Despite completing four weeks of OTAs and minicamp practices, several things remain unsettled for the Cowboys. When the team reports to training camp on July 28 in Oxnard, Calif., several questions still need answers.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rob Phillips, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – will attempt to answer these questions before the start of training camp.
Today, the staff continues the series with an attempt to answer which first-round talent (Byron Jones, Randy Gregory or La'el Collins) will make the biggest impact as a rookie.
11) Which of the Big 3 rookies contributes the most in 2015?
David Helman:Of that trio, I've got to go with Byron Jones as the most likely to make a serious impact. As we sit here ahead of training camp, I haven't seen anything from Collins that convinces me he will beat out Ron Leary as a rookie. There's no doubt about Gregory's talent, but his size and inexperience leads me to believe he won't serve much as an every-down player in 2015. Jones, on the other hand, has the talent to contend for either the No. 3 cornerback job or potential a spot as a safety. Given his athleticism, I think the Cowboys will find ways to get him onto the field in a lot of situations, and he could benefit from that in a big way. Long-term, I think Collins might be set up to have the best career, but I like Jones' odds in 2015.
Nick Eatman: I'm not sure which of the three will play the most, although I would lean towards Jones. But I think the guy who will have the biggest impact is Randy Gregory and he might end up playing the least of the three. While he might be a bit undersized right now to be a three-down player, the Cowboys don't exactly need that from him right now. Gregory comes in on nickel pass rush downs when it's third-and-12 and attacks the quarterback. That's exactly what Gregory is ready to do in this league and that's why I think he will end up with about eight or nine sacks this year. He might get pancaked a few times but he'll win some battles, too. For that, I think Gregory makes the biggest impact over Jones and Collins.
Rob Phillips: Byron Jones has the best chance to contribute early because he's got a couple different potential playing spots. He could push for the second or third cornerback job or he could wind up competing at free safety. Either way, if he's one of the best five defensive backs in the coaches' eyes, they'll find a way to get him on the field. Gregory will be counted on during Greg Hardy's suspension – he has worked hard to add weight to help him hold up as an every-down player – but his early role might be rushing in clear pass situations. (On a defense that finished 28th with 28 sacks last year, that's a valuable job, by the way.) It appears Collins will have to beat out incumbent starter Leary, who was a big part of the team's running success on the left side last year. For what it's worth in non-contact workouts, Jones looked the most consistent and comfortable of the three rookies.[embeddedad0]
Bryan Broaddus:I could easily make a case for Jones here while playing in the nickel and dime packages, but I am going with Randy Gregory. Just from what we were able to see in the way the defensive coaches used Gregory during these practices, I believe they have a plan for him not only in sub packages but also in some normal rotational snaps. What I also have noticed about Gregory is that is he further along in his pass rush techniques than what he showed while at Nebraska, and that should help him in his transition into this defense. The coaches will put him in situations where he has a chance to have success early and often, especially paired with the other linemen on this squad.
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