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Cowboys Roster: Which Rookies Have Earned Their Star?

Cowboys DE Ben Bass (79) grabs Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor (6) for a sack.
Cowboys DE Ben Bass (79) grabs Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor (6) for a sack.

Like Bill Parcells during his tenure with the Cowboys, Jason Garrett has also had the equipment staff remove the star from the helmets of all rookies. Garrett's message is simple: all rookies, from first round draft picks all the way down to the undrafted free agent signings, must earn the right to wear the star.

In a press conference last year, 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."

While every player on the field yesterday wore the star on his helmet, tomorrow the rookies will once again practice without the star on their helmet. After the break, we take a look at which rookies have improved their chances of wearing the star on opening day of the 2012 season.

We know that Garrett will hold out on handing out the star until the regular season starts. But based solely on yesterday's game, which rookies do you think have earned their star?

A couple of the following rookies may have improved their cases yesterday for getting their star:

  • DE Ben Bass really stood out towards the end of the game. The undrafted A&M product was very disruptive in the backfield, recording a sack and two tackles for loss plus a quarterback pressure. Overall, he was credited with five tackles, the second highest total on the team after Alex Albright's nine. He may have earned himself some snaps against San Diego's second teamers on Saturday.
  • TE James Hanna got a lot of snaps, playing well into the second half. He caught two passes for 15 yards and seemed to be able to get open with ease. And despite being called a "Joker Deluxe" by the announcers, Hanna was also an effective blocker, lining up both split out wide and with his hand on the ground. Perhaps even more importantly though, the Cowboys were looking for him in the passing game: five passes were targeted his way, which tied him with Andre Holmes as the most targeted receiver last night. And finally, Hanna was also the first guy on the scene to make a tackle on special teams after the kickoff following the game's only score. Hanna showcased an impressive versatility yesterday that is certain to get him a lot more snaps in preseason games.
  • OLB Adrian Hamilton looked dynamic in the second half and generated some pressure: He was credited with two tackles and one QB hit.
  • FB Jamize Olawale was the Cowboys’ biggest offensive producer, rushing for 42 yards on 12 carries. It wasn't always pretty, but for what it's worth, his 3.5 YPA was better than that of Felix Jones (2.0) and DeMarco Murray (0.0). Of course, Olawale also ran into the punter, so there's always that.
  • WR Cole Beasley wasn't able to get enough separation on a deep pass from Tony Romo and wasn't targeted again in the game, but he showed that he can field punts without any problems and even returned one for 16 yards.

I polled my fellow BTB writers, and here are their choices:

1. OLB Adrian Hamilton

Coty: You probably remember the big sack Hamilton had on Pryor, delivering a punishing blow that de-cleated the 235-pound quarterback. Hamilton also contributed steady pressure in the backfield and hit the quarterback at every opportunity. He won't clear waivers, so we won't cut him.

Archie: Hamilton is my pet cat for a reason, he can get after the quarterback. He showed a nice spin move last night, and that will compliment his bull rush. It may be time to bump him up the depth chart to see what he can do against better competition.

CB Lionel Smith:

Rabble: Smith has been more or less invisible in camp practices, but he played really well in the game. Not only did he blow up a short pass by shedding a blocker, locating the ballcarrier and making a physical tackle, but he looked solid in coverage and seemed to be around the ball on special teams as well. I'm not sure his performance will do much to earn him a roster spot at the crowded CB position, but he should get serious practice squad consideration.

Archie: Smith has a great combination of size and speed, but he is also very physical. He's a long shot to make the team, but I loved the way he played last night. He was one of the best cornerbacks on the field, and that is impressive for an UDFA.

DE Ben Bass:

Archie: The buzz surrounding Clifton Geathers was strong entering last nights game, but Bass was the defensive end who showed up. He was consistently disruptive, but be hustled on nearly every play. His stock is definitely on the rise after a good performance to start his pre-season.

Rabble: He's been making plays in training camp, but he really elevated his game on Monday night. He played with good leverage (one thing he has over Clifton Geathers right now), speed and power; the Raiders second and third team guys found him to be unblockable. That's the good news. The bad news is that, with his performance, he'll never make it through waivers. So, the Cowboys will have to go deep at D-line or cut either a vet or a promising rook to keep him.

James Hanna:

Rabble: A third tight end must be versatile. Ideally, he's a receiving threat, can block a little and is a special teams standout. Coming in to camp, we knew Hanna was fast, but weren't sure he could do any of the things necessary for success as the TE3. Last night, he proved adept as a receiver and special teams player, and his blocking appears to be improving. I know he wasn't their first choice in the sixth round (Texas A&M's Cyrus Grey was the target), but Dallas may have lucked into a real find.

Who gets your nod as the standout rookie from yesterday?

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