IRVING, Texas- With the Cowboys wrapping up their second week of OTA practices, the team has six more practice days this offseason until the start of training camp. It's not too early for the staff writers of DallasCowboys.com to form their opinions on possible breakout players.
Each writer picked a player who is flying under the radar but could emerge as a player to watch as we get closer to the start of the season.
Bryan Broaddus: Currently the Dallas Cowboys have 11 wide receivers on the roster and that number will likely be reduced to 5 by the time we get to Labor Day Weekend. In my crystal ball, the names I have are Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Brice Butler with one spot still open. There is no question that it is going to be a battle for that final spot with several talented players but the one guy I could see out playing the rest is Vince Mayle. What I think will help Mayle make this team is his toughness. There are going to be practices in training camp where the soreness is going to set in with all the pounding and guys are not going to be able to answer the bell – except Mayle. I believe that he is going to be able to practice every day but more importantly show up in the preseason games and be productive.
David Helman: You've undoubtedly heard his name, given that he was a 2015 draft pick. But I think it's safe to say Mark Nzeocha qualifies as an under-the-radar prospect on this roster. His ACL injury kept Nzoecha off the field until the final month of last season, but he's fully healthy now and benefiting from the increased reps while Sean Lee and Rolando McClain sit out. Now, it might be a bit much to declare that Nzeocha is going to win a starting job. That'll be a tough task, especially considering how much time the Cowboys spend in their nickel defense -- but I expect him to make the most of the opportunities he gets. Given his versatility and athleticism, I think he'll push for a roster spot as a special teamer and a reserve at all the linebacker spots.
Rob Phillips: On and off the Cowboys' roster and practice squad the last two seasons, Keith Smith has provided temporary linebacker and special teams depth. Clearly, the Cowboys like his talent and his effort, and they're looking to give him a legitimate chance to stick on the roster permanently. Maybe fullback is the answer. This is Smith's first real try at the position, but the Cowboys do have an opening for a lead blocker since they have not re-signed Tyler Clutts. Smith has looked comfortable at fullback in OTAs, and perhaps he can earn a roster spot as a core special teams player who can get a few plays on offense in certain packages, too. Rod Smith is also moving from running back to fullback, so it's an interesting position battle that could take shape this summer.
Nick Eatman:Let's go with cornerback Josh Thomas, a player who actually rejoined the team last season and doesn't seem to get a lot of attention right now. But with Orlando Scandrick being held out as he wraps up his rehab, Thomas is getting work as the slot corner, a position he is still learning. Thomas, a fifth-round draft pick of the Cowboys back in 2011, didn't make the team after training camp but has remained in the NFL, playing at least one game for six different teams. Thomas has played 52 games, with 10 career starts. While that doesn't sound like much compared to vets such as Carr and Scandrick, it should give him quite an edge on rookies such as Anthony Brown. And if he can grasp the slot position, it gives him a good chance to stick around and make the team.