Many times, standout players from the preseason don’t live up to the hype. When you have dozens of players competing in four or five games, you’re going to have a handful who outperform their true skill level. It’s the job of the coaches to spot those outliers and determine whether or not a player can really sustain a high level of play.
I’ve gone as record as saying that I don’t believe defensive end George Selvie is a fluke. His two sacks and constant pressure against the Dolphins on Sunday night were a sign of things to come for the 6-3 defensive end who possesses the most important trait any pass-rusher can have: long arms. With massive 34.5-inch arms, Selvie can get into the chest of offensive tackles to control them, as we saw against the Dolphins.
In addition to keeping an eye on Selvie, here are three other defensive players to watch tonight against the Raiders.
S J.J. Wilcox
Wilcox is a big, athletic player who fell into the third round because he played just one year of safety at Georgia Southern. That inexperience showed up early in the Hall of Fame Game, as Wilcox looked hesitant to make plays. This is still a 6-0, 213-pound safety with 4.57 speed (and a 4.09 short shuttle), though, so he has the physical tools to turn it around. For many of these small-school prospects, it comes down to dealing with the mental aspects of the game. It will be telling to see how Wilcox rebounds from a little adversity.
DE Kyle Wilber
At 6-4, Wilber is taller than Selvie, but his arms are more than an inch shorter. Combined with his 4.86 40-yard dash and other measurables, Wilber is only an average athlete without an elite frame. But he’s reportedly looked outstanding in camp and he played like it against the Dolphins. I think Selvie is a better long-term option, but Wilber is one to watch.
LB DeVonte Holloman
We all saw Holloman’s speed on the interception return for a touchdown, but the Cowboys knew Holloman is athletic and can cover. The key will be his run defense. At this point, though, I’d consider Holloman a favorite to make the roster over undrafted free agent linebacker Brandon Magee—a player who Dallas actually had rated higher on their board. There’s even an outside chance that Holloman beats out Justin Durant and Ernie Sims to start alongside Sean Lee and Bruce Carter.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.