Dallas Cowboys: Here’s why the preseason really matters


For casual Dallas Cowboys fans, the preseason may be difficult to endure.

Few starters, simplistic schemes, meaningless games. Sometimes it’s hard to forget that the 0-16 Detroit Lions of 2008 were undefeated in this type of game – something that casts a firm spotlight on just how little the final scores represents.

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And yet, for some who are desperately fighting for the fantasy of playing in the NFL, this is literally the only season they’ll know. For those fringe players, the pressure rivals the 4th quarter of a Super Bowl. Most of them will never play professional football again. It’s a harsh reality in the cut-throat world we remain devoted to unconditionally as fans.

But some of them will.

In the midst of the epic struggle to realize their dream, we find the likes of undrafted wide receiver Cole Beasley, safety Barry Church, and quarterback Tony Romo. Players – people – who beat the odds and shined when it most mattered. There are a few every season.

Yes, during the preseason we may not get to watch great football. Instead though, we get to watch stories of human lives. The ultimate reality television show. Tales of passion and resilience unfolding right in front of our eyes.

Last night’s game versus the San Diego Chargers mattered a lot, even if it was a snoozer at times. Some individuals shined enough to see their careers live to fight another day. For others perhaps, even after one game, the end may now be in sight. But we did see fight, and we should expect that for the rest of these meaningful, meaningless games.

We learned a few things too, specifically about these four individuals who benefited from their performances during Thursday’s festivities. Why does the preseason matter so much? Because of guys like these:

Dustin Vaughan, Quarterback
For much of Training Camp, Vaughan seemingly regressed from the promising rookie that forced the Cowboys to carry three quarterbacks last year. The throws haven’t been there and talk of him leapfrogging backup quarterback Brandon Weeden has quieted down. Well, queue up the hype again. Vaughan wasn’t perfect, but he was solid behind very shaky blocking. He looked poised, collected, and in command, while leading the offense efficiently in the first half. His play tailed off a little bit late, and he was perhaps a bit conservative at times, but it was a nice rebound for a player who needed one.

Gus Johnson, Running Back
Gus confirmed what many who watched him in college already knew: his power can translate to the NFL. Statistically, Johnson didn’t have the kind of night many hoped he would. But a beastly 4th-and-1 and 5-yard touchdown run made up for an otherwise unspectacular debut, and most importantly displayed his ability to move bodies. The stats will come as opportunities do, but a chance to show his value as a short-yardage back was what he needed on Thursday night. He delivered.

Damien Wilson, Linebacker
Wilson had one of the better highlight-reel plays, tackling Chargers running back Branden Oliver on a key 3rd and short. It summed up an outstanding night for Damien in the middle of a defense very short on linebackers. Wilson was probably not at risk of being left off the roster, but a solid preseason could give him immediate playing time. Without a doubt, he will have a chance to contribute on this team immediately.

Devin Street, Wide Receiver
Like Vaughan, Street is a second-year player who has seemingly struggled for much of camp. From the beginning of last night’s game though, Street shined. Along with Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar, Street appeared to be one of the most reliable targets on the field for both quarterbacks who played with him. With the emergence of Lucky Whitehead, Street needed a game like this.

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