One-armed Knife Sharpener
- Apr 7, 2013
By Jon Machota
Aug 12, 2023
ARLINGTON, Texas — Saturday was the first opportunity to see what several new Dallas Cowboys players looked like in a professional football game. Three weeks of training camp practices help sort some things out, but facing another team takes the evaluation process to another level.
The Cowboys lost their preseason opener to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 28-23, Saturday at AT&T Stadium, but several players stood out for positive reasons. Some also because of underwhelming play.
Let’s take a look at the stock report.
Deuce Vaughn. The rookie running back has made several noticeable plays in training camp. His outstanding play continued in his first preseason game, rushing for 50 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. His 26-yard run over right guard was the highlight of the game for Dallas. He later added a four-yard TD run that had Dak Prescott celebrating like it was a regular-season game-winner. Vaughn said teammates were saying, “First of many” to him after the score. It seems pretty safe to assume that Vaughn will be making the team’s 53-man roster.
Jalen Tolbert. The second-year wide receiver has been having a strong camp. It carried over to Saturday’s game as he caught both of his targets for 29 yards and a touchdown. He also made an impressive grab along the far sideline but he was called for offensive pass interference. “I feel like I went out there and played fast, confident, physical,” Tolbert said. “I like what I did out there. Now, I’m just trying to build on it.” He’s clearly the No. 4 wide receiver on the depth chart right now behind CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup.
Juanyeh Thomas. The rookie safety has been a camp standout. He started things off Saturday by intercepting Jaguars Pro Bowl QB Trevor Lawrence on the second play of the game, a deep ball intended for TE Evan Engram. Thomas also had a game-high two passes defended. Safety will be a tough spot to crack on the 53-man roster, but Thomas is certainly in the mix.
Damone Clark. He looks ready to be a full-time starter. He played well Saturday. The Cowboys should be in good shape at linebacker as long as Clark and Leighton Vander Esch stay healthy. “Damone’s really had an outstanding camp,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “You see, we talk about it all the time, the guys from Year 1/Year 2 making that jump. He’s made the jump. So you can see that coming at the end of last year.”
DeMarvion Overshown. The rookie linebacker should provide the Cowboys with immediate help on special teams and quality defensive depth. He looked the part Saturday, finishing with a couple of big third-down stops and six total tackles. “Putting the jersey on and putting my arm bands on and my sleeve and realizing I’m fitting to do this for the Dallas Cowboys, a lot of people dream about that,” he said. “I’m part of that 1 percent that got the chance to do that. I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else.” What is he capable of? “Going out there week by week and flying around on the field, trying to beat everybody to the ball. I take pride in that. I’m looking forward to being that guy all year.”
Jake Ferguson. The second-year tight end had a nice leaping grab down the middle of the field late in the first quarter when not much was working for the offense. The 26-yard gain ended up being Dallas’ longest of the day through the air. Ferguson remains the favorite to be the team’s top tight end with Dalton Schultz now in Houston.
John Stephens. It would be difficult for the Cowboys to keep five tight ends. Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot, Luke Schoonmaker and Sean McKeon are all ahead of Stephens on the depth chart. But the undrafted rookie is maximizing his opportunities. He has made several noticeable plays during camp, and that continued Saturday as he finished with a game-high five receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. “What a camp he’s having,” McCarthy said. “He has impressed since Day 1. He’s stood out in OTAs and you got to camp and the opportunities he’s had with the older guys, it wasn’t too big for him. You could see out there tonight, he was out there competing. He was having fun. It was what you want.”
Offensive line depth. The group that started Saturday was Asim Richards at left tackle, Matt Farniok at left guard, Brock Hoffman at center, Josh Ball at right guard and Matt Waletzko at right tackle. The Cowboys can’t feel very confident in any of them starting in the regular season. Obviously, they need to figure out how to get Zack Martin back in the building. And then they need Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz and Terence Steele to stay healthy. If not, this could be a significant issue this season. When first asked about the depth after Saturday’s game, McCarthy called it a “concern.” But he later said that wasn’t the right word, clarifying that it’s a “focus.”
“You would always like to get to a point in camp where you have your five guys that you’re going to try to get connected and get into a rhythm and so forth,” McCarthy added. “We’re obviously not at that point. We have some veterans and we have some moving parts, so on the flip side of that it does create a lot of opportunity for our young players.
“This is good for us. I think this will pay dividends in the long run. At some point you do want to get into that routine of getting five guys working together.”
Somewhere in between
Mazi Smith. The first round pick had a nice run stop in the second quarter. As has been the case throughout camp, Smith sees his share of double teams. There haven’t been a lot of flash plays up to this point. Maybe those will be coming in the near future as he gets more comfortable. He missed practice Tuesday because of a knee injury but returned later in the week. He said his knee was “good” Saturday and it was never an issue during the game.
“It felt like football,” Smith said of his first preseason game. “I was excited to get out there.”
What was the highlight of the day?
Smith: “Hitting somebody.”
What was the lowlight?
Smith: “Taking off the pads.”