IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys begin their mandatory three-day camp Tuesday, which will be the final opportunity for the coaches to work with the players before the start of training camp in July.
Here are some thoughts of what we will be talking about this week.
· Last week during OTAs, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher received more work inside at the one and the three techniques, respectively. I am going to be very interested to see if that continues. Reports that I heard from the field were that Ratliff looked quick and powerful playing the three. I truly believe that if this defense is going to be successful, Jay Ratliff is going to have to play a huge role. When Ratliff was out of the lineup, it was Hatcher playing in that spot with Sean Lissemore and Nick Hayden working as the one.
Lissemore has been working with Ben Bass with the twos and that has been a nice combination. Bass has been one of those players that has looked a little better each practice and would not be one bit surprised if he makes that jump that we spoke about in training camp when the pads come on. I am liking the movement from the backup defensive ends as well. Tyrone Crawford looks stronger and Kyle Wilber more comfortable playing with hand down than as a linebacker.
· During the rookie minicamp, I thought that B.W. Webb was the best player on the field. But since the veterans have joined the practices the last three weeks, I haven't noticed him as much as I had before. In these camps, there has been a great deal thrown at these rookies to learn but this scheme is nowhere as complex as what Rob Ryan ran here the last two seasons so I do not believe it's a mental situation with him, because I have not heard one negative comment about his ability to learn.
In these next three practices, I am going to play very close attention to see how he handles the opportunities presented to him. I honestly believed that he could have pushed Orlando Scandrick for that nickel role from what I observed from Scandrick last season and how Webb played on college tape, but it has been Scandrick that has shown up better to this point and is playing like he doesn't want to lose that spot. There is no doubt that training camp will tell the story for Webb and where he fits in but I feel like it's important for him to close these practices on a solid note heading for Oxnard.
· Since day one of these camps, Travis Frederick has been the starting center over Phil Costa despite the fact that Costa has more than held his own when given the opportunity and at times has even outplayed Frederick technique wise. I have said this a couple of different times on our Talkin' Cowboys shows that I expect Frederick to remain at center and work with the ones throughout the summer but something to keep an eye on as we move forward here, the minute that you see Frederick getting some reps at guard, which hasn't happened at all in these camps, that would tell me that Costa is making a push to get on the field.
The one advantage that Costa has other than experience is that I feel like he has a better understanding of how to use his feet to put himself in position to gain and maintain leverage on the down linemen. Costa is one of those players that looks bad when he has to one-on-one block with power but when he can move to get into position, you see him finishing the block. It's just a feeling that these coaches will not put Costa at guard even if he is playing well and Frederick still beats him out. If there is a move at guard for one of the starting guard spots, I believe it will come from Frederick or Leary keeping Costa at center. Something I will be following closely this summer is how and when they use Travis Frederick.
· It has been a positive sign in my eyes to see all these rookies to get opportunities with the veteran players. Guys like Terrence Williams, J.J. Wilcox, and Gavin Escobar have been rolling in with the ones learning what is expected of them going forward. If there has been a negative or two, it's been guys like Joseph Randle and Jakar Hamilton have not practiced and will not get a chance until we get to Oxnard because of injuries. I did get to see Hamilton work in the rookie camp which caught my eye because there is something there with his game. We have to remember that Hamilton started his career at Georgia before he transferred to South Carolina State and was a starter for the Bulldogs as a true freshmen, so he can play some big time football. For Randle, he too has played big time football but he will come in behind Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar on the depth chart and is really going to have to hit the ground running in Oxnard. What Randle is up against is that Tanner and Dunbar have been very productive in the practices plus they have that experience in their back pocket.
By missing these practices, Randle and Hamilton are missing the reps, because when they make mistakes, the coaches can correct them now instead of later. When we get to Oxnard, it will be about getting ready for a season and the pace is much different. I have always felt that these camps are so important not for the physical aspects of it but for the mental ones. I am not saying that Randle and Hamilton will not be able to function well at training camp but it would have been nice to [embedded_ad] see them on the field these last several weeks making progress like some of their younger teammates that have a nice jump getting themselves ready for training camp.