It was a familiar sight in Cowboys training camp once again this year: the rookies practiced without a Star on their helmet. This little symbolic gesture, last seen in Dallas during Bill Parcells' tenure, was reintroduced by Jason Garrett in 2011 after he had taken over the head coach.
From first-round draft pick Byron Jones all the way through to the last undrafted free agent, none of the rookies wear a star on their helmet during practice.
The idea is that all rookies must first earn 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 the game against the 49ers, every player on the field wore the Star on his helmet, but that is more likely due to some obscure NFL rule than a sign that all players have already earned their star. Practice this week continued without the star on the helmets for the rookies, and while they'll get to wear a star again against the Vikings tomorrow, 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 some of my fellow BTB writers about who those rookies could be, and here are their choices:
I'll say the following have: Byron Jones, Randy Gregory, Damien Wilson, Ryan Russell, Geoff Swaim, La'el Colllins. And I think Laurence Gibson is very close to earning his as well.
Why? All have played well, and most have flashed some impressive upside. None of them will be kept merely because they are a Jerry Jones draft pick, which has been the case in the past.
Also: I don't think either Chaz Green or Mark Nzeocha have "earned" theirs, but doubt the Cowboys will release either one outright - especially Green. Too high a pick and too much potential. He was the best at "mirroring" in the last draft class...
The three first round guys have all earned their stars, including Mr. Gregory earning an extra gold star for his strong surge out of the gate.
Wilson and Russell have both showed why the team went after them, but they have consistency issues that still need developing before they can take on a larger role. Both have earned their stars.
Swaim's issues with blocking is odd since it was assumed that was going to be his primary role on the team. He's done well in the passing game so he has shown he has that part to his game. He's not going to be the Cowboys space TE so I would really like to see him improve his blocking. If he's going to challenge Hanna for that role in the team's offense, he'd better pick it up in that department.
Gibson is coming along great. Initially, I was thinking we'd roll with just eight offensive linemen and we could have him on our practice squad, but now I don't think I want to risk losing him. Gibson doesn't always take on the same caliber edge rushers that Weems does, but he's done a great job with what he's been asked to do and could be closing the gap for that swing tackle position.
I agree with Rabbs pretty much.
I think Gregory has the best shot to be a starter this year. I have been really impressed by what I've seem from him.
If Gibson continues the trajectory he's set, he'll earn his star as well. I think Ryan Russell may put Ben Gardner on the practice squad, and I LOVE Gardner.
Since it is still a ways to go, I think Jones, Gregory, Collins, and Wilson are definites. I consider Russell, Swaim, and Gibson as being on the cusp, but roster considerations could force the team to try and get one or more of them to the PS. Green may wind up on IR, so I don't know if that qualifies. Nzeocha may only be a PS or IR candidate due to missing so much time.
Lucky Whitehead would have merited consideration a week or so ago, but he has literally dropped the ball and may miss out. The only other UDFA who I think is coming on really strong is Obada, but the number of good rushmen make it hard to see how he can be anything other than a PS candidate.
For now I would say that the big three of Jones, Collins, and Gregory have earned their star already. Guys like Lucky Whitehead are well on their way. One who may not have earned the star yet but who has caught my eye is the undrafted passer, Showers.
Assuming that at least some rookies have met Garrett's criteria for wearing the Star, who would you award a Star to?