ARLINGTON, Texas – Preseason's the time no-name players can become more household names.
They won't turn into stars overnight, but they can at least come out of relative obscurity to get in the conversation for a roster spot. A few players took advantage of that opportunity Saturday against the Ravens.
Here's a brief list of players who may be on the radar after strong performances in the Cowboys' first home preseason game. Players who were already on the map and in legitimate conversation for a 53-man roster spot – such as Ryan Williams, who had a 27-yard run, 36 rushing yards, two catches and a touchdown – weren't included.
- Zach Minter:Saturday marked just the third day the defensive tackle had been with the Cowboys, but he still managed to lead the team with two sacks and a forced fumble. He also finished in a tie for second behind Rolando McClain with four combined tackles.
On a team with a need for better defensive line play and pressure, Minter stood out in a major way in his first action with the new club.
"We talk a lot about how life's all about opportunity, creating them and taking advantage of them," said head coach Jason Garrett. "You think about a guy like Minter who just showed up. I don't know how many plays he played, but I bet it was over 50 percent of the plays that he was in there he had some kind of an impact on the football, whether it was a tackle for a loss or a sack. He just seemed to be all over the place, so he had a chance to show us what he can do in a short period of time, and he certainly flashed at us."
The defensive tackle was a rookie free agent in 2013 who caught on with the Bears and spent time on their practice squad and the active roster. He finished the season in Cincinnati, but was released in August.
With more performances like Saturday's, it's possible his relocation to Dallas could be more permanent. Minter said it wasn't too difficult to adjust to the new defense despite having little time to prepare for this game.
"I had been in Marinelli's system before, so it was kind of easy to get the grasp on it," he said. "But I still have to do some homework and just kind of study the playbook before the game."
- Jamar Newsome:The wide receiver's strong start to training camp was easy to overlook just because of the star they have at the position and the uphill battle it'll be to force the Cowboys to keep six receivers.
But Newsome's solid work at camp carried over into Saturday's game, where he caught two passes for 29 yards and a touchdown and had another acrobatic catch near the sideline that was called a completion but overturned upon review.
He's not a novice like some of the other players on this list, having been in the league since 2011 and played in games for the Jaguars and Chiefs, and he could make coaches at least consider the possibility of a roster spot.
I thought he made some plays," Garrett said. "He's a guy that's got some ability now, and when they put that single-high safety there and they press him, he can get off the line of scrimmage and make some plays down the field. He's a guy that Dustin (Vaughn) went to a couple of times in some big situations, and he made some plays on the other end of it.
- Dustin Vaughan:Speaking of the player throwing Newsome those passes, Vaughan's strong work Saturday led to owner/general manager Jerry Jones saying the rookie could very well make the Cowboys consider keeping a third quarterback.
Vaughan led a long drive in his first preseason game in San Diego, and on Saturday he capped a sizable drive with his first career touchdown pass. [embedded_ad]
"I'm not going to lie, I was extremely happy with that pass," Vaughan said. "It's always good to get that first touchdown pass of your career. I was definitely excited after that."
He's shown a unique poise for a player getting his first professional action, particularly considering the jump from Division-II football. He should continue to get a lot more action in the preseason.
"I appreciate absolutely any opportunity I can get, whether that's coming in being the third quarterback, whether that's practice squad," Vaughan said. "It's my dream to be in the NFL, and right now I'm trying to make this team.
- Will Smith:This was the only Cowboys draft pick on the list, but considering how much time he missed,* *he's by no means a lock to make the final roster.
The seventh-round pick got over his groin injury and made his first noticeable play of the preseason, stopping Ravens running back Lorenzo Taliaferro for a 1-yard gain and forcing Baltimore to kick a field goal and give the Cowboys a shot to come back and tie or win the game. It may seem like a negligible play, but any time Smith can stand out after missing time helps his chances at making the team. He finished with two combined tackles in limited action.