SAN DIEGO– The preseason opener isn't always the best evaluation of players, but it's certainly the first one.
With many players held out of Thursday's 27-7 loss to the Chargers, it's anything but a complete look for the upcoming season.
But several players are fighting for roster spots and/or playing time. Before the game, staff writers of DallasCowboys.com picked two players each to watch throughout the game.
Here is the review following Thursday's game at Qualcomm Stadium.
The Cowboys take on the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.
Terrance Mitchell – I kind of expected a couple penalties from Mitchell to go along with a game-changing type play. He gave a little of both. Speaking to Mitchell after the game, he didn't feel like he played as well as he would have liked to, but he did recover a fumble in the end zone as the Chargers were moving down the field. However, it was after he was called for a penalty in the end zone for holding the receiver. He got a taste of how he might not be able to get away with some of the physicality he's used to playing with. Mitchell didn't have a bad day, but the Chargers' quarterbacks did go without an incompletion until the fourth quarter.
Ryan Williams – The running back played well. The issue for him while fighting for a spot on the team is that the other candidate for the third running back spot also played well. The best trait Williams displayed Thursday were his hands out of the backfield. Williams finished as the team's leading receiver with five catches. However, it was Randle's 50 rushing yards that led the team. Williams showed some strong cut and juke moves, but he'll need more steady performances, a breakout game down the road and some strong special teams performances if he's going to earn a spot on the team and prove he's worthy of being on the roster over Randle.
Joseph Randle: It was clear from the opening snap that Joseph Randle was ready to make the start and play well in this game. Randle has always had a physical running style in the way he carries the ball but what I especially noticed about his game was the way that he played with vision. There were several snaps where plays were not blocked cleanly on the front side and with slight cut, he was able to turn a negative play into a positive one. If there was a missing element to his game, it was his ability to be an effective pass protector. I liked what he showed in this area especially the stoutness and awareness in which he was able to execute his blocks to help Brandon Weeden deliver the ball. It was a complete game in all phases for Randle
Anthony Hitchens: For a defense that was struggling to make stops it was hard to find bright spots but Anthony Hitchens did his best to show up. What impresses me about his game is his ability to run to the ball. When his teammates were blocked, he was finding a way to knife inside and make a tackle at the point of attack. When the ball went wide, he was on the move putting himself in a position to finish the play. For his first game out, he didn't play as he was lost or struggling with his technique was solid and the more snaps that he received, the better he played. Of the rookie players, he and Ahmad Dixon showed up the most in how they were able to be in the majority of the piles.
Gavin Escobar: The second-year tight end got precious few looks, as he finished with just one target and one reception on the night. He made the most of that opportunity, though, as his 26-yard reception to open the second quarter set the Cowboys up in the San Diego red zone on a drive that would ultimately lead to a touchdown. Escobar also showed the versatility that excited fans at times as a rookie. He lined up off the line and got downfield on several occasions, though the ball didn't come his way. It will be interesting to see if he can build on this performance. His 26 yards tonight would have been the second-best total of his rookie season.
Davon Coleman: There's no doubt the rookie got plenty of playing time, but he didn't make quite the same impact I was expecting to see. Coleman was a starting defensive linemen at kickoff and played through halftime, but he only managed three tackles. For the most part, it also seemed like he failed to generate much pressure and was taken away from several plays. His linemate and fellow rookie Ken Bishop seemed to stand out more during the run of the game, despite finishing with the same number of tackles.
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Devin Street: The rookie from Pitt pretty much played his first preseason game like he's practiced the last two weeks. He wasn't overly flashy but productive. He had four catches for 43 yards. Maybe what's more important is catching four passes on four targets. He's a big guy who has been quarterback-friendly in practice. He was certainly the same way again in this game. I would've liked to see some goal-line passes to him to use his jumping ability and height. But maybe that'll be seen down the road. Overall, a nice first start.
Jeremy Mincey: Well, I'm certainly kicking myself for not following my gut and picking Ahmad Dixon as my guy to watch. I thought it might be a tad early for the seventh-round safety and wasn't sure he'd play much. Turns out he played nearly the whole game and was credited with 12 tackles. As for Mincey, he didn't play long – really just one series with the first-team defense, which didn't have much success stopping anything. Mincey did draw a holding penalty on the Chargers' left tackle King Dunlap. He had a couple of decent rushes but nothing too effective.