Despite completing four weeks of OTAs and mini-camp 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's question deals with that special group of question marks that every teams has. These are guys who have the potential to make a huge impact, but have yet to prove they can do it – the guys that have to prove to the club that they deserve a bigger role than the one they've had so far.
9) Which Veteran Player Needs A Strong Training Camp Performance?
David Helman:Let me just go ahead and be Captain Obvious, as I think it's got to be Morris Claiborne. Who else could it be? The No. 6 overall pick has three interceptions in three seasons, and he had been benched the week before he tore his patellar tendon last fall. Now, he's nine months removed from that injury and the Cowboys' front office – led by Jerry Jones – is hoping he can regain the confidence and ability that made him a first-round pick to begin with. The Cowboys drafted Byron Jones to bolster their secondary, but it'd undoubtedly be huge for this secondary if Claiborne could stay healthy and play up to his potential for one year. It's not only big for the Cowboys, but for Claiborne himself. Dallas didn't pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, so this is his final year under contract. He needs to prove to someone – be it the Cowboys or another team – that his future is trending upward.
Nick Eatman: I'm going to go with one of the more popular practice squad players in Cowboys history and say Ryan Williams. Here's a guy that fans love to talk about, probably because he was once a high second-round pick that hasn't been able to stay healthy during the first part of his career. What we saw last year in the preseason games was certainly positive. But he not only didn't make it up to the Cowboys' roster last year, he didn't land with another team, either. When it comes to running the ball, Williams might be as good as any of the players on this roster. But there are other things about the running back position that he needs to work on. This might be a put-up-or-shut-up training camp for a lot of players and I would think Williams fits in here. Personally, I'd like to see him run the ball behind the first-team offensive line. Last year, he did some nice things behind the third group. But he's got some work to do. I don't see him spending another year on the practice squad so it's probably going to be the 53-man roster here or somewhere else in 2015.
Bryan Broaddus:The obvious answer to this question would be Morris Claiborne but I am going to take it in a different direction. Offensive tackle Darrion Weems has been with the club since December of 2012 and has yet to live up to the promise the front office believed he had. He has had his chances in the past but it has always been something that has held him back. With Jermey Parnell now off to Jacksonville and the club grabbing La'el Collins after the draft – Weems is really at the crossroads of his career whether he could be that reliable swing tackle that every team covets. If Weems is able to build on the strides that he made during the OTAs earlier in the year where he took the majority of the snaps with the first offense while Doug Free was still rehabbing his injured foot – there will be a place for him. If Weems struggles or is ineffective then we could see Collins or fellow rookies Laurence Gibson and Chaz Green fill in that role. Darrion Weems needs to prove to this front office and coaching staff that he is in fact the player that they believed he could one day become – his time is now.[embeddedad0]
Rob Phillips: If Jason Garrett read this question he'd probably cringe – all 90 guys need strong training camps, right? I'll spotlight Brandon Weeden here because he's gotten much fewer offseason reps behind a healthier Tony Romo than last year when Romo didn't participate in the spring due to his surgically-repaired back and never practiced more than two straight days in training camp. The Cowboys need their second-year backup quarterback to remain sharp because Romo, no matter how good he feels, is always one hit away from the sideline. It happened in Week 8 last fall against Washington; Weeden looked great in spot duty that night and had difficulties the following week against a stingy Cardinals defense. The Cowboys hope to find out more about third-stringer Dustin Vaughan's development in camp, too. But Weeden's had a solid offseason, showing a better overall comfort level with the scheme, and you'd expect that to continue out west in Oxnard.
#17 - Who Emerges As This Year's Surprise Camp Standout?
#16 - What Can We Expect From Morris Claiborne in 2015?
#15 - Which Cowboys Player Will Make His First Pro Bowl In 2015?
#14 - Which Position Will Be Toughest To Trim Down At Final Cut
#13 - Which Performance From 2014 Will Be The Hardest To Match?
#12 - How Should Cowboys Handle McClain's Suspension?
#11 - Which Cowboys Rookie Will Make The Biggest 2015 Impact?
#10 - Can The Cowboys' Defense Become Among NFL's Top 10 Units?