Five For Fighting

Barron should get plenty of looks against DeMarcus Ware during training camp practices.

safety-only project. He still gets some looks at cornerback. And if one of the top three guys goes down in a game, I would imagine Ball will slide over to a third cornerback spot and that opens up a spot at safety. Hamlin had a good offseason and there are some people on the coaching staff and in the scouting department who think Hamlin is more of a natural fit at safety than Ball.

Just like the situation with Flozell and Free, the Cowboys cut Ken Hamlin for Ball. And that was with Mike Hamlin still on the roster. What Ball did last year in four games was enough to give him the edge. But Hamlin will get plenty of reps to close the gap and possibly win the job. If he continues to get interceptions, especially off Tony Romo like he did in an OTA practice last week, that will only help his cause.

3.Sam Hurd, WR - One thing we already know . . . Sam Hurd is going to make plays in training camp, especially the portion in his hometown of San Antonio. I think the difference this year is that if Hurd once again pulls in a SportsCenter catch every day like he did last year, the Cowboys won't brush it off this time around.

Let's be honest, Hurd had about as impressive a training camp as you could have last summer. Every pass thrown anywhere close to the Riverwalk was hauled in by Hurd, who probably consumed about 5,000 of those little rubber particles that lie in the field turf of the dome because he was on the ground about every other play. But this year, a strong camp will probably put him over the edge in terms of being that fourth or fifth receiver.

Basically, Hurd is competing against Patrick Crayton and Kevin Ogletree - probably for just two spots. Hurd is easily the best special teams player in the group and if he has yet another camp as a receiver like he did last year, he'll probably convince the staff that his receiving skills are good enough to keep him around yet another season.

4.Jason Williams, LB - Just when the offseason looked like it was going to go Williams' way after the trade of Bobby Carpenter, the Cowboys drafted Penn State's Sean Lee, a player they viewed as a first-round talent. Undoubtedly, Lee is going to get every opportunity to replace Carpenter as the dime backer. That's just how it works. Yes, both Williams and Lee are draft picks, but the most recent pick always seems to get the nod.

However, Williams can still control his own destiny this season. Remember, there are two linebacker spots in the dime and nickel defense. Last year, the Cowboys rotated that other spot between Bradie James and Keith Brooking. And Wade Phillips has mentioned Williams a couple of times this offseason as a player who appears to be turning the corner.

Obviously, both Lee and Williams need to shine on special teams but if Williams can do more than that and excel on the defensive side of the ball, he can make a strong case for playing time, either next to or maybe even ahead of Lee.

5.Marcus Dixon, DE - There's been a lot of talk about this position on the field, but usually Dixon's name isn't mentioned. Marcus Spears is the returning starter, but he's making a half-million a year less than projected backups Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen. That alone is typically a sign of a change on the horizon. And then you've got seventh-round pick Sean Lissemore who could factor into things.

And then there is Dixon, who enters his third season after two years on the practice squad. Many thought he would have a chance to make the team last year before a groin injury in training camp all but ended that idea. Now Dixon returns for yet another try.

By now, he probably never figured the Cowboys would have Spears, Hatcher and Bowen all still around, but the unique CBA system has certainly affected that situation. Still, Dixon has no choice but to fight through it. And if he indeed plays well

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