The Dallas Cowboys have only played one of four scheduled preseason games thus far, but there is already quite a bit we can learn from what took place in San Francisco last Saturday night against the 49ers. Some players rose to the occasion, while others faltered. For those who happened to play well a promotion of sorts could be in the cards. That’s what I want to discuss today.
For the most part, the Dallas Cowboys played pretty well in all three phases of the game against the 49ers. It didn’t result in a victory, but there is probably more good tape than bad when the coaching staff sits down to review film. It’s that good film that could earn a few of the Cowboys backup players more playing time.
Let’s take a look at five backups who I believe could receive an increase in playing time based on their play against the San Francisco 49ers.
DE, Jalen Jelks (#74)
Rookie Defensive End Jalen Jelks’ first snap against the 49ers resulted in a QB sack. He couldn’t have scripted a better start to his professional career if he was writing the story himself. He’s performed well in offseason practices and was able to carry that over when the lights came on Saturday night in San Francisco. With injuries to DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, and the suspension of Randy Gregory, Jelks is doing his damnedest to make his case for a roster spot in 2019. The same can be said for fellow rookie DE Joe Jackson, although he didn’t show up on the stat sheet as much in the first preseason game. It’s time to get both these of DEs more playing time to see what they can do.
S, Donovan Wilson (#37)
I don’t know how open the safety competition is to start next to Xavier Woods this season, but Donovan Wilson is certainly starting to stand out amongst the Dallas Cowboys current stable of safeties. He continuously makes plays in practice and was able to follow that up in the preseason match up with the 49ers by notching the only interception by the Cowboys secondary. Dallas seems to still favor Jeff Heath as the starter opposite Woods, but if Wilson can continue to impress he could make the coaching staff long and hard about switching things up. Giving him more playing time is absolutely justified.
WR, Cedrick Wilson (#16)
Other than Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson was really the only Dallas Cowboys wide receiver who made an impression on me against the San Francisco 49ers. He has been quietly flying a little bit under the radar this offseason, but that may no longer be the case. He has the ability to play on the outside as well as in the slot and that alone can make him a valuable asset this season. If not for Randall Cobb’s addition, I think he’d be the favorite to be Dallas’ slot WR this season. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him receive an increased amount of playing time moving forward.
S, Darian Thompson (#23)
If the season were to start today, Darian Thompson would likely be one of the safeties the Dallas Cowboys kept on their 53-man roster. He’s been having a pretty solid offseason and was able to carry that over into the first preseason game against the 49ers. Every time his name is mentioned it’s in a positive way, which is a good thing considering the unknown outside of Xavier Woods about the Cowboys safety position. I think he’s earned more playing time and would love to see what he could do with the first-team defense if paired with No. 25.
DT, Ricky Walker (#68)
The Dallas Cowboys seem to have better depth along the defensive line than they have had in recent memory, with plenty of unknown players still. That’s why a guy like Ricky Walker might have been the biggest surprise standout from the Cowboys preseason match against the 49ers. He was absolutely disruptive Saturday night and continuously played on San Francisco’s side of the line of scrimmage. DT Daniel Wise probably played just as well as Walker, although he didn’t show up as much in the stat sheet. Sadly, they both outplayed Trysten Hill, a 2019 second-round draft pick, and absolutely deserve more playing time.
* Honorable Mention: LB, Luke Gifford (#57)
I felt like I had to give a shout out to Linebacker Luke Gifford by the way he played pre-injury against the San Francisco 49ers. He was all over the field making plays in both the passing and running game, but unfortunately left the game early due to an ankle injury. It’s an injury that will likely sidelined him for a bit, possibly the rest of the preseason, but I believe he’s already done enough to earn a roster spot. If he can somehow return before the regular season starts, I’d love to see him receive more playing time.