Training camp has come and gone and now the Cowboys are back in Texas, ready for Friday's second preseason game. The Dolphins come to town for a matchup at AT&T Stadium, where the starters are expected to get a few snaps in the first quarter, unlike last week in Los Angeles against the Rams.
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.
Chaz Green – With Charles Brown retiring just before training camp, the swing tackle job is there for the taking. Green started at left tackle and played the majority of last Saturday's preseason opener against the Rams but committed three penalties. With Cameron Bradfield placed on Reserve/Injured earlier this week, Green doesn't appear to have major competition for the primary backup spot behind starters Tyron Smith and Doug Free. But last year's third-round pick admits he must improve his technique. He gets another opportunity Friday to show the coaching staff they don't need to look outside the roster for swing tackle help, as they did last year with Brown.
Derek Akunne – At 5-foot-11, Akunne isn't the biggest linebacker, and he's an undrafted rookie staring at a veteran linebacker depth chart. But he was a surprise standout in Oxnard and he delivered a big hit on Rams quarterback Jared Goff that led to a Mark Nzeocha interception. Damien Wilson (eye) is back to practice, but Andrew Gachkar is currently sidelined following thumb surgery. There might be opportunity to Akunne to grab one of these depth linebacker spots if he can show enough on special teams.
Rico Gathers - Jason Garrett said they limited Gathers' snaps against the Rams because they wanted to put him in situations where he could be successful -- in other words, they didn't want him to have to block too much. The upshot was that he only got in on a handful of plays. Gathers featured fairly often in practice this week, so I'm pretty curious to see if it translates to this game. If he's going to make the roster, he's going to need some kind of opportunity to show what he can do. Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar are unlikely to play much -- if at all -- and James Hanna just had a knee scope. There are plenty of reps to be had.
Shaneil Jenkins - The new guy was the talk of camp after he managed the only sack by a Dallas defender in the preseason opener. Everyone on the team calls Jenkins "Bronco," because he came here from Denver. But now we've got to see if he's got a serious chance to make the Cowboys' roster, or if he's just helping them work through some injuries along the defensive front. The defensive line looks awfully thin heading into this game, so I expect Jenkins to get a ton of snaps. It's on him to follow up that last good performance with another one.
Lucky Whitehead -While I still think Whitehead will make this team, especially after his electrifying kickoff return last week to open the game, his role can still be defined. In fact, if he can prove himself as a receiver, it might affect how the rest of the receiver positon shakes out. We know Lucky can run. He can return kicks and punts and he's rather quick on that jet-sweep. But he needs to keep improving as a receiver and perhaps show some coverage ability running down on kicks. Getting on the team is likely happening. But becoming a regular on game day and active every week is something Whitehead can solidify with an all-around performance.
Deji Olatoye - He made two nice plays on the ball last week and picked up an interception in the process. Going back to last year, Olatoye shows he's got a knack for timing routes and jumping routes. But considering three veteran corners are ahead of him and Anthony Brown is making a case to make the team, Olatoye might be better suited to become that versatile safety-corner combo player. Olatoye has practiced quite a bit at both positions but I'll be interested to see if he gets in the game Friday night at safety. He's a physical hitter who certainly has the body type to play either position.
Bryan Witzmann - The team is still looking for a swing tackle and Witzmann has been getting more and more work. He was more consistent than Chaz Green was against the Rams but there were still a few snaps where he wasn't perfect technique wise. His size and movement skills make him an interesting prospect where before I didn't think he had much of a chance to make the roster. Witzmann is still in there fighting, as others have gone by the way side. I could see him making it all the way to the final cut with a decision coming then. He is getting a fair shot and it's worth my attention.
Damien Wilson - If there was a player that gave the defense a little juice these last few days of practice - it was Damien Wilson. His unfortunate accident robbed him of the majority of camp but he has made up some ground. As the linebacker group sits, Anthony Hitchens and Sean Lee are the starters but the SAM still appears to be up in the air. Wilson has the ability to play in all three spots but with his physical traits and ability to cover ground could be a candidate for that spot. When the defense is on the field this evening, my eyes will be focused on #57.