A little over two weeks ago, the Cowboys started training camp. And Jason Garrett started off camp with a symbolic gesture that met with near unanimous approval across the entire Cowboys fanbase: Like Bill Parcells during his tenure with the Cowboys, Garrett had the equipment staff remove the star from the helmets of all rookies, from first round draft pick Tyron Smith all the way through the undrafted free agent signings. Garrett's message was simple:
In a post-practice press conference, Garrett explained his no-star-for-rookies policy.
"The star is very important to us. The star is an international symbol. It's the Dallas football Cowboys. The star means something. The team has been around for 51 years, there's a great tradition here."
"You have to earn the right to wear that star. We're very clear with the players about that. Just because you sign with the Dallas Cowboys doesn't mean you've earned that thing yet. Hopefully, at some point, [the rookies] do the things necessary to earn that star on the side of their helmet."
In Thursday's game, every player on the field wore the star on his helmet, but that is more likely due to some obscure NFL rule than to all players having earned their star. Practice on Saturday will likely commence without the star on the helmets - except if Garrett thinks some of the rookies have already earned their star. More after the break.Knowing Garrett, he may very well wait another week or two before he starts handing out the first helmets with a star to the rookies. But assuming that at least some rookies have met Garrett's criteria, who would you award a star to?
A couple of rookies have made strong cases so far for getting their star:
- Dwayne Harris certainly turned heads with his breakout performance against the Broncos, catching all five passes thrown his way for two TDs and 127 yards and returning a kickoff for 32 yards. Harris now finds himself in the discussion for the third or fourth wide receiver spot after flying a little under the radar in the two first weeks of camp."What's up with No. 14?" linebacker Victor Butler said of Harris. "Get that kid a star on his helmet."
- Tyron Smith looks like he is exactly what we had hoped he'll be and has impressed from day one. A botched botched blitz that led to a sack of McGee at the end of the second quarter is the only blemish on his record.
- David Arkin has become somewhat of a fan favorite, and the small school fourth rounder looks like he is going to seriously challenge for a starting spot. Both Arkin and Smith started and played through the first half against Denver.
- Undrafted receiver Raymond Radway caught a 6-yard TD pass and returned two kicks for a combined 62 yards. He also showed that he is still a pretty raw prospects, but he remains in the conversation for the last receiver spot.
- Camp sensations Alex Albright and Orie Lemon each got credited with two tackles but were not as conspicuous in the game as they were during practice.
Lonyae Miller had a disappointing outing against the Broncos after getting a lot of praise in camp. In his stead, Phillip Tanner collected some accolades for his runs against Denver.
If you were Garrett, who would you award a star to? Or would you hold back on handing out stars altogether, or perhaps give everybody a star in one fell swoop?
I polled my fellow BTB writers, and here are their choices:
1. Dwayne Harris.
KD: Obviously the numero uno, Harris played the slot like a blue-haired lady in Atlantic City. The sixth receiver coming in, he torched the Broncos third stringers and has earned the right to test San Diego's seconds next Sunday.
Kegbearer: Dwayne Harris showed he is in the fight for #3 WR spot and should be in the running for a star as well.
Rabblerousr: Dwayne Harris is a kid who has come as advertised: he doesn't have terrific speed, so he struggles to get separation, but he has great hands, runs precise routes and just understands how to get open. The bottom line is that he's a football player; all the kid does is make plays.
2 & 3: Tyron Smith & David Arkin:
KD: Tyron Smith. From the point of view that he's a 20 year old rookie starting his first NFL game, Smith performed outstandingly. He played the entire first quarter and limited his mistakes; he was no embarrassment which is a great sign. Arkin started at left guard and sprung Felix Jones' 18 yard scamper. Didn't provide the best push during Lonyae Miller's snaps though but didn't look overmatched as an NFL starter.
Kegbearer: Rookies Tyron Smith and David Arkin played for most of the 1st half, and played well. If stars are handed out, these two showed they should stay with the team and can play in the NFL.
Rabblerousr: Tyron Smith is a no-brainer. He's demonstrated elite quickness, athleticism and body control, as well as rare focus and maturity for a 20-year old. Star? Heck, I think he might end up being an All-Star as a rookie. David Arkin is exactly what we thought he could be: while still working off some of the small-school inexperience, he's approached every snap with grit, determination and want-to--he loves to mix it up. Plus he's got great feet: watch him get out on in front of Felix Jones on the first-quarter screen against the Broncos.
4. Phillip Tanner:
KD: Tanner came in following Miller's struggles and ate up yardage in a hurry. He showed tenacity instead of tentativeness and averaged just a shade under 5 ypc. He'll get carries against San Diego, and then the decision will have to be made on whether he's PS stashable.