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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' preseason came to a close Saturday following their 31-16 home win over the Las Vegas Raiders. After a cross-country training camp experience that began in Oxnard, California and wound down back at The Star in Frisco, Texas, the final item on the Cowboys' to-do list is their sweeping roster cut to run their roster down from 90 players to 53 players. In past years, teams would make cuts after each week of the preseason. Now, it's one massive roster reduction, something the Silver and Blue prefer for evaluation purposes.

"Oh, I like the one cut down for sure," Dallas Cowboys COO and EVP Stephen Jones said Tuesday. "We're big proponents of that. It gives you a chance to develop these young players. Certainly, you have injuries like we've had and you don't have to go to the street to play the third preseason game. There's guys who deserve to be playing in these games deserve to be seen, deserve to have one more opportunity to find them a place on our 53, and it doesn't make it difficult at all in terms of having more guys to have to eliminate....Everybody is fight for a spot right now."

After cutdown day on Tuesday, Dallas will be cleared for liftoff in their attempt to post three consecutive seasons of 12 or more wins for the first time since the 1992-1995 seasons, when they won three Super Bowl titles in four seasons. 

However, head coach Mike McCarthy made it clear that from the moment the clock at AT&T Stadium Saturday night hit zero through the cutdown deadline on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET marks his least favorite part of being an NFL head coach.   

"Our young players improved from Week 1, to Week 2, to Week 3 [of the preseason]," McCarthy said postgame Saturday. "That's a plan that's well executed by our players, and I'm very proud of them. This is probably the worst 72 hours of the job. That's what is in front of us."

Here are some overreactions and reality checks for a few roster bubble players and whether they earned a roster spot or not:   

RB Hunter Luepke 

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

Luepke was one of the top fullback prospects in 2023, if not the top fullback prospect, coming out of North Dakota State, and the Cowboys were able to sign him as an undrafted free agent. His preseason opportunities through the first two games matched his draft status: six carries for nine rushing yards. That led McCarthy to lament the rookie's opportunities in the lead up to Saturday night. 

"I'll say this Hunter hasn't hasn't been given a lot of opportunities so I definitely want to see him play a lot Saturday night so you know I definitely want to feel the void that's that's created sometimes where players haven't been given enough," McCarthy said Thursday. 

Luepke made the most of his opportunities Saturday, totaling 118 yards from scrimmage (58 rushing and 60 receiving on 20 touches for 5.9 yards per touch). The highlight of his night was his first career NFL touchdown, a 15-yard catch-and-run from quarterback Will Grier.

"We did some little things just to fit his run style, and I thought he really delivered," McCarthy said of Luepke's performance postgame. "He was excellent out of the backfield [as a receiver] too."

McCarthy has been preaching all training camp about the importance of positional versatility, and Luepke did what he could to display that, lining up at running back, fullback, and catching passes. 

"I just took that and ran with it every time I was on the field, I was going to give it my best effort," Luepke said Saturday about his increased workload on Saturday. "I always do, I think I'm a big physical back [6'1. 238 pounds]. "I can play multiple positions."

Luepke is right up against the 53-man cut line, and he is most likely to end up being released and re-signed to the practice squad. 

RB Malik Davis

Overreaction or reality: Reality  

 "Malik Davis ran hard too, so I think those two young backs were outstanding tonight," McCarthy said when asked about Luepke's performance.

The head coach brought up Davis, the 24-year-old, second-year, undrafted running back out of Florida, unprompted when asked about Luepke. Since he was a part of the Cowboys organization a year ago, McCarthy didn't need to see as much of him this preseason. Davis totaled 77 rushing yards on 22 carries in three games this preseason while adding 34 yards on seven catches in the passing game. 

However, he punctuated one of his carries with the one of the night's top highlights, a hurdle.

There's a good chance Davis is on the Cowboys' active roster on September 10 against the New York Giants one way or the other. Either as an original member of the team's 53-man roster or as a practice squad player who gets elevated to the active roster on game day. 

K Brandon Aubrey

Overreaction or reality: Reality    

Here's a little of what McCarthy had to say about his confidence in his 28-year-old rookie kicker postgame Saturday night.

"Definitely," McCarthy said when asked about his comfort level in Aubrey and if he has seen enough to name him the team's kicker. "I think that's understandable. If I was to be critical, I wish I would have got him some more opportunities in the first two [preseason] games, but that's why it was important to give him a couple cracks from deep tonight."   

Aubrey locked down the kicking job with a decent preseason effort, finishing two-for-three on field goals and eight-for-nine on extra points. For more on how Aubrey became the Cowboys kicker for 2023, click here

WR Simi Fehoko

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction 

Fehoko, the 25-year-old fifth round pick out of Stanford in the 2021 NFL Draft, will likely win the WR6 competition. The Cowboys' top five wide receivers didn't put on shoulder pads or helmets on Saturday: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, and KaVontae Turpin. He has totaled eight catches for 55 receiving yards in three games this preseason. 

It's unclear if the Cowboys will actively roster five or six wide receivers. If they do Fehoko will make it. If not, he's a practice squad player. 

CB Kelvin Joseph

Overreaction or reality: Reality

A lot was expected out of 22-year-old cornerback Kelvin Joseph when the Cowboys selected him 44th overall in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The hope was for the lanky 6-1, 192-pound cornerback to be the Silver and Blue's No. 2 cornerback behind Trevon Diggs. That simply hasn't happened, necessitating the need for Dallas' offseason acquisition of 2019 Defensive Player of the Year cornerback Stephon Gilmore. However, Joseph's willingness to play inside the slot as well as on special teams may have done enough in McCarthy's eyes to keep him on the 53-man roster entering his third season. 

"I think it's like anything in this league, the more you can do," McCarthy said when asked about Joseph on Thursday. "Kelvin has done a nice job of it, playing three positions [outside corner, inside corner, and special teams], and he has been a primary player for us special teams as well as showing the versatility to play outside and inside cornerback. That makes a strong case for him. We all forget he's a relatively young man [22 years old]. Since the COVID [pandemic] and the age of these athletes coming out of college, he's still relatively young."

DT Neville Gallimore

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

It's never a good sign when a team drafts a player in the first-round at another player's position when an incumbent was still on their rookie contract. That's what happened to 2020 third-round pick defensive tackle Neville Gallimore this April when the Dallas Cowboys selected Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith 26 overall. Gallimore even needing to play Saturday night is a warning sign on top of the draft move. It wouldn't be surprising if he became a free agent by Tuesday afternoon.