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Scout's Notebook: Tips On What To Watch During Training Camp Practices

OXNARD, Calif. – It's hard to write a notebook before we've had a real practice. But with the Cowboys set to start training camp on Monday evening, I thought I would run down a list of tips for the coming month of camp.

There's going to be a lot of news coming out of camp over the next few weeks, and it can be hard to sift through all that information. With that in mind, here are some notes I'd recommend you keep in mind as we near the eventual cut down date, when the Cowboys will trim this roster for the regular season.

Here we go:

  • No pads until Wednesday, so practice will have an OTAs and minicamp feel to it for the next two days. From a scouting perspective, pay close attention to where guys line up to start camp and track the number of different spots they play as we work our way to the final roster reduction to 53. If the coaches are putting players in different spots, they're trying to find a spot for them on the club.
  • Will McClay has his scouts in Oxnard for these practices to evaluate the team for the next week to 10 days. While the scouts are in town, they will watch the specific position groups that they cross check during the preparation for the draft. The scouts watch practice film together and have nightly personnel meetings. Toward the end of their time in camp, the scouts will have a final meeting with Jerry and Stephen Jones in order to present their observations while in camp before hitting the road to study other NFL teams and their preseason games for the final cut downs.
  • If you start to hear that a player is making mental mistakes in practice, coaches will correct one or two times but if it continues they will just move on to the next player in line. With 90 men on the roster, there is no time for these coaches to really teach. You either take it from the class room to the field or you don't. From my experience, the last thing a coach will do is play a guy that doesn't know his assignments for the fear of getting someone else hurt.
  • Don't get fooled by the player in camp that everyone is talking about for the first few weeks, then suddenly plays himself off the team. The coaches and scouts are looking for consistency throughout and for some players that's difficult to maintain. Rookies would be smart to watch the veteran players and how they manage themselves on and off the field to avoid hitting that training camp wall.
  • There are several positions on this roster where the talent level is so deep it will not allow a young guy to make the final 53. This is where the practice squad player comes into place. Coaches and scouts love the guy that might lack a little talent or seasoning at this time but could develop into prospect in a year. Practice squad candidates never miss a practice, take every snap when the position group is dealing with injuries and flash a play or two late in a preseason game to get noticed. As we are working through this camp, I will be able to identify those players for you -- but you can also get an idea of those players if you listen to Jason Garrett in his daily press conferences.
  • The Cowboys keep an emergency list of players in case they have to make a move on the roster in case of injury. Bill Parcells used to call this our "Tidewater Team" after the AAA affiliate for the New York Mets. The board is broken down by position and will contain anywhere from five to 10 guys that they feel comfortable bringing in. The pro personnel department has been keeping a list of these guys all spring and just recently worked out some running backs on Friday to add to that list. As training camp wears on, your emergency list looks like a three-day old turkey after Thanksgiving that is nothing but skin and bones -- until that final cut down, where you re-work your board. Another thing to keep in mind is that after a week of practice, McClay and his staff will call around the league to see if anyone has some surplus at a position and might be willing to make a trade straight up for some of their own surplus.


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