April 6, 2004, 2:44 p.m. (CDT) --->
- * Demarcus Ware: While the Cowboys had the 11th pick in the draft working behind Kalen Thornton at right outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense during the last mini-camp, don't expect that to last. Ware appeared to be the real deal - at least without pads. Now pass rushing is one thing, and a scout once told me a speed-rushing rookie defensive end can have the biggest impact if all he's asked to do is rush the passer. If the Cowboys are in the 3-4, Ware needs to do more - play the run and drop to cover backs and tight ends. Might the Cowboys finally have found what they've been thirsty for all these years?
Projected Role: Starter.
* Marcus Spears: Just what the doctor ordered, especially if the Cowboys plan on staying in this 3-4 defense. A big, stout but rangy, athletic defensive end who can anchor the left side against the run, yet still disrupt things inside with his pass rush. An essential ingredient for the 3-4, but likely can play inside or outside in the 4-3. A budding leader, you watch.
Projected Role: Starter.
* Kevin Burnett: Hard to tell on Burnett, since he was on crutches during the second mini-camp following hip surgery. He's expected to be ready for the start of training camp, but I'm guessing the surgery will have his conditioning a tad behind. He'll be playing catch-up here over the next month instead of getting ahead of the game. That means he starts off at a deficit to veteran Al Singleton, the guy he must beat out to become a starter at left outside linebacker. Probably needs to be bigger to man that position which must stand up to the run, but then it's not as if Singleton (6-2, 236) is any bigger than the rookie (6-2, 239).
Projected Role: Backup/special teams player at beginning who rolls in at times for coverage purposes.
* Marion Barber:
The jack-of-all-trades running back. Can spell starter Julius Jones. Will play special teams, possibly even handle kickoff returns. Seems dependable enough to come in on third down, if needed. And appears to have decent hands. Might become the best backup running back the Cowboys have had since Chris Warren.
Projected Role: Versatile backup/special teams guy.
Chris Canty: The Cowboys are holding their breath on this one. Canty might be one of those boom or bust guys. He certainly has the talent to be a great big boom. But again, he does have the eye surgery and knee surgery hanging over his head. The Cowboys figure Canty should be ready for contact by at least the second week or so of training camp. Maybe even by the start. He has just resumed his knee rehab full-go after the follow-up eye surgery for his detached retina caused him to hit the pause button for a couple of months. We'll see. Chances are the Cowboys line him up at defensive end in the 3-4 behind Greg Ellis and Spears. Could be versatile enough to play both sides, but I'm guessing the Cowboys would like someone with his athletic ability behind Ellis if indeed they want to cut down Ellis' snaps. But the nagging questions are: When will he be ready and how does the repaired retina hold up to contact? Hey, that's why the guy was there for the taking as late as late in the fourth round.
Projected Role: Backup who becomes part of a defensive end rotation, assuming he's healthy enough to play.
Justin Beriault: Maybe it's just coincidence the first of two sixth-round picks was given No. 40. But he sure displayed some instincts to play free safety. Now it's a matter of making the jump from Ball State to the NFL. And jumping right into the starting lineup, especially at such an important position, might be asking a lot of a rookie. But count on him competing with Keith Davis, Lynn Scott and Reese. He's not afraid of contact, thus maybe just maybe Bill Bates' former number, and seems to have coverage range. Now needs the know-how at this level.
Projected Role: Backup who excels in special teams coverage.
Rob Petitti: Nice-sized offensive tackle who is working to make sure he is not oversized. Here's another left tackle in college, just like last year's second-round pick Jacob Rogers, who is trying to make the conversion to the right side, and with no more than sixth-round talent. A really good college player, but at this level his feet must become quicker. Not very fluid pass blocking, but might very well be a load as run blocker. Will reserve judgment until the pads come on. But if one of the eight draft choices doesn't make the initial 53-man roster, this could be the guy. Hey, just look at the numbers: Adams, Allen, Rivera, Johnson, Stephen Peterman, Ben Noll, Andre Gurode, Torrin Tucker, Kurt Vollers, Jacob Rogers, Tyson Walters. That's 11 right there, and I'm guessing at least two of those guys don't make it. Petitti will have to be better than Vollers or Tucker and Rogers, possibly Noll, to make the team.
Projected Role: Practice squad.
Jay Ratliff: He's the last of the Cowboys' eight draft choices, no more than the 224th pick in the draft. But the seventh-round pick might not be the least. Watch out for this guy. The Cowboys have him listed as a defensive tackle, but think he can play the right side at end. He's feisty, and does have a commodity Parcells is big on: He's 295. And unlike Petitti, the numbers here are in his favor. You'd have to say the for-sures on the defensive line are Glover, Ellis, Spears, Ferguson, Canty (health permitting) and count Ware as a half since he will volley between linebacker in the 3-4 and defensive end in the 4-3. That's 5½. Then you got Leo Carson, Kenyon Coleman and Jermaine Brooks with any amount of experience. And remember, the Cowboys were lining up defensive end Eric Ogbogu at left outside linebacker in the past mini-camp. So Ratliff only has to beat out Brooks and possibly Coleman to make the squad.
Projected Role: Backup defensive lineman.
There you have it, the eight draft choices and bold predictions on
just how they will fit in. I'm guessing the Cowboys would love for all eight to make the initial 53-man roster. But I'm also assuming they would be very happy going 7-for-8, with the lone exception landing on the practice squad.
That, along with, say, six of last year's eight draft choices to make the roster in 2004 returning, would significantly offset those Thirtysomethings causing many to label this an old team. Hey, if that's the case, that's seven from the 2005 draft to make the team, six from the 2004 draft and I'm guessing four more from the 2003 draft. Then there is a distinct possibility of another 10 free agents, ranging from rookies to third-year players, making the team.
Now add that up. That's 27 of your 53 players no more than third-year players. How old is that?
But again, that depends on the 2005 harvest being a bumper crop.