1. Greg Ellis
2. Keith Davis
3. Draft Picks Signing
4. Roster Moves/Cuts
5. Weather in California
Well, Ellis certainly didn't begin camp on the best of terms. He said he didn't want to be here and wasn't happy about playing outside linebacker, especially without a new contract. But things have changed since then. While Ellis might not be as comfortable in his new role, he's playing rather well. In fact, head coach Bill Parcells and owner Jerry Jones both mentioned Ellis' adjustment to the new position as one of the biggest bright spots in camp.
The Keith Davis situation hasn't been a big story at all. Despite getting shot twice (back of the head, leg) just days before camp, Davis continues to lead the free safety competition. So far, we haven't seen any effects from the incident, and it's basically been a non-issue.
All of the draft picks signed as expected - they always do.
As for the roster moves, there haven't been any big surprises. Feel bad for safety Darrell Brooks and guard Shannon Snell, who were cut before practice started.
And the weather, well, that could go down as a disappointment. Sure, it's much better than the blistering temperatures in Dallas, or anywhere in Texas for that matter. But forgive us if we weren't blown away this year by the sunny California weather. A lot hotter than we expected (So hot, you couldn't even buy a little fan here in Oxnard).
1. Jason Hatcher
2. Anthony Fasano
3. Bobby Carpenter
4. Skyler Green
5. Montavious Stanley
Bombed on this one. Ask Parcells now which two draft picks have surprised him the most and he'll likely name two guys not on that previous list.
Yeah, fifth-round pick Pat Watkins and seventh-rounder Pat McQuistan both have a legitimate chance of making this team. OK, scratch Watkins, because he's in. Not only is he making the team, Parcells said he's in the mix to possibly start at free safety. My guess: Davis starts at free safety again, but Watkins will replace him on the nickel like Willie Pile did last season.
McQuistan probably won't have a huge role at all this year - at least the Cowboys hope not - but don't expect him to get cut.
As for the other rookies, Hatcher has done some good things, but apparently that's more
against the pass. He's not a big run-stopper just yet. That means he'll be more of a nickel guy.
Fasano has a big role in this offense as expected. Carpenter will play, but probably more on special teams and in the nickel defensive packages. Ellis' emergence at outside linebacker will probably limit his chances of starting.
For Green, it's simple. He needs to be the return specialist, preferably on both punts and kickoffs. But Parcells says he's mainly evaluating Green on punt returns, and he must excel, because it doesn't appear the club has much faith in his ability to play receiver right now.
Top 5 Rookie Free Agents To Watch:
1. Sam Hurd
2. Miles Austin
3. Kai Parham
4. Demetris Summers
5. Jeff Mroz
OK, before I can get all excited about getting the top one right, I can't hide the fact that two of the other four players are no longer on the team. And the other two are barely hanging on as well.
But Hurd has been better than anyone anticipated. If anyone has benefited from T.O.'s hamstring injury, it has been Hurd. Not only did Owens use his down time to tutor the rookie receiver after practices, but injuries to Owens, Terry Glenn and Patrick Crayton have given Hurd a chance to run with the first-team offense. Instead of just trying to make the roster, Hurd now has a legitimate chance to contribute this year.
Austin and Summers are probably just practice-squad hopefuls. If I had a redo, names such as Oliver Hoyte and D'Anthony Batiste would be included. And even though Abram Elam isn't technically a rookie, he needs to go on someone's list because the first-year safety has a decent-to-good chance of making the team.
Top 5 Non-T.O. Players To Watch
1. Keith Davis
2. Flozell Adams
3. Mike Vanderjagt
4. Julius Jones
5. Kyle Kosier
Not much has changed, though this one was easy. There are plenty of players to watch, and these five are all ones to keep an eye on. Davis is still battling for the free safety job, but he'll probably win it. Flozell Adams hasn't returned to Pro Bowl form, but he's not competing with anyone.
The Cowboys are being very cautious with Adams, who is returning from last year's torn ACL injury. Parcells said he's never had a player with Adams' size try to come back from reconstructive knee surgery.
