FRISCO, Texas – We're just over 40 days from the start of training camp, but there's still a little football left until then.
Tuesday marks the start of the Cowboys' mandatory three-day minicamp. Structured similarly to the previous three weeks of Organized Team Activities, this is the final look at the roster before the club heads to Oxnard the final week of July.
The DallasCowboys.com staff tells you who they'll be watching this week:
Rob Phillips: I'll be watching two young players who stood out in the OTAs: defensive lineman Jihad Ward and tight end Blake Jarwin. The Cowboys thought enough of Jarwin last year to sign him off the practice squad even though they didn't have a defined role for the undrafted rookie. This spring, he's already shown the ability to get down the field and make catches. Ward, who arrived in the Ryan Switzer trade, has a chiseled 295-pound frame. He got extra reps inside at tackle with David Irving sitting out OTAs. So far, Ward seems to fit the Rod Marinelli mold for a tackle: quickness and up-the-field movement. The media only watched one OTA per week, so it'll be interesting to see what type of consistency we see from these two over three consecutive days.
Bryan Broaddus: Let me go on record by saying this. I wish these minicamps were later in the summer, maybe two weeks before we go to training camp. I hate to see these players in great shape only for it to fade some five weeks later while they're off. Give the players more time off on the front end and make it up on the backside. Maybe there would be less injuries during training camp. Who I'll be watching this week is these wide receivers. It's a position that has numbers, but Cole Beasley and Michael Gallup have been the only ones that have consistently shown up. I am looking for guys like Allen Hurns, Noah Brown and Cedrick Wilson to make me feel better about the group heading to Oxnard.
David Helman: I don't want to get too excited, too quickly, but this spring has turned into a heck of an audition for Jaylon Smith. We assumed that Smith's second offseason would bring some progress, and that has proven to be true. The third-year pro has been out at OTAs practicing without a brace on his foot – and he has been flying around. These are non-contact practices, but Smith looks like a guy who is confident and comfortable with what's being asked of him. On top of that, he's the most readily available of any of the Cowboys' top linebackers. Sean Lee has been working on a limited schedule this spring, and Leighton Vander Esch suffered a minor ankle injury that might limit him during minicamp. If that's the case, this week should be a big opportunity for Smith to get even more reps.
Lindsay Draper: After we hosted our annual in house Media Days last week, we had roughly 90 players come through our station. And surprisingly, many of them named dropped Tavon Austin as an impressive teammate. That's what I'm excited for – because we all know Austin has the capacity to impact on a multitude of fronts. But where?! How?! Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was quick to give a sly smile when asked just that. Time to get the popcorn out – and no, T.O. won't be here.
Mickey Spagnola: So much to watch, so little time. Plus, factor in no pads in this three-day minicamp, meaning hard to really judge how offensive and defensive linemen are playing. Hard to tell how well a running back is actually running. No tackling. Same with linebackers. Having said that, me, I'm keeping an eye on wide receivers. Routes. Separation. Hands. That we can tell. There are 12 of them. I'd say 10 have a legit chance to make the team. And to start? Beasley for sure. Probably Hurns. After that in the top three? Better pay attention. And top five or six to make the team? Could there be seven? Let the competition begin.
Nick Eatman: I want to keep my eyes on this safety position and for now, it looks like Xavier Woods is still the guy in the mix here to start. Obviously, the Cowboys haven't gotten any outside help yet and the more it keeps going, the less likely that's going to happen. So I'll keep my focus on Woods, who was around the ball quite a bit last year as a rookie and might just have that knack to make plays. There is a reason the Cowboys have not hit the panic button about the safety spot and apparently Woods and his play so far has kept things calm at that position.