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Eatman: Best Performances Thursday At Least Came From Best Players

ARLINGTON, Texas– When it comes to football games – at any level – there's typically no other place I'd rather be.

Even these final preseason games, when the best players are wearing ballcaps on the sidelines all night, are still somewhat enjoyable because, simply, it's football.

But let's be honest, games like this one are always the toughest because there's absolutely nothing that resembles the upcoming regular season. And since the first games that really count are right around the corner, it makes these nights even tougher to get through.

But like always, we survived and guess what? The Cowboys even found themselves a win, something that hasn't occurred around here since the 2013 dress rehearsal. This 21-14 victory over the Texans snapped an eight-game losing streak in the preseason. Not that the wins and losses really matter at all – we saw that last year when they had the same amount of losses in the preseason as the regular season with four each – but if anything happens eight or nine times in a row, it's probably more than a coincidence.

Even more important than Dallas closing this preseason out with a win was the best guys in uniform actually seemed to stand out the most.

That's how it should be, right?

If the Cowboys kept about seven or eight key players in the lineup for a game that figures to be played with mostly backups, you would expect those guys to stand out the most. If they didn't, they wouldn't be the best guys.

Of course, sometimes it doesn't work out that way, but in this game it did.

When the game first began, the talk up here in the press box centered on the best players in uniform. Guys like Gavin Escobar, Corey White, La'el Collins, Lucky Whitehead, Byron Jones, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Davon Coleman were all mentioned.

Guess what? They all seemed to have the best games.

Let's start with Escobar, who was one of just two tight ends to dress for the game. He not only started, but also showed out the most of any time in the preseason or even practices. He was a physical player who got extra yards after the catch, highlighted by a nifty 18-yard reception. With quarterback Dustin Vaughan playing the entire game, you thought he might check down a few times and look for safer throws, which is what he did often throughout the night. Escobar took advantage, catching both of the passes thrown his way.

On defense, White turned a gift into a game-tying touchdown to start the third quarter. He's been a solid defender throughout the preseason and has consistently made me wonder why the Saints released him after last season. He's a versatile guy who plays corner and safety, he's a strong player and a good tackler, and he competes for the ball when it's in the air.

Collins played nearly the entire game at guard, and I thought he did a nice job opening some holes for a running game that featured 154 rushing yards. He still has some work to do and doesn't look ready to start, but his talent is certainly there, and over time, Collins will probably be a fixture on this offensive line.

Say what you want about Whitehead, but he's on the team. I said it in the press box, "Lucky, go get an apartment. Not a house, but at least an apartment."

I think he's done enough to keep him around, even if he's not ready to contribute in every way. To me, Whitehead reminds me of Miles Austin in 2006. He wasn't ready to do anything just yet, but then-head coach Bill Parcells knew he had enough traits to keep, and he also thought another team would claim him. I would keep Whitehead around and try to develop him because if this is his starting point, he's got plenty of room to grow.

Coleman made the team as well in this game, and didn't mind telling reporters as such after the game. He showed his confidence when asked if he's done enough to make it. But Coleman flew around the ball Thursday night, chasing down screens, getting hits in the backfield and just plugging the middle of the line. He's going to make it because he's got versatility to play both tackle spots.

So no, this game didn't give the Cowboys any better indication of how things will go in 2015. But from an individual standpoint, the guys who played, who have roles for this year, stood out the most. And if anything else, that is an encouraging sign from this game.

Aside from the fact that the preseason is finally over.  

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