There's an old saying in sports that when it comes to rivalries: it doesn't matter what names are on the backs of the jerseys, it only matters which names are on the front. That's a cute way of saying that rivalries are more about teams and cities than they are the actual individuals participating in the contest.
Well, if there's any sporting event that puts that theory to the ultimate test, it's the fourth and final game of the NFL preseason. Tonight, the Houston Texans will take on the Dallas Cowboys in that final preseason game. Houston hates Dallas, Dallas hates Houston. Inherently, because of geography, if nothing else, there should be a few drops of juice in the tank for this game, right? Well, we shall see. For now, the only thing we can bank on is that this game will definitely be watched intently by the following people:
1. Friends and family of players 45 through 75 on the Texans roster — those players' livelihoods are at stake.
2. Degenerate gamblers — because gambling is fun!
3. Me and former Houston Texan Chris Myers — because we will be hosting the post game show on SportsRadio 610. Please tune in, because Chris is awesome!
Ok, for our "Four Things To Watch For" in this final game, we will break down the battles for the final few roster spots, looking at four position groups with multiple bodies battling for a scant few (if any) available spots. Let's do this:
4. Will there be a 6th wide receiver?
WR LOCKS (5): DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts, Nate Washington, Jaelen Strong, Keith Mumphrey
SURPRISE EARLY CUT: Alan Bonner
BATTLE PARTICIPANTS: Chandler Worthy, EZ Nwachukwu, Keshawn Martin, Damaris Johnson
SUMMARY: If all things were equal, Nwachukwu has probably shown enough play-making ability to make the team, and I'd be surprised if he didn't wind up on an NFL roster at some point. Worthy is competing as much against the rest of the fringe guys at other positions as he is the wide receivers. He will make the team if they want to keep him as a return specialist, which in turn would mean not keeping an extra defensive back or offensive lineman. Martin is not making the team, and needs a restart somewhere else badly.
3. Offensive line battle royal
O-LINE LOCKS (7): Duane Brown (T), Derek Newton (T), Ben Jones (C/G), Brandon Brooks (G), Xavier Su'a-Filo (G/T), Jeff Adams (T/G), Chris Clark (T)
SURPRISE EARLY CUT: Cody White, G/C
BATTLE PARTICIPANTS: Kendall Lamm, Chad Slade, Matt Feiler, Greg Mancz, James Ferentz
SUMMARY: Kendall Lamm's getting the start against New Orleans was a good sign for him, however, the pick up of Clark probably relegates Lamm to the practice squad. My guess is they end up keeping one more lineman on the 53-man roster, and then keep at least three on the practice squad, since there are a handful of these young guys who are all basically the same. I still think that there will be an offensive lineman on this team on September 13 that isn't on the team Thursday night against Dallas.
2. How many cornerbacks? Six? Seven?
CB LOCKS (4): Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Kevin Johnson, A.J. Bouye
SURPRISE EARLY CUT: None
BATTLE PARTICIPANTS: Charles James, Darryl Morris, Jumal Rolle
SUMMARY: I so want to put James down as a lock, but I don't want to jinx it. But O'Brien has said on Hard Knocks that he loves Charles James, so that's a good sign. Also, since he plays defense, special teams, and running back, he must become a regular guest on my radio show "The Triple Threat." MUST. I have no idea what to make of Morris and Rolle. If I had to chose based on what I've seen, both this preseason and last season (when Morris wasn't banged up), I'd take Morris, but there's a decent chance all three of these guys make the team.
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SHOW ME HOW
1. Which outside linebacker reaches the promised land?
OLB LOCKS (3): Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney, Jon Simon
SURPRISE EARLY CUT: Jason Ankrah
BATTLE PARTICIPANTS: Kourtnei Brown, Lynden Trail, Carlos Thompson, Tony Washington
SUMMARY: The removal of Ankrah from the situation turns this thing into a true free-for-all, since he was the only one vying for the fourth OLB spot with NFL experience. The four guys who are left all have had their moments, good and bad. Brown has easily made the splashiest plays, and has also had the most jagged path to Houston (six NFL teams and one Arena League stop in three years). One thing is virtually certain — some undrafted, universally forgotten guy is going to make an NFL regular season roster. (NOTE: It's really hard to look at Brown's Wiki bio and not root for him.)
Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. on Sports Radio 610.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.