With the Cowboys 2015 preseason completed, there are many players that caught our attention. As the make-up of the roster starts to take shape and player's roles become more defined, many of those decisions will be based on what has transpired over the last month.
Here are the top five performers of the Cowboys' preseason.
5. La'el Collins
While the starting left guard position seemed like it was going to be a roster battle during training camp, Ron Leary put that to rest early. But that didn't stop Collins from having a strong preseason. Collins wasn't the Cowboys best pass protector or the best run blocker, but he was the second best in both of those categories. He had 94 pass blocking snaps and allowed one sack and he showed he can be a factor in the running game. Collins may not be ready to be a part of the best offensive line in the league, but he doesn't have to be. He is showing signs of great ability and if he continues to develop, he's going to be a big part of this team's future.
4. Keith Smith
Entering the preseason, Smith was just an afterthought. The team already had three new linebacker acquisitions that were expected to fill out the depth chart. His mediocre play made him just another guy and a player like that will always be lingering on the free agent market so why waste any time with him? Smith had flashes of good physical ability before, but it just wasn't there mentally and he had never been able to show any consistency. Well, he was pretty consistent this preseason. Smith led the team with 13 tackles and was constantly in the middle of the action. He finished off a strong preseason with a fumble recovery against the Texans. His instincts have improved and he looks like he has things put together to be a solid bench linebacker for this team.
3. Davon Coleman
Game after game, Coleman showed up and played hard. Statistically, he did very well as he made eight stops that resulted in defensive failures. He also pressured the quarterback five times. But the biggest plays Coleman had were the ones that didn't show up in the stat book as they were plays he made for his teammates. Twice he helped Randy Gregory sack the quarterback. He has a great combination of power and speed that has helped him constantly get into the backfield. His raw ability has always been there, but the light bulb seems to have come on because he just won't let up. If he is able to continue to sustain this level of play into the regular season, he is going to be a solid depth piece to this defense.
2. Corey White
The team lost Sterling Moore in free agency as he got paid $1.5 million to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Cowboys decided to spend that $1.5 million for the services of Corey White after he was deemed not good enough to play for the New Orleans Saints. It is starting to look like a smart investment.
In the preseason, White was targeted 13 times, only allowing six receptions for 54 yards. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 25.8 when throwing at him. He made two big plays, breaking up a touchdown pass against Torrey Smith and then jumping in front of the Texans' receiver for a walk-in touchdown. The Cowboys were hoping to find a solid corner to fill a role and it appears they found one.
1. Randy Gregory
No defensive player logged more snaps against the Houston Texans than Byron Jones. No offensive player logged more snaps against the Houston Texans than La'el Collins.
Randy Gregory played zero snaps.
That should give you an idea of how much the coaches think of Gregory. The rookie is too valuable to risk injury playing in the team's final exhibition game. The Cowboys second-round steal has been outstanding this preseason. He was able to pressure the quarterback 19.4% of his pass rushes. Just as a frame of reference, J.J. Watt's QB pressure last season was 18.8%. Gregory recorded three sacks in three games which puts him on pace to get 16 sacks in 2015 (I know that's not realistic, but just play along).
And when he wasn't sacking QBs, he was still being disruptive as he induced penalties. He only played in an average of 26 snaps a game, but made the most of them. The Cowboys have themselves a great rotational pass rusher that should have an immediate impact this season.
Who do you think were the Cowboys top performers this preseason?