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Notes: Wilber Breaks Thumb; Lots To Clean Up On Special Teams
OAKLAND – For a Cowboys team that didn’t dress 16 of its 90 players on Monday, it was a good thing that there wasn’t more than one significant injury.
That doesn’t make rookie linebacker Kyle Wilber feel any better, however. The team’s fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest broke his thumb during the second quarter, and is expected to miss a month. This comes after he sat out most of the club’s Organized Team Activities and summer minicamp with a broken finger.
“I was really disappointed with the setback,” said Wilber, who admits to feeling somewhat cursed. “I kind of do. I want to get better and prove I’m a good player.”
The remaining three preseason games were supposed to be his best chance to improve. With DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Victor Butler filling significant roles at the position, it was always unlikely Wilber would receive much defensive playing time this season, making the exhibition action a valuable time for him.
With Spencer and Butler set to be free agents after the year, the Cowboys were hopeful Wilber could advance enough this year to provide another starting option. Now it appears the majority of his strides will have to come in practice once the season starts.
Wilber expects to fly back to Dallas for surgery this week.
A busy time for mistakes of all kinds, the preseason is typically an especially rough period for special teams play, with so many inexperienced players filling roles in the kicking game.
That was certainly the case for the Cowboys early in Monday’s game, as the punt return unit twice put the starting defense back on the field by extending Oakland drives with penalties. After the first stop of the Raiders’ second possession, running back Jamize Olawale ran into Oakland punter Marquette King. Another three-and-out later, cornerback Teddy Williams jumped offsides to give Oakland yet another chance.
On their third try, the Cowboys did finally take the ball back from Oakland without incident.
“There were way too many mistakes, certainly way too many penalties,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “We had some young guys playing. I think some of the penalties and mistakes were a result of those guys trying to do too much, ‘I’m going to make the play,’ rather than just doing their job.
“I think they settled down once the game got going.”
One of the players who got the most out of Monday’s game was sixth-round pick James Hanna, who filled in for the injured John Phillips, registering a start alongside Jason Witten, and played well into the second half.
He finished with two catches for 15 yards and also got plenty of opportunities to showcase his progress as a blocker, lining up with hand on the ground and split out wide.
Not only that, but he displayed a willingness to contribute on special teams as well, making a tackle to pin the Raiders at their own 13-yard line on the kickoff following Dan Bailey’s field goal.
“I have a lot of things to watch on tape, to see how I can improve,” Hanna said. “I got to go against some different guys, a different defense, and got my first NFL experience. It was more fun than I was expecting, even.”
- Nose tackle Josh Brent was credited with blocking Sebastian Janikowski’s second quarter field goal attempt.
- Running back Jamize Olawale was the Cowboys’ biggest offensive producer, rushing for 42 yards on 12 carries.
- Defensive end Ben Bass was credited with five tackles, including a sack and two stops for loss, plus a quarterback pressure.