The Cowboys are in Santa Clara, California as they prepare for an exhibition with the San Francisco 49ers tomorrow evening from Levi's Stadium. Though the Cowboys are solely focused on the sodding of the field at this point, we still have a few guys we need to get excited about watching tomorrow. The 49ers will be an interesting bunch to battle as there is probably no team in the NFL in more of a transition than the Red and Gold.
5. DE Randy Gregory
He's been really putting together a phenomenal offseason in just his rookie year. Every day he seems to have put together something new from his coaches and it shows with the way he practices. Gregory has such strong hands that he can be load to deal with coming of the corner. Here at BTB we've mentioned many times before about how good Gregory is at making himself smaller around the edge to beat blockers and get to the quarterback. In last week's contest, Gregory showed you why he deserved to be a first-round pick. His ability to read the quarterback and level his man with those 'heavy hands', shed his blocker and get to the ball carrier was just excellence at work. After another week of work, it'll be interesting to see if he can build on that success. The 49ers have had a pretty solid offensive line the past few seasons, though there is some turnover there, they'll be a good test for the young pass rusher.
4. OT Darrion Weems
For a second straight week, Weems is going to be the guys at left tackle with Tyron Smith nursing some sore biceps. Weems had a substandard outing against San Diego but that's to be expected for a guy who hasn't seen action in a while. Weems is battling it out for a roster spot as the swing tackle while other guys like Chaz Green are on the mend. Weems has shown some flashes throughout camp but struggled with live action. The Cowboys have to find the answer for the departed Jermey Parnell and they are hoping that it will be Darrion Weems. This 49ers' defense has lost some luster and maybe that can help build some confidence for Weems in his second try. He's got the pedigree and natural skill to excel at the position but really needs to loosen up out there. Last week, He played very tight-hipped and didn't show the fluidity that we may be used to seeing. He also got driven out of his stance far too many times and lost his footing. If he can play with better technique, it'll be a tale of two weeks for Darrion Weems as he'll look far better.
3. RB Darren McFadden
Time to take the bubble-wrap off for McFadden and finally see what this guy can contribute. Since he's been here, we've seen the various reports of how 'good' he can look. Okay, well there is certainly a difference between going against air than trying to fend off a 250+ pound linebacker. Though the lot of us were hoping to see a bit more competition at the position, nicks and bruises kept that from truly happening. If McFadden can show that it was just precautionary then this could be very exciting to watch as the position develops further. McFadden is the most complete back on the roster. He knows how to protect the quarterback too, which is something that the others are learning currently. However, it's time to see Run DMC in action. Much of the hesitation could be washed away with a nice big run into the open field. It's unknown how much time McFadden will actually see but the anticipation is at a high to finally see him don the star.
2. OG La'el Collins
He's really made a strong case for himself over the past few weeks, especially seeing as his "pancake-block-felt-around-the-world" went viral. Collins has been getting the majority of reps with Ronald Leary still limited with back tightness. Watching his tape, you can see a guy that is just plain nasty. His best block may have been the one he delivered to get Gus Johnson into the end zone. He's a great athlete and has really come into his own as of late. Nobody is saying that he should unseat Leary just yet, but you have to feel good about the future of this offensive line and it's depth. Collins, like Zack Martin, shows his ability to get to the second-level in a hurry and make tremendous blocks downfield. With Collins receiving the bulk of the playing time tomorrow, we'll get to see just how ready he is for the NFL. He's a very smart and able football player that is going to be a handful for defensive linemen.
1. QB Brandon Weeden
We need to see more from Weeden. With Tony Romo to see limited, if any, action, it's imperative that Weeden give the coaches some confidence. In San Diego, he was building a really nice drive before a mental lapse ended it in a turnover. Both Dustin Vaughan and Jameill Showers had good outings that got you excited about their prospects, but neither is going to unseat Weeden. For the Cowboys, they just need to see Weeden perform like a veteran. Go out there with your limited time, drive the ball down the field and lead the team to a scoring drive. It seems that Weeden knows what to do but sometimes gets ahead of himself. In these next few games, it's time for Weeden to show his confidence in the offense and give the rest of us confidence in him. Just get through your progressions and show that you can lead the team in Romo's absence. He's got plenty of targets to get the ball to, time to shine Brandon Weeden.
Off to Santa Clara to join the festivities. I want to thank Rabble for his amazing work up to this point and I hope to keep the trend of great reporting alive in my first trip to Oxnard as a BTB front pager. Thanks to all of you for making this the best place to work!