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Cowboys Pre-Camp: The Far Side of Optimism

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More promising and some not so promising news and notes from the recently completed Cowboys camps:

--None of the rookies are counted on this year but a few made positive impressions.  I was told quarterback Stephen McGee will take time, but has the required skill set.  My source said of McGee, "he's competitive, makes accurate throws and can move around a bit...I Iike the kid."

-- The U of Cincinnati duo of Mike Mickens and D'Angelo Smith also got a brief, positive mention.  With the second and third year corners and safeties making a push (see yesterday's report) these guys will have time to develop without immediate pressure.  4th round pick Brandon Williams lacks that luxury.  He also stood out, but I was told Williams will have to rush the passer exclusively this season.  This suggests to me that Williams lacks the power to hold the point.  On the plus side, it appears Jay Ratliff is not the only person who noticed Williams rush skills. 

I don't know how effective Williams can be, but if he and starter Anthony Spencer can divide up Greg Ellis' eight '08 sacks in some combination, they'll keep offensives from sliding their blocking schemes towards Demarcus Ware.

-- 3rd-rounder Robert Brewster was the last rookie who stood out for my source.  Brewster impressed with his effort but I was told he'll need time to develop, and build his strength.

One player who didn't impress was Brewster's linemate Montrae Holland.  I understand he does not look any more svelte than last year.  If Kyle Kosier rehabs slowly, we may be looking at another Holland/Cory Proctor rotation at left guard, at least early on.  That can't make anybody smile.

The second significant caveat involves the receivers.  The backups Miles Austin, Sam Hurd and Isaiah Stanback barely practiced this month.  The National Football Press' Mike Lombardi wrote an excellent piece last week explaining why this makes organizations fret:

Practice repetitions are directly tied to the time allowed for each period. So there might be a two-hour practice, 120 minutes, but in that time, there are 60 repetitions in all phases of the game. For example, if a team is working on its inside run drill, it might want to get 12 plays/repetitions in that period. In camp, there are normally three groups of players -- three teams of offensive and defensive players -- so some players might only get two repetitions. Before the assistant coaches leave for vacation, they must know how many repetitions each player will be able to get before the first game, in all phases of the game. Clearly, the more reps, the better chance a player has to either improve or, in some cases, fail to meet the challenge.

When injuries become a part of the above equation, the amount of repetitions is reduced, resulting in limited progress for the player and the team...

Jason Garrett certainly has an idea of how many reps Hurd, Stanback and, most importantly, Austin need. These guys are not rookies, but they're not polished pros either.  They need as many reps as they can get.  They're going to San Antonio with little practice mileage on their odometers.  It's not critical on June 26th, but watch the injury reports in camp closely.  If more than one of these guys misses significant time there with a pull, sprain, or other ailment, wide receiver becomes a major concern.