Competitive Tension


skip a beat. 

Survival of the fittest tends to make everyone fitter. 

How about the safety position? The first roster salvo was fired by firing starter Ken Hamlin. That certainly got everyone's attention. And since the Cowboys haven't replaced him with a veteran free agent and nor did they draft a safety until Owusu-Ansah in the fourth round, there is nothing better than an all-comers competition for the starting free safety job. 

Alan Ball might be considered the leader, but by no means owner of an insurmountable lead. Right on his tail are Mike Hamlin and Pat Watkins, and maybe now Owusu-Ansah. And if there is a rookie free agent to keep an eye on, that would be Barry Church, a four-time All-MAC first-team selection . . . at safety. 

Nothing wrong with that. 

There should be some anxiety in that offensive line room even if seemingly at least four of the starting five spots are locks, and it seems replacing Flozell Adams is Doug Free's job to lose. But those backups? 

The Cowboys essentially will add last year's third-round pick Robert Brewster, who spent last season on PUP. They drafted offensive tackle Sam Young in the sixth round and have showed enough interest in practice squadder Travis Bright to keep him around. They have agreed to re-sign Holland. So if you happen to be Duke Preston or Pat McQuistan or Cory Procter, you had better not be taking anything for granted. 

At fullback, while the Cowboys didn't draft one, they did sign an interesting possibility in rookie free agent Chris Gronkowski of Arizona. And if his off-season screw-up didn't put Deon Anderson on notice enough, this signing should grab his attention, along with tight end John Phillips' increased ability to handle H-back duties.  

Even without the addition of significant guys, there is some inherent competition at positions like running back, defensive end and tight end, where inner-squad battles for snaps already exist. And count kicker, too, where David Buehler, being groomed as the next place kicker, is competing against every out-of-work kicker out there. Hey, there is no guaranteed playing time for Felix Jones, Marion Barber and Tashard Choice. Same with Marcus Spears, Igor Olshansky, Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen. All better come with their best stuff. 

Or else, especially with Lissemore, Marcus Dixon and Washington lurking in the wings. 

Somewhere Jones is smiling. 

And no matter that Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips told his veterans before the draft, "The guys we were counting on were the guys on our team. The players are all working out. I got them all together and told them the draft comes up every year; there's always competition, but I'm counting on you guys. I'm counting on you guys to make a difference on this football team. If someone comes in to compete, that's part of the game. Don't get your feelings hurt no matter who we take. 

"I even kidded with Romo and told him if we take a quarterback, you have to smile and go on. That's true if there would've been a quarterback there with that value. I explained that to the team, and I think they understood that. All of them were there." 

Maybe. But word to the wise, probably with the exception of Tony Romo: Don't take Wade literally because after Friday's second practice he told all the new guys "there is opportunity for anybody." 

"That's what I told our whole team, these rookies," Phillips continued. "We have a first-round pick in DeMarcus Ware that's done really well. We have a seventh-round pick in (Jay) Ratliff that's done really well, and we have free agents that have done really well (Romo, Austin, Hurd, Ogletree). 

"So the opportunity is there for all of them." 

Let the battles begin since just possibly only the strength of their roster is stronger than the Cowboys' ridiculously strong strength of schedule. 

And now you get the picture.     

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