MIAMI – There may be no better time to review players in the preseason than the third "dress rehearsal" game.
That third game provides the best and final look of game action for the starters prior to the regular season, and Saturday in Miami was no exception. Most of the starters played the first half before the backups took over, giving a look at the full Cowboys roster.
The DallasCowboys.com staff members each picked two players to watch before the game. Here are their reviews against the Dolphins from Sun Life Stadium.
The Cowboys meet the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.
Tyler Clutts: I wanted to see how he performed with the first-unit because his spot isn't a given and it's not a given that he's the guy playing fullback. Personally, I think the Cowboys need one with the type of football they want to play this year. But Clutts isn't just trying to beat out J.C. Copeland, which he has. He's not trying to beat out every fullback on the street and the guys who will be there in the next week when the roster get trimmed down around the league. In this game, he had some nice blocks but mainly in the second half. In the first, I saw a couple of plays where he was blocking Murray more than the defense. He did have some pancake-blocks in the second half and then on special teams he was pretty solid. If they keep a fullback, his spot looks pretty safe but like all spots, an upgrade is needed.
Brandon Carr: He only played about a dozen snaps and that was designed. It was important for him to get a few looks in there before the start of the season. Don't expect him to play next week like the rest of the starters. Since Carr wasn't coming off an injury, I didn't expect a lot of rust. Overall, he played well and was physical. I saw a few open-field tackles and he had good coverage. He also did a nice job coaching up his backup Tyler Patmon, who had a good game, too. Overall, Carr looks ready for the season and that was the plan.
Tony Romo: This game was more about Romo's ability to bounce back than anything. The offense was by no means sharp, scoring six points in the first half. Romo spent a lot of that time on his back, surprisingly playing all five drives of the first half. He stayed on his feet last week, but Romo was sacked three times and hit another against the Dolphins, getting up from each hit without any apparent issues. It was a relief for anyone who wanted to see what Romo looked like taking a hit, but the fact he was taking so many hits is a bit of a concern.
George Selvie: Injuries have prevented a full preseason for Selvie, and he added another to that list in Miami. Selvie left the game with a shoulder injury, but it was his right shoulder, not his surgically repaired left one. He didn't return after injuring it in the first half. There's been talk of Selvie getting more work as a right defensive end, but he started the game on the left side. The Cowboys need Selvie to be the force he was last year, so another injury sidetracking his preseason is a step in the wrong direction.
J.J. Wilcox: Just like last week, Wilcox laid several pretty big hits during his playing time, but they always seemed to come at the tail end of big plays. Deficiencies in the run defense are going to lead to the safety making plenty of mop-up tackles, but Wilcox showed good understanding of getting to the ball and taking good angles. The play was wiped out by an offensive penalty, but he made a fantastic open field tackle on Mike Wallace in a 3rd-and-short situation in the second quarter.
Devin Street: The stat sheet wasn't big for the rookie, but he certainly made a big play. Operating with the starting offense, Street nabbed two balls for 11 yards. One of those came on the second of two first-half scoring drives, on a 3rd-and-6. Facing another stalled drive, Tony Romo threw short to Street on a comeback. The rookie used his size to box out veteran corner Brent Grimes, and he jumped up for an eight yard gain. The catch led to a Dan Bailey field goal and a 6-3 lead.
Doug Free: When you talk about the better rush ends in this league, Cameron Wake is a player that I am always going to bring up. When you face Wake you know that he is going to test every phase of your game as a blocker. Wake can break you down and if you are just a hair off with your technique there will be issues. Front my seat in the broadcast booth it appeared that Wake had Free off balance with his rush. Inside or out, Free just didn't have a good enough handle on what Wake was doing to him off the edge. Finishing blocks was a big issue for Free against Wake.
Will Smith: With all the injuries to this linebacking crew, I knew that Smith was going to get plenty of opportunities to prove to this coaching staff that he could be in the mix whether he had to play defensive snaps or on special teams. In those snaps, I thought he got wore down and his game conditioning was not where it needed to be. He is not the quickest player or most athletic linebacker but I love his toughness but against the Dolphins he was much better handling his roles on special teams than he was on defense. In this defense you have to play with speed and be able to run and that was a struggle for him.