IRVING, Texas - Injuries and inexperience are making it difficult for Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells to decide his wide receiver rotation here in preseason. But first-year wideout Jamaica Rector made his case for a roster spot in Saturday's 17-7 win over San Francisco.
With Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton inactive, Rector hauled in a team-high seven catches for 80 yards, including a 25-yard, over-the-shoulder grab from Tony Romo at the end of the third quarter.
"Jamaica's going to be a kid where you guys weren't really going to see his speed and quickness until he got onto the turf," Romo said of Rector, who spent last season on the practice squad.
Parcells has praised Rector for his dedication in the off-season, calling him pound-for-pound the strongest player on the team. But as training camp wore on, Parcells said he needed to see more plays from the former Northwest Missouri State standout. Rookie free agents Sam Hurd and Miles Austin, fourth-round pick Skyler Green and third-year veteran Terrance Copper also are competing for backup spots.
"He is definitely in the mix," Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells said. "He's the only player that we've got besides Terry that has real good quickness so I have to take that in consideration. He did a good job."
Parcells also tried Rector on punt returns for the first time in preseason. He had one return for 10 yards in the first quarter.
But Rector's production at receiver ultimately will decide whether he makes the 53-man roster.
"I've had my opportunities and (wide receivers coach) Todd Haley has been giving me a great chance to show what I got," Rector said.
Kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed his second consecutive game with a sore groin but aims to play in next Thursday's preseason finale against Minnesota.
"I'm just trying to take three steps forward and not take two steps back," Vanderjagt said. "I'm trying to be smart. I'm trying to go full-go Monday and I expect to kick field goals and kickoffs on Thursday. That's my goal."
With Vanderjagt out, Shaun Suisham made a 25-yard field goal but missed from 35 yards against the 49ers.
"If it were a regular-season game I would've played," Vanderjagt said. "I've missed one game in eight seasons. I've kicked injured before. I have no desire to miss games, so I'm just trying to be smart."
If Vanderjagt continues to miss time, Parcells might have to use a roster spot on a kickoff specialist, likely Suisham or Tyler Fredrickson. Suisham's first three kickoffs landed in the end zone, one for a touchback, and the fourth he line-drived to the 14.
Ready To Hatch?
Not since the Bayou Classic in New Orleans has Jason Hatcher recorded two sacks in a game.
But the rookie third-round pick said he felt like he was back at Grambling State again as he showed flashes Saturday night of being the disruptive pass rusher he was in college.
Hatcher not only picked up a pair of sacks, but forced a fumble, playing mostly in the second half with the second-team defense.
"It felt good to get out there and have a big game tonight," Hatcher said. "I felt like I needed to do something big. I played all right in the first two (games), but I just wanted to get something going. I feel good now."
And he must be playing well, too, if Parcells has very little to say.
"Yeah that was good to see," Parcells said of Hatcher. "Did he get two sacks? That's good."
Parcells has said second-year back Tyson Thompson has a chance to become a change-of-pace runner behind Julius Jones and Marion Barber.
After Jones and Barber combined for 105 yards on 24 carries, Thompson took over in the second half and carried 11 times for 65 yards.
"I was waiting on my opportunity," Thompson said. "The guys on the sideline were kidding with me. They were saying 'It's your turn' or whatever, so I was psyched."
As expected, Parcells rotated Marc Colombo and Jason Fabini at right tackle again Saturday night.
Rob Petitti, who started 16 games at right tackle last year, backed up seventh-round pick Pat McQuistan on the left side. McQuistan started in place of Flozell Adams, who was inactive with a calf contusion he suffered against the Saints.
- First-round pick Bobby Carpenter flushed quarterback Shaun Hill out of the pocket on a blitz, leading to a sack by linebacker Kevin Burnett.
- Rookie receiver Skyler Green got clobbered after deciding to field a punt at the Cowboys' 5-yard line, then verbally clobbered when he reached the bench.
- Defensive end Kenyon Coleman appeared to bang helmets with cornerback Aaron Glenn while attempting to make a tackle in the third quarter. Coleman lay on his back for a couple of minutes before leaving the field on his own.
- Rookie Sam Hurd made a nice special teams tackle on kickoff coverage in the first quarter.
- Second-round pick Anthony Fasano made his first catch of the preseason, but he also was called for holding and an illegal shift.
Fittingly, 10-time Pro Bowl guard Larry Allen was one of three 49ers captains at midfield before kickoff. Allen, who was released by Dallas in a salary-cap move, wore No. 71 in honor of his former Cowboys teammate, the late Mark Tuinei . . . Speaking of former Cowboys, wide receiver Antonio Bryant caught two passes for 24 yards . . . 49ers rookie tight end Vernon Davis admitted to paying "homage to T.O." when he opened his arms and looked to the sky in similar fashion to Owens' controversial celebration against the Cowboys in 2000. "I figured he played here so I tried to copy one of his moves," Davis said. "I was trying to make them mad, I guess."