By now it's a familiar sight in Cowboys training camp: the rookies are playing without a Star on their helmet. This little symbolic gesture was reintroduced by Jason Garrett two years ago, after having been last seen in Dallas during Bill Parcells' tenure. From first-round draft pick Travis Frederick all the way through to the last undrafted free agent, all the rookies must first earn the right to wear the star.
When he re-introduced the policy, Garrett explained his no-star-for-rookies approach.
"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."
In Saturday's game, every player on the field wore the Star on his helmet, but that is more likely due to some obscure NFL rule than to all players having earned their star. Practice on Sunday continued without the star on the helmets for the rookies, and they won't get that star until they make the final roster.
Based on their performance so far in camp, some of the rookies may already have earned their star. I polled my fellow BTB writers about who those rookies could be, and here are their choices:
For me, it's got to be Frederick and Randle. Frederick is the obvious choice, he's a starter, he's played well in the preseason games, he kind looks like a veteran already. Randle is my other choice. Even though he's playing as the fourth-stringer, he's been solid in both preseason games. He's overcome a slow start because of the lingering injury to become what looks like a solid contributor.
I'm voting for JJ Wilcox and Travis Frederick. Reason: Because I'm watching the games.
I'm gonna go against the grain a bit if you'll indulge me: This appears to be the strongest rookie class, top to bottom, in the Jason Garrett era. Unlike recent seasons in which third-day picks have struggled and failed to make the 53 (cough, Jamar Wall, hack, Sean Chapas, Josh Thomas) the pro game hasn't seemed too big for this year's group; each seems to be fulfilling the destiny the team mapped out for him when they picked him back in April.
To wit: Travis Frederick will be a starter game one; Gavin Escobar looks like he'll provide a downfield receiving threat and a big body in the red/ end zone; Terrance Williams is the team's best third WR in recent years not named Laurent Robinson; Joseph Randle started slow due to a thumb injury, but has come on in the last week or so, running hard and showing a little wiggle; DeVonte Holloman has displayed excellent quickness, reaction and pop. And while he struggled mightily against the Raiders, fourth rounder B.W. Webb has had a strong camp.
I feel quite confident that the entire rookie class have earned their stars.
Travis Frederick is going to start on the offensive line. Period. He is a clear upgrade at center, and one of the smartest players on the team already. They might as well put the Star on his helmet now. In a couple of years, people are going to talk about what a good pick he was.Outside of Fredbeard, things are still a bit up in the air, but I would pick J.J. Wilcox at this point. He is still learning, particularly about taking good angles to close on the ballcarrier, but his hitting and the interception he had against the Raiders show that the NFL game is not too big for him. If Matt Johnson's injury issues continue to hold him back, Wilcox is going to be the number 3 safety to start the season, and will be challenging Will Allen for the starting job before too many weeks have gone by. Right now, he looks to be the best value for his draft pick the Cowboys got.
I'll go with DeVonte Holloman and Joseph Randle. Holloman has shown that he belongs on the field in the NFL, if only in spot duty, special teams, and as an injury fill-in. Randle has shown speed that was surprising, at least to me, and his violent running convinces me that the Cowboys must consider keeping four backs this year.
Out of all of the rookies, Travis Frederick has stood out the most and has earned his star.While I still may not be delighted with his selection in the first round, it's becoming crystal clear why Dallas liked him so much. He still needs to work on the physical side of the game and there will be times where he gets overmatched. Eventually Frederick is going to get that element down and when he does, boy he has the material to become a very good player in the NFL. So far the most impressive part of Frederick's game has been the mental part. It's really not easy for a rookie to come in and start right away, but the former Wisconsin center doesn't look like a rookie. His intelligence and ability to make line calls are going to make a significant difference at the center position for the Cowboys and they haven't had a player of Frederick's quality snapping the ball since Andre Gurode was making the Pro Bowl for them.As for my other selection, it came down to J.J. Wilcox, Joseph Randle and DeVonte Holloman. The star will go to Randle because he's really come on strong after a slow start to training camp. Even when he had a cast over his surgically repaired thumb, Randle was actively pursuing to learn the offense. That early dedication shows that this kid is a hard worker and wants to become a good football player. It's only been two pre-season games, but you can see the athletic ability that Randle has. If he carries over his strong pre-season into the regular season, then the Cowboys may have found themselves a steal in the Oklahoma State running back who fell to the fifth round.
Assuming that at least some rookies have met Garrett's criteria for wearing the Star, who would you award a Star to?