For the first time in recent years of Cowboys training camp there are several starting and key reserve positions open to competition from multiple players. No longer will the primary personnel related questions revolve around whether the team will keep five wide receivers or six, or who the last linebacker on the roster will be, but instead we are talking about starters at positions like free safety, Mike and Sam linebackers, left offensive guard, and third wide receiver, along with multiple defensive line spots.
So what battles are the most intriguing to your FPWs? Let's find out:
|Joey Ickes||Safety||Returning starter Barry Church is entrenched at what the team calls the free safety position (although he plays most of his snaps in the box), but the competition for the other safety spot will be much more wide open. Second-year player J.J. Wilcox is penciled in opposite Church, but the stories from off-season practices at Valley Ranch were chock full of Jakar Hamilton making plays, and there's always that fourth-round pick from 2012 who hasn't been able to stay healthy long enough to play any regular season snaps. The best duo from a pure scheme-fit and athletic stand point would likely be Wilcox and either Hamilton or Johnson, with Wilcox manning the role occupied by Church, but considering Church's status as leader of the back seven (in Sean Lee's absence) you know he will be starting and playing.|
|Rabblerousr||Left Guard||At other positions such as safety and defensive line, the coaching staff will rotate players and/ or backups will receive significant playing time. At left guard, on the other hand, the starter - provided he stays healthy and keeps his job - should receive almost every snap for the season. And, the player who is chosen will profoundly impact the OL's style (Leary is more of a masher; Bernadeau is better at pulling and getting to the second level) as well as key decisions about the gameday roster. If Leary wins the job, for example, it would leave Bernie as the gameday swing at all three interior positions, freeing up openings at other positions.|
|neithan2000||Defensive End||I think Selvie and Lawrence win the starting jobs. But are Crawford and Bass in the mix or will they mostly be DT? If Lawrence learns quick enough to replace Mincey that would be great. What I would like to see: Lawrence and Crawford. On passing downs Crawford moves down to 1-tech with Selvie coming in as a designated pass rusher.|
|Kegbearer||Linebacker||I think the LB competitions will be very important for this team. Justin Durant is the veteran who is currently leading the MLB contest, but Rolando McClain becomes a huge variable. However, I have a feeling McClain may end up winning the Sam spot, reducing Kyle Wilber to a backup role. That will also free up DeVonte Holloman to concentrate more on Will and Mike duties. He isn't the fastest LB on the squad (Bruce Carter and Durant are the top two) but his instincts in coverage could make up for his lack of top end speed. But does he know the schemes well enough to be the leader in the defensive huddle? Will Holloman pick up where he left off at the end of '13 and win the starting MLB job, or become the top competitor to the Sam and Will starters? If I have to guess the depth chart when all is said and done, I'll go with Carter (W), Holloman (M), McClain (S) as starters, backed up by Hitchens, Durant, and Wilber.|
|OCC||Safety||Against all odds I remain optimistic that Matt Johnson will have a healthy camp and can finally prove why the Cowboys have remained so patient with him. Jakar Hamilton (my pet cat from last year) has shown up well in the offseason so far and could challenge for playing time. And Jeff Heath, despite some very obvious deficiencies on the field last year, has had a full offseason to learn the scheme, his assigments and coverage technique. Those three will be the primary challengers for Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox, who are currently penciled in as the starters. Add Ahmad Dixon and UDFA Ryan Smith to the mix, and we should see one heck of a competition for the backup spots, and J.J. Wilcox had better bring his 'A' game if he wants to be the starter in the season opener.|
|Tom Ryle||Left Guard||I think Uche Nwaneri was brought in specifically to supplant Leary, while keeping Bernadeau as a multi-position backup. The team seems to have some reservations about Leary, or at least want to upgrade the spot to be more on a level with the rest of the line. Every position on defense ties for second place.|
|Dawn Macelli||Cornerback||OCC took my first response so I will say the battle for the corner slots. On the face of it we have Carr, Scandrick, and Claiborne all battling for the two starting spots. I suspect that if Scandrick wins one of the starting roles he will still be the slot man when Dallas plays three corners. Beyond the top three there will be an interesting battle as guys like B. W. Webb and Sterling Moore fight to keep their jobs in the NFL while Terrance Mitchell and Jocquel Skinner fight to earn the slots that the experienced guys now have. This battle should turn into a dog fight|
So what say you BTB??? What training camp competitions will have your attention?