Mike Vanderjagt hasn't done much of anything, but Parcells said he's got a plan for his kicker, who will likely attempt field goals Monday night and then hopefully kick off for the first time against San Francisco in the third preseason game.
As for Jones, we still haven't seen much yet, though it's been only one preseason game. While Marion Barber has looked better in practice, it's too early to make any judgment on the two. But guess what? Parcells doesn't have to decide between the two. They're both going to play.
Top 5 Position Battles
1. Free Safety
2. Right Tackle
3. Third WR
5. Backup DT
Probably would move right tackle into the top spot considering it's still up for grabs between three players. Marc Colombo looks to be the current favorite, but Jason Fabini is expected to play the first half Monday night. While Rob Petitti started all 16 games last year, his versatility might ultimately hurt him here. He has been moved to the left side, possibly to be the "swing" tackle.
Davis hasn't won the free safety job just yet, but he'll likely start with Watkins and possibly Marcus Coleman contributing in different packages.
The third wide receiver job should go to Crayton, but his injury is opening
the door for Hurd, Copper and maybe Jamaica Rector. Still think the Cowboys will bring in another receiver - one who can pass a physical this time.
Parcells said Andre Gurode is better at center against 3-4 teams, but the Cowboys won't play any in the regular season. Still, it doesn't appear Gurode is losing his first-team status to Al Johnson anytime soon.
Right now, Thomas Johnson is ahead of Montavious Stanley for the backup nose tackle spot, but there are three preseason games left. Plenty of time for Stanley to get into the mix. And if not those two, Parcells hinted that Jay Ratliff could slide inside, if needed.
Top 5 Veterans On The Block
1. Scott Shanle
2. Marcus Coleman
3. Jason Fabini
4. Al Singleton
5. Kenyon Coleman
Again, this one wasn't too hard, but it seems to be fairly accurate. Both Shanle and Kenyon Coleman were surprise starts last week in Seattle. Parcells said he didn't want to talk about that, which all but screamed the words "Trade Bait." Looks like the Cowboys wanted those two guys to play and get on film so another team can evaluate them. The Cowboys have too much depth at linebacker and defensive end for them to make it.
As for Marcus Coleman and Fabini, Parcells knows more about his former Jets. Coleman gives them versatility with his ability to play two positions. He looks safe. As for Fabini, he needs to play well Monday night.
Al Singleton might have some value on another team, but I wouldn't risk trading him. Ellis is doing nice things in the 3-4, but what if it doesn't work out? Are the Cowboys going to turn to Bobby Carpenter? I think Singleton stays around as another solid veteran with experience. You always need fallback plans, especially ones you can afford.
*Top 5 Questions To Answer *
1. Can T.O. work with Parcells/Bledsoe?
2. Can Vanderjagt kick off?
3. Who backs up Ferguson?
4. What's the deal at running back?
5. Who wins right tackle battle?
Hmmm, training camp is almost over and I've got no answers here. Oh-for-five!
But let's not panic about that just yet. First of all, we're not going to find the answer to the first question right now. The media tried to drive a wedge between Owens and Parcells with the hamstring injury and it didn't happen. And we won't know about the QB-WR relationship until we start playing the games. But Owens says he doesn't' want to be a problem, so until he really becomes one, we'll have to wait and see.
Haven't seen Vanderjagt kick off, but Parcells isn't too worried - yet. The backup defensive tackle spot is up for grabs, but there is plenty of time for someone to step up.
As for running back, it might just be a week-to-week thing. Expect Jones to start and Barber to get more carries on third down, and maybe near the goal line. But if Jones starts to get hot like he did in Seattle two years ago or in Carolina last year, the division of carries is always subject to change.
And right tackle is still open, but probably not for long. The Saints game probably will give Parcells enough information to decide on a starter.
But as I've found out in my attempts to be "right," all of this is just "conjecture," one of Parcells' favorite words in this year's camp.
I was right on a few, bombed on some others. But one thing is certain - all of it can change at the drop of a hat.
As the head coach, Parcells definitely has the "right" to do that.