IRVING, Texas –With the rookie minicamp in the books and organized team activities (OTAs) a couple of weeks away, here is what my scout's eye tells me about several areas of the Cowboys' roster to this point:
- Take this one to the bank: Ronald Leary is not going to roll over and let La'el Collins have his job. The front office has done an outstanding job of adding talent and head coach Jason Garrett has always been about competition. Well, they have once again created it.
Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin were all "plug and play" guys. Collins is good and a real asset to this team, but let's not forget what this offense has done with Leary lining up at left guard next to Smith. In the previous two seasons, Cowboys running backs have averaged over six yards a carry off that left side. There is going to be a nice battle there this summer, and if Collins is good enough to take that spot then he will have played his best football, which is all you can ask.
- You might not believe there is depth at a position like defensive line, but there really is. I like what I have physically seen from Ben Gardner and the possibility of him lining up at left defensive end, but keep a special eye on Jack Crawford and what he might bring. With DeMarcus Lawrence the likely starter at that spot, Crawford is going to be given the opportunity to play a major role as a key backup at that spot. Where he really fits is as a first- and second-down defensive end who can move inside and rush from the tackle spot.
Crawford is not a great athlete, and there are times where he will struggle with his bend, but the fact that he can play either end or tackle makes him a very valuable player. I believe that the only thing that set him back last season was injury, but this player has a chance in a rotating system.
- How valuable was Dwayne Harris to this club? The Cowboys have had to make several moves in an effort to replace him. From their college tape it appears that draft picks Damien Wilson and Mark Nzeocha have to ability to help in the coverage aspect of the special teams. They signed a player that was an undersized receiver in Lucky Whitehead with the hope that he can be that dynamic return man he was at Florida Atlantic. But in my opinion the biggest move was going out and grabbing Danny McCray.
McCray can bring that tough, gritty play they got from Harris. Wilson, Nzeocha and Whitehead might one day develop as core type of players, but they are rookies. McCray has been through the battles, and when you are replacing a key member of the squad you need that piece that will not only be consistent in the way he plays but will be steady and dependable – careful not to make huge mistakes. The Cowboys got that back with Danny McCray.
- Here is my warning to all those that read my work here on DallasCowboys.com: This will not be the only time that I mention the work that Dustin Vaughan is going to receive this summer. This front office and coaching staff is going to figure out what they have in Vaughan, especially since they passed on the opportunity to draft a quarterback. The vibe I am gathering is that how well his offseason and preseason goes will go into how the club feels about him going forward, so I fully expect to see him get the majority of the work when the club takes the field in preparation for training camp.
There is no question Vaughan has the size and the talent to play in this league, but the coaches need to bring that out of him. They need Vaughan to make a big jump from where he was in 2014 to now. There are mechanics that he is going to need to clean up and develop some confidence, but there were enough flashes to believe that he could develop into the player that could compete for the backup spot behind Tony Romo and become a future consideration as a starter in this league. Get ready for plenty of Dustin Vaughan talk from Oxnard.