IRVING, Texas - The Cowboys will begin a three-day minicamp on Tuesday at Valley Ranch. This is the first and only mandatory practices of the offseason.
Players missing this week – such as quarterback Kyle Orton who has not attended any of the offseason workouts – are subject to fines.
Each of the staff writers of DallasCowboys.com – Rowan Kavner, Bryan Broaddus, David Helman and Nick Eatman – picked a position they are most intrigued about this week.
Rowan Kavner: When Anthony Hitchens joined the Cowboys, the majority of what we’d heard about was his ability to back up Sean Lee at middle linebacker. But Hitchens said last week he’ll also start learning the weak side linebacker spot, and he now joins a litany of linebackers preparing to play multiple spots.
With those linebacker positions so up for grabs, I’ll have my eye on those three spots during this week’s minicamp. Unlike most positions, it’s not just about determining starters and backups. It’s about determining which position each player will play. Hitchens could play in the middle or at the weak side.
DeVonte Holloman could play in the middle or on the strong side. Justin Durant could play any of the three spots, though it appears most likely he’ll start in the middle. Only Bruce Carter (weak side linebacker) and Kyle Wilber (strong side linebacker) appear to be preparing for only one spot, but even they could end up moving around if more injuries occur. We assume going into this season that Carter will be given every opportunity to look like the player he was in 2012 and earn the weak side linebacker starting spot, but if he stumbles it could be anyone’s job, and the other two spots are anyone’s guess. I’ll be interested to see this week how the coaches plan on rotating out the linebackers and where they decide to line their players up.
Bryan Broaddus: I do my very best to try and focus on all the position groups during these camps but the one area in particular that I will have my eye on is the defensive line. I have been interested in the different combinations in which these defensive coaches have played their guys. This will be our first opportunity to see Jermey Mincey on the right side at end which up until this point has been manned by rookie DeMarcus Lawrence, who has done a nice job.
A player we will not see until camp is George Selvie but in his spot, Tyrone Crawford has lined up there and some at the nickel tackle. Ben Gardner will continue to miss these three practices with a quad bruise which is a shame because the other rookie defensive linemen have been getting nice work. Also keep an eye on how they use tackle Terrell McClain in these practices. McClain has been best defensive line since the squad started practicing on May 27th. McClain has been working in Henry Melton’s spot at the three but with training camp drawing near, could we see him playing more at the one which is his more natural position?
There is going to be a solid training camp battle between McClain and returning starter Nick Hayden and don’t discount, Ken Bishop in the mix as well. I have always viewed Hayden as that bridge to the next guy and in this case, there might be two.
David Helman: For all the talk about the No. 2 quarterback spot, can’t we say the same thing about the Cowboys’ cornerbacks? For all his flaws, Brandon Carr is likely to be the team’s No. 1 cornerback in 2014. Behind him, not much else is certain. Morris Claiborne is the No. 6 overall pick and was the No. 2 corner, but injuries, combined with Orlando Scandrick’s strong play, lost him that job last season.
Claiborne said recently that the job is Scandrick’s, and he knows it’s on him to win the position back. Can Claiborne rise to the occasion, or will Scandrick’s impressive 2013 carry over into a starting role this year? The two have been rotating a lot between No. 2 corner and nickel back during Organized Team Activities.
Scandrick has proven himself capable as a nickel, but if he manages to win a starting spot, Claiborne may well find himself as a non-starter. It seems like a safe bet the coaching staff will continue looking at both players in both positions during minicamp.
That’s not the only unknown among the cornerbacks, either. It’ll be interesting to see how the pecking order takes shape behind the top three. Plenty is expected of B.W. Webb with his second season about to begin, but several guys are hoping to push for a roster spot, as well.
Sterling Moore is once again hoping to make the Cowboys’ roster after acquitting himself well in a limited performance. The Cowboys also spent a seventh-round draft pick on Terrance Mitchell, and undrafted free agent Tyler Patmon has shined during OTAs.
There are nine cornerbacks on the roster. Three of them – Carr, Claiborne and Scandrick – are guaranteed to make the team, and the Cowboys will probably only keep five or six. The battle for the remaining spots should be interesting.
Nick Eatman: Ok, I’ll take the quarterback spot. That’s a given that most of us will be watching anyway. But with Kyle Orton’s uncertain status this offseason, this will be the first time all summer where he will be somewhat expected to attend. Most players don’t like to be fined, so that’s reason enough to get in here and participate. Then again, we’re about to find out how much he wants – or doesn’t want – to be here.
When is the last time a starting quarterback coming off a back surgery was not the main focus of his own position? Tony Romo is easing his way back into action and it’s clear the veteran is not about to let loose just yet. We might not even see that at training camp. So far this offseason, Romo has been held out of team drills so perhaps this week we see increased reps.
A couple of players who certainly haven’t been bothered by Orton’s hiatus or Romo being held out, are Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie. The two have taken most of the snaps and even if Orton returns, Weeden will likely received the majority of reps this week. This is the time where Weeden can prove himself as a legitimate contender for the backup spot, regardless what Orton decides to do.