While training camp position battles will undoubtedly be intense on the defensive side of the ball, the fight for roster spots on offense should be a bit less interesting. There should be no competition at quarterback, as Tony Romo will obviously be the starter. The team drafted Stephen McGee in the 4th round when the team had bigger needs, so that ought to be an indication of how much the team likes the former Texas A&M signal caller. Jon Kitna was acquired via trade, and is the only experienced depth at the position. He will be safe for that reason. Rudy Carpenter is coming to camp to minimize arm fatigue, and maybe log enough preseason snaps to impress another team.
While their 2009 roles have yet to be defined, we do know that Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice will occupy the team’s three running back roster spots. No disrespect to Ray Ray’s little brother (Keon Lattimore), but he will be at camp for the sole purpose of preserving the bodies of Bash, Dash, and Tash. The only way we will see any movement at running back is if Minnesota, in an attempt to clear cap space for Brett Favre, offers us Adrian Peterson for a bag of K-balls.
Most of the offense is locked up, but there are still a few spots up for grabs. Let’s look at this year’s offensive contestants for Survivor:Dallas.
Starters: Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton/Miles Austin
Survivor Contestants: Sam Hurd, Isaiah Stanback, Kevin Ogletree, Julian Hawkins, Manuel Johnson, Travis Wilson
Cowboys will likely keep: 5-6
Breakdown: Sam Hurd will probably make the squad again. He is a good special teams player, and of the group he has the body and skill set that most closely mirrors that of Roy Williams. Hurd would be the most natural fit to step in for Williams at the "X" in the event of an injury. Travis Wilson has nice measurables, but his mouth is bigger than his game. It is unlikely that his arrogance will fly in the recently cleansed Cowboy locker room. I think Manuel Johnson has a real shot. His play far outshines his measurables, and the team could possibly view him as an eventual heir to Patrick Crayton’s role.
I think the guy to watch here is Kevin Ogletree. Ogletree is an accomplished receiver with top notch NFL speed. Ogletree was widely ranked among the top 20 wide receiver prospects, but saw his stock drop due only to a 2007 ACL tear. Ogletree has to be viewed as the favorite if the team keeps six wideouts, and still a possibility is the team keeps only five. At the end of the day, I still think Isaiah Stanback makes the team. The team did little to bolster it’s kick return options behind Felix Jones in the off season, leaving Stanback as the best remaining alternative. Stanback would also be the best option if the ‘Boys want to tinker with some wildcat action, and most importantly, Jerry Jones likes him.
Starters: Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett
Survivor Contestants: John Phillips, Rodney Hannah, Jamar Hunt
Cowboys will likely keep: 3
Breakdown: I know Martellus Bennett is not technically a starter, but he will be a key part of the offense, so he’s not going anywhere. I was a little surprised that the Cowboys drafted a tight end at all. As high as the club had appeared to be on Rodney Hannah, I figured he would get his chance to step in with the departure of Tony Curtis. Nonetheless, the University of Virginia has a history of producing well-rounded tight ends, and John Phillips is no different. This battle is really between Phillips and Hannah. Jamar Hunt’s best quality is his ability to serve as a long snapper. You don’t mess with a good thing, so unless the Cowboys are desperate for roster spots, I don’t see the team dumping L.P. Ladouceur.
Starters: Flozell Adams, Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo
Survivor Contestants: Doug Free, Pat McQuistan, Montrae Holland, Ryan Gibbons, Cory Procter, Matt Spanos, Robert Brewster, Travis Bright, Michael Turkovich, Greg Isdaner
Cowboys will likely keep: 8-10
Breakdown: It’s hard to divide this thing by position since there are so many tackle/guard and guard/center guys on the roster. Regardless of his camp performance, Robert Brewster’s draft position buys him a roster spot, so he’s in. The only true tackles in the group are Free and Turkovich, so if Free can hold off the undrafted Turkovich he’s in as well. Hopefully Montrae Holland mixed an occasional salad into the rotation this off season. If he’s in shape, he’s easily the best guard among the backups. Holland gets good push in the run game, and is by far the most experienced (35 career starts) of the group. I know no one wants to hear this, but Cory Procter will probably be back. Procter and Matt Spanos are the only players in the group with experience at center. If Procter outshines Spanos, he’s probably coming back. This may be a "put up or shut up" year for McQuistan as well, who has logged zero starts in three seasons with the team.
Starter: Deon Anderson
Survivor Contestants: Asaph Schwapp, Julius Crosslin
Cowboys will likely keep: 1
Breakdown: Deon Anderson is not a Lorenzo Neal-type lead blocker, but he is a good all-around fullback who does most everything pretty well. I have not seen enough tape on Schwapp to make an educated evaluation, but I was not impressed by the few clips I did see. For a 257-pound guy, Schwapp doesn’t get a ton of push, and can be driven back into the hole rather easily. Again, maybe I just saw the worst handful of clips of his entire career. Crosslin played pretty well for the team last preseason, but it’s hard to envision Anderson being overtaken by any fullback currently on the roster.
Who will survive?