IRVING, Texas –Minicamp and Organized Team Activities have wrapped up and the players won't be seen on the field again until they head to training camp in July.
This week's mandatory minicamp gave everyone a final look at where the rookies could be slotted and how Monte Kiffin's defense might look after all the changes this offseason.
Here are some standouts and predictions after watching minicamp:
Nick– I really think Sean Lissemore is going to thrive with this defense. He's an athletic player in a 300-pounders body. He can get up the field and he can hold his own against the run. I really think the 3-4 scheme was a bad fit for him because he was a natural "tweener." But in this scheme, Lissemore should be a perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive tackle. Rod Marinelli did a great job with Henry Melton, and it's not a stretch to think Lissemore can excel.
Rowan– It's tempting to go with Barry Church, but most people already enter the season with rather high expectations for the safety. So instead, let's go with Tyrone Crawford. The 2012 third-round pick gave reason to believe in his potential last season. This switch to 4-3 end could help him create pressure. With the Cowboys franchising Anthony Spencer, they may need to develop another player to take his place next season. They've kept Crawford at end for a reason.
Bryan – I have really liked what I have seen in these camps from Lance Dunbar and potentially his role as the third back in this offense. In the open field he has been outstanding catching the ball and making people miss and that includes Sean Lee who is the best cover linebacker they have. I can see Callahan creating some packages that puts him one-on-one with defenders allowing him to use his quickness. Jason Witten and I were talking about him recently and he couldn't say enough good things about his potential ability and I agree.
David – Morris Claiborne. We had a conversation as a staff about whether Claiborne qualifies, considering he's already a starter. I'm putting him here because I expect him to make a Dez Bryant-type jump in his second season. He's bulked up a little bit, he's had a complete, injury-free offseason to prepare and he should have much better safety help in 2013. And speaking of Bryant, Claiborne has also been tasked with defending one of the game's best receivers throughout the offseason. He doesn't win every matchup between the two, but there's no better preparation than working against Dez Bryant every day. I think Mo delivers on the No. 6 pick hype this season.
Best Rookie Of Offseason:
Nick – Lots of good players to choose from but I'll stick with the first guy who caught my eye – B.W. Webb. I really think he's going to play a lot this year. Not more than Travis Frederick, who should start. But Webb will play a lot in the nickel and special teams. I truly think he's going to be a very, very good player for this team.
Rowan – J.J. Wilcox is always around the ball. He needs to do a better job of coming up with the interception when it's there for him, but it seems like every practice includes at least one pick or near-pick from Wilcox, who doesn't seem to be experiencing too many growth problems in his jump to the NFL from Georgia Southern. His instincts could allow him to start sooner than people think.
Bryan – I really liked what I saw from Terrence Williams but the best rookie overall in my view was J.J. Wilcox. I believe where Wilcox will show up even more is when they put the pads on and start to play games. I wasn't really sure what kind of player he was in coverage but I knew that he was always going to be around the ball and he has been. He looks comfortable in coverage and he has an understanding where he needs to be and that part of it is impressive for a rookie.
David – I'm honestly a little surprised to be saying this, but Terrance Williams. The Baylor standout was far from impressive when he arrived for rookie minicamp in May. But he seems to have found his comfort zone. His routes are crisp, and his hands have been outstanding in OTAs and minicamp. When Miles Austin sat out of practice this past Wednesday, Williams got the nod as the offense's No. 2 receiver. Not to get too excited, since he hasn't put on any pads yet, but it looks like Williams will be capable of making an immediate impact for the offense.
Position To Watch:
Nick – It always starts up front for me. So it's offensive line. So many question marks across the board here – Can Frederick hold his own? Who wins the right tackle spot? Can the veteran guards stay healthy? Can Leary compete? The offensive line has to be much better. So that will remain my position to watch.
Rowan – Speaking of safeties, that's the one area I'm most interested in following once training camp comes around. Going back to last year, it's the time Church really separated himself. Now, he's the anticipated starter, and another safety has the opportunity to make a similar jump and start next to him. The most obvious candidates for that spot would be Matt Johnson, Will Allen or Wilcox, but it's wide open.
Bryan – Safety, third receiver and second tight end will get a lot of attention but now watch the left guard spot and Nate Livings and Ronald Leary. Livings has struggled some with his knee and how it responds in camp will tell you a great deal about this battle. Leary hasn't had any major issues playing the position from a mental standpoint and has been physical when running with the ones. He is playing well between Smith and Frederick and that is what the front office and coaches wanted to see.
David – I keep repeating myself with this, but I'll continue to say safety. Barry Church and Will Allen continue to look like the favorites to win the starting positions, but there's still a month of training camp left to play through. Matt Johnson continues to play well, and J.J. Wilcox has made some impressive plays for a rookie – including some against the first-team offense. And I imagine Danny McCray will work his way onto the field in some spots when he gets healthy again. It's going to be fun to see them scrap for playing time in the second halves of preseason games.
Romo's Absence Means...
Nick – It doesn't mean much to me … right now. If this lingers into training camp then that's different. But right now, I think it's a good time for Romo to rest his back. And with his new expanded role in the offense, I think he's used his free time wisely on the field.
Rowan – Nothing. Apart from getting the younger players and receivers in rhythm with Romo, not much is being missed with him out there. This time of the season could help Romo get his timing down with players he hasn't played with in Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams, as well as Travis Frederick. But it's more important that Romo's healthy enough to go during training camp when practices start to pick up and the real preparation begins.
Bryan – That his arm will be fresh for camp in a month. It was okay for Orton to get the work and I have no problem with that. Where Romo missed out some would have been when the team worked on this no huddle attack that I believe they have looked into running more to take advantage of one of his great strengths which is allowing him to call the offense on the move. With the extra week of camp and game will help get him back in the grove for the coming season so in my view, there are no issues. [embedded_ad]
David – The Cowboys should try to add another quarterback. I don't think Romo missing workouts means anything for his productivity. But after a month of watching Kyle Orton guide the offense, I'm … not enthused about this team's prospects if Romo misses time during the regular season. The guys behind Orton, Nick Stephens and Dalton Williams, have been far from impressive in their own right. I'm not necessarily saying this team needs to go do something splashy like bring Vince Young or JaMarcus Russell. But there's got to be someone out there who can push these guys for second-string playing time.