Who are the Bubble Boys this year? Who are the Cowboy players standing on the proverbial bubble this training camp? Almost all rookies are somewhat on the bubble unless they are top-round draft picks. I'm defining a Bubble Boy as a veteran player, who has not broken into the starting lineup and has yet to show themselves to be a reliable backup. At some point the team has to make a change if a player doesn't develop. That change can mean being traded for another player or future draft choice, or being cut outright. For some of the Bubble Boys, the clock is ticking.
Make the jump.
Pat Watkins - When you play the safety position and your team signs a free agent safety and then drafts two more, you should be looking over your shoulder. The safety play was poor last year and the team appears determined to upgrade. With Roy Williams' injury last year there was a real opportunity for Watkins to secure a spot. He didn't. Watkins will have competition for one of the backup safety positions and he will need to make it clear that he is worth the roster space. If it looks like a push between him and a rookie, the rookie will get the spot.
Courtney Brown - See Pat Watkins above. The safety play was poor last year, Roy Williams was hurt and Brown had a chance to win a spot. He didn't. He could be on the outside looking in. The Cowboys could possibly look at him back at corner again.
Isaiah Stanback - Have you seen the M. Night Shyamalan movie called Unbreakable where Samuel L. Jackson played a bad guy who was nicknamed ‘Mr. Glass' because he was very fragile? Well, that's who Stanback reminds me of. He has talent, but he can't seem to stay healthy enough to get on the field. How long can the Cowboys endure the opportunity cost of waiting for Mr. Glass to become Mr. Big Play?
Alan Ball - At cornerback, the Cowboys have gone from liability to strength with Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. Ball was a 7th-round draft choice in 2007 and will be battling for a backup spot with rookie Mike Mickens, who was considered an elite cover prospect before suffering a knee injury. If Mickens knee is solid, Ball might be in trouble. DeAngelo Smith will also be in the mix.
Pat McQuistan - An offensive tackle drafted in the 7th-round in 2006. He has backed up Marc Columbo at RT and even Flozell Adams at LT but only for very brief stints. When Flozell had a bad wing last year and seemed a shell of himself, McQuistan had an opportunity to step in and help the team as well as himself. Flo had to come right back in. McQuistan needs to bring it during training camp or he just might lose it.
Bubble Boys (potential trade variety)
Bobby Carpenter - When you cost your team a first-round draft pick (18th) and first-round draft pick money, and you haven't played your way onto the field - that's a big problem. Since Carpenter was drafted by Parcells in 2006 he has not been able to earn significant playing time and the team surely won't want to continue to burn up a roster spot without reciprocal production. For the last few years I've heard Carpenter being discussed as moving inside and then outside and that he deserves more playing time and yet, he doesn't manage to get on the field except for special teams. If the guy has the ability and desire, I'm sure Wade will recognize it and find a way to use it. His big opportunity is a shot at the starting nickel-backer role. I see him as someone the Cowboys would love to talk up during camp and package him for a future draft pick.
Cory Procter - Procter signed a one-year deal in April and he has shown some versatility by backing up Andre Gurode at center, but last year while filling in at guard he got pushed around more than a Wal-Mart shopping cart. If the Cowboys really liked him it seems they would have locked him up for a longer term. That one-year deal sounds to me like, "If another G/C prospect comes on the radar screen, we won't be tied to you with a longer contract." We used to think Kyle Kosier was the weak link on the o-line, until Proctor took his place. Procter will be battling Montrae Holland as the primary backup guard, but his best chance for continued stability with the Cowboys is as a backup center. Playing center could save him this year.
The clock is ticking down for these guys to make an impact. Training camp may be the last time some of these men wear the star. Tick...tick...tick.