IRVING, Texas– About three days into training camp last season, the Cowboys needed bodies on the defensive line and called on a few guys to join the team out in Oxnard, Calif. One of them was George Selvie, who went from "camp body" to the starting lineup in a matter of weeks.
What helped Selvie was his first preseason game against the Dolphins when he flashed for two sacks in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. And Selvie proved he wasn't just a one-hit wonder, riding that wave of momentum through the preseason and eventually starting for Anthony Spencer at left defensive end.
Heading into this year's camp, there were questions about who would become this season's George Selvie?
For now, defensive tackle Zach Minter is leading the pack.
And while Selvie joined the team early in camp, Minter arrived just five days ago, practicing only once with the team out in Oxnard.
Before he knew it, he was in uniform with his new club, playing mostly in the second half with the third-team defense. Minter kept showing up, though, recording two sacks and a tackle for loss. It was even to the point where head coach Jason Garrett was getting rare sideline requests.
"Players were coming up to me and literally hit me, 'Don't take 79 out.' They didn't even know who the hell he was," said Garrett, who already has the coaching staff calling Minter "Flounder" from the movie Animal House. "He's got a little bit of that Flounder look to him. He didn't have a Flounder look to him when the ball was snapped, though. He really showed up. He impacted the game, made tackles for loss, affected the quarterback, sack, fumble, all those things."
While Minter did most of his damage against second- and third-teamers, don't expect that to be the case this Saturday in Miami.
Minter took some first-team reps at the 3-technique spot (under tackle) during Tuesday's practice. Don't forget the Cowboys are still without veteran Henry Melton, who has a groin injury, but is also rehabbing a knee injury from last fall.
Minter took some snaps from rookie free agent Davon Coleman, who started the first two preseason games in Melton's absence.
"Right now, I'm just trying to figure out what I did last game to get better," said Minter, who spent last season with the Bears and played two games. "Whether it's with the 1s or 3s, I'm going to go out there every practice to try and help our defense win."
Obviously the Cowboys would like to evaluate him against better competition, which is the plan for Saturday. But Garrett said the last thing Minter should do is apologize for playing well against backups.
"That was the opportunity that was in front of him," Garrett said. "Here's the opportunity. Here are your plays in practice. Here are your plays in the game. Show us what you can do. We are going to watch the tape and evaluate. We're going to see who we like best based on what you do out there. It doesn't really matter where you came from, and I think he's a good example of that." [embedded_ad]
Garrett did say he told Minter "the only easy day is yesterday," meaning he can't pat himself on the back for too long. It's time to get back to work and improve. Fortunately for the Cowboys, Minter seems to recognize that mentality as well.
"For the sake of playing well and making the team, I have to forget about last week," Minter said. "I've worked hard to get to this point. So making the team and having the star on my helmet would be great. But I have to keep playing hard and trying to figure out how to get better than last week."
Considering he hasn't even been with the Cowboys a full week, he knows this will be an uphill climb. That's why he made sure to seek out a player that has been down a similar path. It didn't take long for Minter to hear about Selvie's quick jump, so he's already had conversations with the defensive end, who is projected to start once again.
"He's like, 'What did you do last year?'" Selvie recalled. "I'm like, 'Same thing you did.' You know what I'm saying? It's a good thing he came in and did some work out there."
Minter said he enjoyed his talk with Selvie, which not only gave him more confidence to stick around and make the team, but a real blueprint as well.
"You have to show up big when the lights come on," Minter said. "If you can make yourself noticed and put good things on film, it makes for a great résumé for coaches when they're watching film and thinking about who they want on the team."
The lights will be on again this Saturday in Miami. And from the sound of things, Minter won't have to wait until the second half to see if he can duplicate last week's performance.