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Gamebreaker: 10 Cowboys who shined vs. Jaguars


(Editor's note: The content provided is based on opinions and/or perspective of the editorial staff and not the Cowboys football staff or organization.)

ARLINGTON, Texas — The preseason opener for the Dallas Cowboys and the Jacksonville Jaguars was never about the final score, but instead escaping healthy while also doing a lot of evaluation of young players — especially for head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff.

To that point, Dak Prescott and several other key starters (e.g., Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyron Smith) were held out to allow the youth to show what they could do.

That wish was granted, with the following players shining bright when the lights came on at AT&T Stadium to begin the preseason campaign.

Deuce Vaughn, RB

Plenty of eyes were on Vaughn entering his preseason debut, the former Kansas State terror going on to take the field in more than one capacity against the Jaguars. In the first half, he took a 30-yard kick return to the 25-yard line in a display of shiftiness and, in the second half, he was lined up at RB in singleback formation — spinning off of an EDGE rusher for nice YAC (yards after catch + contact). In the second half, he rattled off a 26-yard run followed by a nine-yard catch followed by a four-yard rushing touchdown. Put your concerns about his size to bed. He's a problem.

Juanyeh Thomas, S

What better way to start off the preseason than for the Cowboys defense to remind everyone that it's led the league in takeaways the last two seasons? This time, it was one of the young safeties getting the job done, Juanyeh Thomas, who immediately transferred his stellar 2023 training camp into an impact play when Trevon Lawrence attempted to find Evan Engram on the second play from scrimmage — Thomas making the athletic grab to set the tone early.

DeMarvion Overshown, LB

Texas born, Texas bred and now making plays for his beloved Cowboys, Overshown is making the town of Arp proud, and they didn't have to wait long to see it happen. Against the Jaguars, the rookie third-round pick led the Cowboys in tackles at the half (6) and was a missile for defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Expect this to be the start of potentially something special.

Damone Clark, LB

If you're looking for Clark to make a huge leap in Year 2, you'll likely get your wish. The former LSU superstar has looked nothing short of eye-popping in camp and he was equally as impressive against the Jaguars. Clark joined Overshown atop the leaderboard in tackles on the day, and that included some that required him to put his sideline-to-sideline speed on display.

Jalen Tolbert, WR

Now that's the guy the Cowboys wanted when they used a third-round pick to acquire him in 2022. Tolbert did garner an offensive pass interference in the second quarter (questionable if it actually was one), but made up for it with a 17-yard touchdown grab from Will Grier to put the Cowboys on top, at least for the moment. The second-year receiver has said all offseason that his confidence is back to being sky-high, and you should start believing it.

Jake Ferguson, TE

It was predicted by most that Ferguson would take the reins as TE1 when the Cowboys open up the season against the Giants, and he's showing why that will likely be the case in the post-Dalton Schultz era. Ferguson had two first down conversions in the first half on three grabs for Cooper Rush, and was easily the biggest standout in the tight end room on Saturday.

Jabril Cox, LB

For Jabril Cox, the mission remains fairly simple: to prove he's back to LSU form in a linebacker corps seeking depth behind Leighton Vander Esch and fellow former Tiger, Damone Clark. Cox put plenty of speed and football IQ on display against Jacksonville, including blowing up a fourth-and-9 attempt from the Jaguars on the Cowboys' 15-yard line on a quarterback blitz.

Rico Dowdle, RB

Credit to Dowdle for not letting an early-game fumble rattle his mindset. The veteran running back is currently a frontrunner for the role of RB2 behind Tony Pollard, and all it took was a big run that nearly scored a touchdown to prove it, but a fumble caused by a KaVontae Turpin block that sent the defender into an unsuspecting Dowdle stopped that dead in its tracks. Still, Dowdle would return and looked solid thereafter — his burst being the most noticeable part of his game.

Markquese Bell, S

Don't look now but not only do the Cowboys have a stout safety unit in the top three spots on the depth chart, but Markquese Bell joined Juanyeh Thomas in making his presence felt in the preseason opener. Bell nearly led the Cowboys in tackles if not for a stellar showing by Overshown, though the FAMU product still walked away with second place in that category, just edging out Clark with a combined 10 (!!) takedowns on the afternoon.

Simi Fehoko + Dennis Houston (WR) + John Stephens Jr. (tie)

This battle for WR4 is getting downright spicy for the Cowboys. Tolbert headlined the fight with his afternoon against the Jaguars, yes, but Fehoko and Houston would not be denied. Both came on strong in the second half. Fehoko was a perfect 4-for-4 when targeted and Houston was a perfect 3-for-3 when the ball went in his direction, the two producing 27 yards and 33 yards, respectively, to add that much more fire to the flame that is the WR4 contest in Dallas.

As for the depth conversation at tight end, Stephens finished the game with his first-ever NFL preseason touchdown and played well throughout the contest, building upon his strong camp and making things difficult in the conversation at tight end, as far as depth goes. His ability to be a red-zone threat simply can't be ignored, and he'll continue to be one to watch in the final two games of August.

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