One of the most exciting things to track as we count down to the start of the regular season is how the roster develops. But as much as might love to do that at this time of year, we also know that in reality, most of the starters have a pretty firm grip on their roster spot.
Nobody is challenging Tony Romo for his starting spot anytime soon. And guys like Jason Witten, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Sean Lee, Orlando Scandrick and quite a few others on the team will work hard in the offseason and preseason, but the reality is that they are not competing for a starting spot. Tom Ryle even extends the list beyond the usual suspects.
Still absolutely no sign either Leary or Hayden are losing their starting jobs.— Tom Ryle (@TomRyleBTB) June 16, 2015
For the most part, teams have a pretty good idea of who their starters will be well before training camp opens. Sure, there will be a couple of tweaks and perhaps a surprise or two, but unless a down-roster player shows sustained impressive performance through camp, the starters are pretty much set.
But there are starting jobs on Cowboys' roster where a starter - while currently penciled in on the depth chart - may not have a very firm grip on his spot. The most obvious of these is the running back spot. Depending on who you ask, it's either Joseph Randle or Darren McFadden penciled in as the starter. But the reality is that there are probably four players competing for a starting spot.
No other positions are up for grabs as much as the RB spot, but that doesn't mean there won't be any competition anywhere else. Listed below are four more potentially contested starting spots; for each position I've listed the current starter and added the players they probably have to beat out or hold off for a starting job, Tom Ryle's Tweet notwithstanding.
1-Technique: Nick Hayden (over Terrell McClain, Ken Bishop)
Left Guard: Ronald Leary (over La'el Collins)
Right Defensive End: Jeremy Mincey (over Randy Gregory)
SAM Linebacker: Anthony Hitchens (over Andrew Gachkar, Kyle Wilber)
If some of these "battles" already feel like a bit of a stretch, that may be because there could be less competition for starting spots than we've seen in previous years, or perhaps I simply missed some spots - where would you see serious competition for starting spots on this year's roster?
In any case, this week's minicamp probably won't decide anything in terms of who will be the eventual starter (though it may make clearer who's penciled in at the top of the depth chart at each position). Training camp will be the place where that's decided, as minicamp still operates under the restrictive "Phase Three" offseason rules as defined in the CBA.
All coaches are allowed on the field, but no live contact is permitted in phase three. Helmets may be worn, but no other pads. No one-on-one offense vs. defense drills are permitted (i.e., no offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen pass rush or pass protection drills, no wide receivers vs. defensive backs bump-and-run drills, and no one-on-one special teams drills involving both offense and defense are permitted). Special teams drills (e.g., kicking team vs. return team) are permitted, provided no live contact occurs.