ARLINGTON, Texas– The Cowboys were back in Texas for a second preseason game, but the first one at AT&T Stadium. It was also the debut for other starters such as Tony Romo, who looked sharp in his first action since last Thanksgiving.
However, the focus remained on other players, especially ones on the bubble for making the team.
The staff writers of DallasCowboys.com have each selected a player from both sides of the ball to evaluate throughout the game, followed by a review of their performances afterward.
Let's check out who the staff writers will be following closely in Friday's game with the Dolphins.
Derek Akunne – The rookie played throughout the second half at linebacker and contributed on multiple special teams units. Although he didn't have a signature play like last Saturday, when his blitz on Rams quarterback Jared Goff led to a Cowboys interception, he did help make a tackle for a one-yard loss in the fourth quarter. Akunne was around the ball a lot in training camp, and the next two preseason games will be critical to make a final push for a potential roster spot.
Chaz Green – At first glance, Green appeared to hold his own in his second straight start at left tackle for All-Pro starter Tyron Smith. Quarterbacks Tony Romo and Dak Prescott had fairly clean pockets to work with, though Green did commit an illegal formation penalty that wiped out an Alfred Morris touchdown. He's still the frontrunner for the primary backup tackle spot unless the team looks to sign a veteran at some point like they did last year with Charles Brown.
Rico Gathers – I honestly thought the coaches would give Gathers a few more opportunities after they barely utilized him in Los Angeles. That didn't prove to be the case, as the rookie only appeared in a handful of snaps and didn't register a reception for the second-straight game. Gathers did have an opportunity to throw some blocks in the running game, and he appeared to do a decent job sealing the edge for Darius Jackson on a couple of runs to his side of the formation. It was still hard to make much of a judgment on this appearance, and it's hard to imagine Gathers will play much in the "dress rehearsal" game. He's going to need to make the most of the opportunity he gets in the preseason finale in two more weeks.
Shaneil Jenkins – If you weren't already paying attention to the big guy, you should be now. Jenkins was a force for the second-straight outing – and he did some of it in the first half, against the Dolphins' better players. The former Bronco had a sack and a tackle for loss. If you care about the final score of a preseason game, it was his forced fumble of quarterback Brandon Doughty that led to a second-consecutive field goal and helped the Cowboys pull away from the opposition. It's never smart to read too much into a preseason game, but when you consider how little experience the Cowboys have on the defensive line, it's hard to bet against a guy who has been able to create pressure consistently.
Lucky Whitehead – It's hard to top what he did last week with the first kickoff return of the game going to the house, but Whitehead had some nice plays Friday night in limited action. He caught a pass over the middle for 18 yards for his only catch, although he was targeted four times. Still, we've seen him make plays sideline to sideline, so for him to go down the field and make some yards was nice. A 16-yard punt return got the Cowboys out from their own end zone. All in all, he didn't hurt his chances by any means.
Deji Olatoye – There was a moment in the game where the doctors were checking on him and his night could've been done early. However, he was able to get back on the field and made a couple of tackles. He didn't have an interception this week but played some safety in the second half, showing his versatility even more. What is intriguing about Olatoye, is his size to play big recievers on the outside, but also to match up with tight ends at the safety position. If he continues to make plays on special teams, he should have a good shot of making the team.
Bryan Witzmann – He lined up at both left and right tackle showing his versatility. There were a couple of plays where I thought he didn't show enough power at the point of attack to control his man and he was overpowered. I noticed he missed a cut off block on the backside which allowed his man the opportunity to chase the ball. For the most part I thought his pass protection was where it needed to be. Didn't see any major issues with rushers defeating him early and often. He was able to hold his ground and it appeared his hands and feet worked well together.
Damien Wilson – Really thought we would have seen more snaps from Wilson but I have to believe it was only because he just returned to action this week. In those practices, I thought he came back with a little juice which helped the defense. In the game, he didn't have those plays where he was a real factor when the Dolphins ran the ball. His tackles came mainly when he was playing in zone coverage where he was able to drop and drive. Wilson had three nice form tackles of ball carriers in space and an assist on special teams. I expect that he will get a more extensive look next week against the Seahawks.