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Cowboys top six training camp battles

Here are my top six camp battles for the Dallas Cowboys. Before you read my list let me explain my criteria, I thought about the subject and wrote down the first six battles that came to mind. That’s the beauty of my system, simplistic and fast. OK, I really did think about these a little more than that, but not much. I gave more weight to battles for serious playing time, and discounted the gravity of a bottom of the roster battle that might leave a player without a spot on the roster. Counting down to number one...

6. Bobby Carpenter vs. the LB field

Captain Caveman needs some playing time. But where will it come from? Can he carve out a role somewhere or even challenge for a starting spot? It’s time we see what our 1st-round pick from last year can really do. Outside, inside, I just want to see some upside. He was one of the few players actually making plays towards the end of the year and finished with a big game in the playoff loss.

5. Ken Hamlin vs. Pat Watkins

I’m sold that Hamlin will be the starter, at least initially, but how much playing time can Watkins get? The over-matched rookie may be transformed into a seasoned second-year pro. You can’t deny Watkins physical gifts, at his height and athletic ability only the mental part of the game can hold him back. He ended up out of position far too often last year. Hamlin, in contrast, is a guy who has proven it before. If he returns to his pre-head injury form then the Cowboys have found their free safety. If not, then Watkins can make his move.

4. Oliver Hoyte vs. Lousaka Polite vs. Deon Anderson

This should be a fascinating one to watch. A three-man battle royal. In one corner, the converted linebacker Hoyte, he of the big hit but little experience. He might not prosper in an offense that utilizes the FB in all its forms. In another corner, Lou Polite, a true FB who does everything, but nothing at a very high level. A glorified special teamer. In the third corner, the newcomer, Deon Anderson, a complete FB at the college level, but must show that he has it in the pros.

3. Julius Jones vs. Marion Barber, III

This is really a battle over the concept of featured back. And even that can become confusing. The Cowboys can either leave things as they were last year, which worked out pretty well. Or they could try to even out the carries a little more, almost a 50/50 arrangement. Or they could flip the use of the backs in concept, where MB3 gets the 1st and 2nd down runs in the power running game and short-yardage situations and JJ is the change of pace back, taking the draws, the screens and the sweeps. They’ll both play and play a lot, but can MB3 nudge his way into more carries and a bigger role?

2. Greg Ellis vs. Anthony Spencer

This is a battle that is not supposed to be a battle. None other than Wade Phillips has declared Ellis the starter. But I’m not sold, and I’m so not-sold - that’s so not-good grammar – that I’m putting it up there as a big battle. Of course, three or four days into camp could prove that Ellis is not showing the ill-effects of his injury, and the battle would be over. But more than likely Ellis will be less than 100-percent and Spencer looks like he has the ability to start quickly. Wade Phillips says there’s no battle, but I beg to differ. Then again, no one cares what I beg to do, especially Wade Phillips.

1. Martin Gramatica vs. Nick Folk

How can a kicker battle be the number one battle? I have no idea, but I envision a Roman gladiatorial battle to the death between the two. We could even carry in Jerry Jones as the emperor, and dub him Jerunus Joneseium. Gramatica could be one of those guys who fight with a trident and net, and we could toss Folk the traditional short sword and shield, and let them have at it. Or we could just see who kicks the ball further and straighter. I’m good either way.

Other notable battles: Jason Ferguson’s backup, the receiver battle beyond the top three, the backup CB’s, the #3 QB.

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