Golden Opportunities For a Few Cowboys

"Success occurs when preparation and opportunity intersect."  I’m not sure on who said it first, but that is one of my favorite phrases in the world, and boy is it ever true. Take a guy like Tashard Choice for example. In college Choice found himself behind future NFL backs like Adrian Peterson and P.J. Daniels. In his inaugural NFL season he found himself third on the depth chart behind Pro Bowler Marion Barber, and first-round pick Felix Jones. In both instances, Choice kept himself prepared and was able to capitalize on his opportunity when he was called upon.

The stars are beginning to align for a few other current Cowboys. A handful of Cowboys have a chance to prove their worth, and play more significant roles than they ever have. What remains to be seen is whether or not said players will truly be ready to make the most of their opportunities.

A look at a few Cowboys who have a chance to make a significantly greater impact going forward:

Anthony Spencer, OLB: The Cowboys’ release of veteran linebacker Greg Ellis says a lot about the kind of hopes the Cowboys are hanging on Spencer. The team will most likely enter the season with only a pair of rookies to provide any type of a mirage of competition for Spencer. This job has been handed to Spencer on a blue and silver platter. He is a natural rusher with adequate speed, and sturdy enough base to perform well against the run. He has the tools, but his embarrassing offseason arrest validates questions about his maturity. Spencer is a former first-round pick entering his third season. Time to step your game up, Spence.

Montrae Holland, G/C: This Cowboys want badly for Montrae Holland to succeed. The question is whether or not Holland wants to succeed as bad as the team wants him to. Last year’s starter Kyle Kosier has been a rock for the Cowboys, but his injury status creates uncertainty at the left guard position. The team loves the push that Holland generates in the running game, and would love for him to just grab this training camp battle by the throat. However, to no one’s surprise, Holland reportedly showed up to mini-camp in less than outstanding shape, and performed averagely. The Cowboys have been working Holland in at center as well, so even if Kosier does reclaim his starting spot at left guard, Holland would still be in contention for the swing G/C this season. It’s all on the table for Holland, but I guess there must be some reason Mike Shanahan let him go for a late round pick.

Doug Free, OT: When Doug Free was drafted a lot of Cowboy fans looked at him as possibly being the steal of the draft and maybe the heir apparent to Flozell Adams’ left tackle position. Neither has come to fruition, but there is still time for Free. Doug Free was drafted because he had the physical talent, most notably technique and foot-quickness to be an NFL left tackle. It’s not clear what’s holding Free back, but he’s got to put it all together soon. Free will probably be given this season to prove that he is an eventual starter. If not he will likely have to find employment elsewhere. Free had better be ready though, because at Flozell Adams’ age (and size) the injury bug is a little harder to elude. Something tells me Free may get his shot this season.

Junior Siavii, DT: Siavii last recorded a countable NFL statistic in 2005. 2005! With that said he is probably still the frontrunner to be Jay Ratliff’s backup at nose tackle. Siavii was the 36th overall pick in the 2004 draft. You don’t get selected that high without talent. Siavii is the best athlete among the backup NT candidates but has never been able to put it together. Maybe being reunited with former University of Oregon teammate and friend Igor Olshansky will light a fire under Junior. This job is his for the taking. If Siavii can show the Cowboys that he can be even adequate, he would add a lot to the team from an standpoint of depth and flexibility.

Jason Williams, ILB: I know he was only a 3rd round pick but Jason Williams kind of feels like the chosen one, doesn’t he? From the minute he was drafted, Williams was talked about as the nickel linebacker of the present, and the weak inside backer of the future. The knock on Williams coming out of college was that he was a better athlete than he was a football player. If Williams is able to pick up the mental part of the game and let his great athletic ability do the rest, the Cowboys will be able to stop the revolving door at weak inside linebacker. Williams will face competition from fellow 2009 draftee Stephen Hodge and holdover Bobby Carpenter.

Isaiah Stanback, WR: Do I really have to say anything here? Just stay healthy, man. That’s all you’ve got to do, Ike. Just stay healthy, please. That’s been easier said than done for Stanback, who has struggled with injuries dating back to his college days. It will be a shame to see so much natural ability go to waste if Stanback can’t fight off the injury bug this season. It’s unclear how far along he is in his progression as a wide receiver (which has no doubt been slowed by injuries), but Stanback is still the team’s best kick return option after Felix Jones. Though he has no experience, Stanback’s open-field vision, quickness, and change of direction capabilities lend itself to punt returning. Also, it would be a lot of fun to see the former University of Washington quarterback line up in the Wildcat. Stanback will be competing with seventh-rounders and undrafted free agents for the fifth or sixth wideout spot, so if he's not on crutches at the end of camp he will probably make the squad. If Stanback can stay healthy, he may have a chance to have a big role this season. That is one gargantuan "if" though.

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