OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys have arrived at training camp and practice begins Thursday. With that in mind, I wanted to take one last look at some of the biggest position battles of camp.
These are spots that are bound to see a steady amount of rotating between players – at least in the early going of camp, when a pecking order hasn’t been established.
Rotation at left guard:
Of all the battles at training camp, this is the one that has most of my attention. Both Ro
nald Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau played well in their starting assignments in 2013, but when we open the regular season, one of these guys won’t be in the lineup. Leary should have the inside track for the simple reason of how well he worked with Tyron Smith on that left side, but during the OTAs and minicamps, Bernadeau not only looked comfortable on his normal right side but on the left as well – even in the reps he received at center. I believe that each practice, we are going to see Leary the starter one day, then Bernadeau the next until one of them clearly wins the job.
Rotation at right defensive end:
Jeremy Mincey has emerged as a leader on this line through his work at Valley Ranch this offseason, but in my opinion, his starting spot is up for grabs with rookie DeMarcus Lawrence. There is no question that Mincey’s experience will help him in this camp and his ability to work through it, but from what I observed in the earlier camps is that the learning curve for Lawrence appears to be small. Rod Marinelli post-draft spoke of a plan to just use Lawrence on rush downs to start his career until he can learn his craft of playing down-after-down. If there was a silver lining to Mincey missing the majority of these practices in the spring, it was that Lawrence took all the snaps with the first defense and gained some experience working against Tyron Smith. I expect we’ll see Lawrence early and often on that right side regardless of how well Mincey is playing.
Rotation at 4th Receiver:
From the OTA and minicamp practices, it was very clear that Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams were the two starters at receiver with Cole Beasley being worked into the lineup as the third -- not only in the slot but on the outside as well. Dwayne Harris would have most likely been in the mix as the fourth but was injured and did not take part in camp until the final practices. Devin Street received plenty of snaps early, then LaRon Byrd, Jamar Newsome and Tim Benford followed him. My feeling is that the front office and coaching staff would like to see Street have the type of camp that we observed from Williams last season and win that job. What Street is facing are guys like Dezmon Briscoe, Byrd and Benford who have experience in the NFL. Street is going to get every opportunity to win that job first, but keep an eye on the number of snaps each player gets.
Rotation at Fullback:
I am interested to see how Scott Linehan plans to use both Tyler Clutts and J.C. Copeland in this scheme. From what I was able to observe during OTAs and minicamp, the snaps were few and far between but maybe that had to do with the lack of pads in the practice. The point of practice where we will be able to get the most out of this battle will be the 9-on-7 periods where it is just about running the ball with a few play action passes mixed in to keep the defense honest. It will be on those plays where you will see the collisions between Clutts or Copeland and the linebackers to be able to judge their effectiveness. We also need to keep an eye on these running backs to see how comfortable they are able to function with a blocker in front of them. I have always viewed DeMarco Murray as a better one-back runner -- because with his lack of quickness, he didn’t need anyone in front of him slowing him down in getting to the hole. This also might be a luxury in carrying this position on the 53 and that is a decision that must be made.