candidates, wide receiver Jordan Matthews still has two years to make the team. Matthews is in a competitive group. Wide receivers from his 2014 draft class include Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Brandin Cooks. All of them made the under-25 team.

Cox was the sixth player on the list. That shouldn’t be a surprise, considering Kelly called Cox the Eagles’ MVP in 2014. In three seasons, Cox has 12.5 sacks and four fumble recoveries. His sack totals are a product of playing defensive end in a 3-4 defense. Connor Barwin, who had 14.5 sacks last season, credited Cox with making some of those sacks possible.

Kendricks, who came in at 23d on the ESPN list, played outside linebacker as a rookie in 2012. He has moved to inside linebacker in the Eagles’ 3-4 scheme. Last month, the team signed Kendricks to a contract extension worth $29 million over four years.

Orlando ScandrickRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesOrlando Scandrick made 55 tackles and had two interceptions in 14 games last season.


ARLINGTON, Texas – Less than a week after undergoing surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee that will keep him out for the season, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick broke down during a speech in accepting the co-defensive MVP award from 2014.

After thanking the organization, teammates and his family, Scandrick, propped up on crutches, became emotional and needed a few moments to compose himself.

“This team means everything to me,” he told the crowd at the Cowboys’ annual kickoff luncheon.

Scandrick suffered the injury in Oxnard, California, after a collision with rookie wide receiver Lucky Whitehead. He had surgery last week.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones, who had hip-replacement surgery before training camp, put some of Scandrick’s emotions on the pain medicine. But the veteran cornerback is devastated he will not be able to play this season.

Scandrick is appreciative of an organization that stood by him last year when he was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and chose to re-work his contract this offseason.

But he rarely shows the type of emotion that was on display Tuesday.

“People with big personalities -- Jerry’s one of them -- show emotion,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “They play with emotion; they show emotion. I think that was a great message to our team in terms of it can be taken away from you like that, in terms of being able to go out there and compete, which is what they do. That’s what these men do up here, they’re competitors. When it’s taken away from them, it’s difficult.”

Scandrick will begin his rehabilitation soon and Jones said he expects him to win the team’s Ed Block Courage Award in 2016.

“We think so much of Orlando, what he’s done and how far he’s come since we drafted him. He’s come a long ways,” Jones said. “I have the utmost confidence in him and where we’re going with him.”

Defensive end Jeremy Mincey was also named co-defensive MVP. The offensive MVP award went to the Cowboys’ starting offensive line – Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Doug Free. Long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur was named the team’s special teams’ MVP.

La'el Collins and Ronald LearyGetty ImagesThe play of guard Ronald Leary, right, has kept touted rookie La'el Collins on the bench.

IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys wined and dined La'el Collins at Jerry Jones' Highland Park home after the draft, they invited Tony Romo, Jason Witten and three-fifths of the starting offensive line.

Absent were right tackle Doug Free and left guard Ronald Leary, the players Collins would compete with for a starting job. After a few days at tackle in the spring, Collins has been used exclusively at guard, but he has not bumped Leary out of a job.

During practices in Oxnard, California, there never really was a competition for the job because of how well Leary performed. When Collins did work with the first team, it had to do with back spasms that kept Leary on the sideline for a few days.

"I think they knew (my competitiveness) already, that I’m a big, competitive guy," Leary said. "My offensive linemen I play with, they know I’m real competitive. Nothing wrong with a little extra fuel to it."

The Cowboys fully guaranteed Collins' three-year deal, worth close to $1.6 million, to secure his rights after he fell out of the draft after he was questioned -- and cleared -- by police in a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, murder case.

Leary was once the big undrafted find from the Cowboys. In 2012 they guaranteed him more than $200,000 after teams crossed him off draft boards because of a knee condition. He spent the season on the Cowboys’ practice squad, but has started 31 of the past 32 games at left guard.

Coach Jason Garrett has been impressed with how Leary responded to the challenge.

"It's good for our team," Garrett said. "It really doesn’t matter where guys come from. It matters what you do. We made that abundantly clear to everybody and Ron Leary stepped up and competed each and every day. He said, 'I want to be your left guard.' He didn’t say it out loud. He just said it with his play. We are hoping the other guys do the same thing. That is really good for your team when that happens."

SPONSORED HEADLINES