With OTA practices in the book, the focus of the coaches and players is now on mini camps. These are no longer voluntary but mandatory so expect to see Mike Jenkins on the field with his teammates but standing on the sidelines observing like Morris Claiborne because he has not been cleared because of off season shoulder surgery. Others that will be standing with Jenkins and Claiborne are Alex Albright, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Danny Coale, Dan Connor, Tyrone Crawford, Felix Jones, Sean Lissemore and Kyle Wilber.
If you are looking for a positive, safety Matt Johnson could make his first appearance since the rookie mini camp after the draft on Thursday. Johnson missed the last three weeks to finish his classes at Eastern Washington and despite not physically being in Irving, Johnson has been able to keep up with all the defensive installation and practice by receiving daily DVD's from the team. Johnson will be in a training camp battle with Brodney Pool and Barry Church to see who starts opposite Gerald Sensabaugh. Johnson is more than talented enough to play the position, because he is a better tackler than Pool but also plays with better range than Church who also is a physical player.
The next three days at Valley Ranch should also help sort out and make a little more sense in how this wide receiver rotation should go before the team leaves for Oxnard. Last week's practice overall for guys like Kevin Ogletree and Raymond Radway was much better. Ogletree and Radway both opened the OTA's with some plays where they lacked concentration in catching passes. Radway's route running also looked stiff but there appeared to have some better flow to it this week. The players that have shown the most these last three weeks have been undrafted free agents Cole Beasley and Tim Benford. Both have shown a great deal of poise as route runners but also the ability to make catches on the move. I don't see Beasley playing on the outside which is the type of player this team needs when they shift Austin to the slot but still he has been a nice surprise to all in camp.
David Arkin will continue to hold onto the job at right guard with Nate Livings on the left side. At the backup left guard is Kevin Kowalski who I think would give Phil Costa a run for his money at center if he was moved back there. Bill Nagy has been taking the back up reps at center but he really hasn't done anything in my eyes to knock Costa off that spot. Maybe I am making too much of a big deal about this position but I have always felt like there needed to be more competition there. If Kowalski was moved back, maybe things would change. At tackle, Pat McQuistan was brought in to compete for the swing tackle job with maybe some reps at guard. McQuistan will be the guy called on to play right tackle in the preseason games so that the offensive line will not be a mess when the team is trying to evaluate these young backs and receivers. With McQuistan on one side and Parnell on the other, the club has a chance to be stable after the 1's go out.
A new position battle I would like to bring your attention to is at running back and that third spot. Phillip Tanner has the advanatge and the experience but I am interested to see how undrafted rookie free agents, Lance Dunbar and Darrell Scott respond. Tanner is getting work at only as a running back but as the personnel protector on the punt team. He is a square protector that really has good technique. Dunbar is quicker with the ball in his hands but is shorter and a few pounds lighter than Tanner. Scott has the size but doesn't have the quickness of the other two. Jerry Jones has always wanted his third running back to play offensive snaps, running, catching and blocking but be a factor on special teams. One of these backs will be that guy and be a part of the 53-man roster.