When the Cowboys rookies finish their mini-camp practices this weekend, there will be much prognosticating, knee jerking, and over reacting, from fans and media alike. We will hear reports of this late-round pick or that undrafted free agent who stood out in coverage, or who made an unbelievable catch in 7-on-7 drills, and you can bet BTB will be here for you to provide information every step of the way.
However, as we have seen, when guys like B.W. Webb were lauded for their performances in 2013, it is difficult to garner real insight into how well any player will transition to the NFL from three days of non-padded practices against a group of players two-thirds of which will not be in the NFL a year from now.
So what should we expect and what should we look for in reports coming out of Valley Ranch this weekend?
Do the players improve from Friday through Sunday?
For most of these players, this will be their first extended exposure to NFL coaching. How they take that coaching and apply the techniques they are being taught and use that to improve from day one to day three, before the veterans get involved will provide good insight into the progression we may see from them through the rest of the off season and training camp.
How is the coaching staff functioning together?
New playcallers Scott Linehan (offense) and Rod Marinelli (defense), along with demoted coordinators Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin, and a head coach with a new focus on defense, all bring significant change to the coaching staff, even if the faces remain largely the same. This is the first opportunity for these coaches to get on the field together as a unit and run real football practices together, and how they function will tell a lot.
Where are certain rookies playing?
Guys like Anthony Hitchens, Ben Gardner, Ken Bishop, and Davon Coleman don't necessarily come to the Cowboys with defined roles. Which defensive tackle spot will Bishop and Coleman play? Is Hitchens the first guy up at Mike linebacker, or is he playing Sam? Is seventh-round cornerback Terrance Mitchell getting a look at safety? These types of things can give fans an idea of what type of plan the coaching staff has for their newest chess pieces.
Overall the Rookie Mini-camp is not much more than a shot of energy for fans following the long offseason and draft preparation, as the players we have talked about for months are finally on the field. However, it is important to take these days as simply a step in the process of preparing these guys for their rookie years.