these coaches aren't exactly convinced on how to get all three involved. They know there are some decisions to be made, roles to be filled. And my guess is, Barber being the perceptive guy I think he is, isn't taking any starting status or number of snaps for granted. Plus, he doesn't have What's His Name around telling him to invoke his Pro Bowl status.
So guarantee you, come training camp, those guys will be running as if they, too, are Keon Lattimore.
Next, wide receiver. My guess is 1½ spots are solidified: Williams starts at one receiver and there is a good chance Patrick Crayton starts at the other. But not guaranteed. If healthy, Miles Austin could have something to say about that. And if Austin isn't starting, don't think he's automatically guaranteed the third spot. Sam Hurd might have something to say about that.
And if either of those guys don't have a good preseason or neither, then their roster spots become susceptible to some guy without a job or out there on waivers. Same for Isaiah Stanback once he returns from knee surgery, or Travis Wilson, if he can return in time from what appears to be impending knee surgery. No one has any slack.
There is a job opening at nickel linebacker next to James, the one vacated by Kevin Burnett's free-agent departure. Bobby Carpenter is there now, but that's more of an opportunity than a guarantee. The Cowboys know Brooking has played the spot in the past and drafted Jason Williams with their first pick this year (third round) to play the spot in the future, if not sooner. Carpenter probably senses a former first-round pick better claim more than a special teams job in his fourth season if he expects to be around.
So no days off there.
Maybe left guard. Incumbent starter Kyle Kosier is making triply sure his surgically repaired foot is ready to be stepped on or step on anything again. He's purposely being held out of these no-pad drills to put more distance between surgery and necessary contact for those repaired bones and ligaments. That means Montrae Holland is getting the opportunity of a career to showcase just what he can do this off-season. And offensive lineman Pat McQuistan, working behind Holland now at left guard, surely realizes entering his fourth season it's put-up or shut-up time.
No margin for error there, and the same can be said for Doug Free, entering his third season, since the Cowboys spent their second draft choice this year on fellow tackle Robert Brewster.
There is more. Who is the backup nose tackle, Junior Siavii, Jonas Seawright, the rehabbing Tim Anderson (foot) or a player to be brought in later?
The third tight end spot is Mississippi River-wide open. There's Rodney Hannah, whose broken finger has him sidelined and opening up valuable practice snaps for sixth-round pick John Phillips, recently-signed Scott Chandler and rookie free agent Jamar Hunt. No one has even a foot in the door there.
And one more vital responsibility for sure is up for grabs: backup defensive ends. The good money would be on Spears and Olshansky to start. But how many backups are you going to keep? Last year the Cowboys kept two, Hatcher and Bowen. But here comes Dixon, last year's practice squader, breathing down their necks with the coaches knowing he's a first-year guy and they're in the final years of their contracts - meaning not much job security.
Now it goes without saying rookie quarterback Stephen McGee better not have too many bad days if he plans on convincing the Cowboys to keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Then, too, last year's special teamers Justin Rogers and Steve Octavian will have their hands full making the 53-man roster with all those rookie linebackers lurking around.
And none of this even accounts for all the Julius Crosslins, Kevin Ogletrees and Ryan Gibbonses out there, knowing every day they must make a name for themselves or else.
Admit it, this makes you smile, and what most have been calling for over the past few seasons: no free lunches. Better work hard and produce, or else. Better be team-oriented or else.
We have What's His Name as Exhibit