MIAMI – Magnified by three projected first-year starters, the Cowboys' youth on the offensive line is also evident at backup tackle.
Gone is Alex Barron, known best for his game-ending holding penalty in last year's season-opening loss at Washington. Barron at least had 75 career starts. The Cowboys' current backups, Jermey Parnell and 2010 sixth-round pick Sam Young, have none.
Both should play extensively in Thursday's preseason finale. Both can prove the Cowboys don't need to find a veteran backup swing tackle off waivers or via trade.
"We'd both like them to be coming on a little stronger right now, but in the last few days both of them have improved," offensive line coach Hudson Houck said near the end of the team's two-week practices at Cowboys Stadium. "I think once we get into practicing for one team and not a lot of different things that we're seeing, I think they'll play a lot better."
Young is adjusting to a new 330-pound playing weight after adding about 15 pounds in the offseason. The Cowboys like his potential, but the lockout prevented him from working with new strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik. At times, it has showed.
Eventually, Young thinks the new weight will consistently help his momentum in run blocking and his strength against bull rushes.
"I feel like there's been some improvements," he said. "There's still a ways to go yet, but whether it's Coach or Doug (Free) or anyone else, everyone's helping me. I'm asking questions and I'm trying to get better every day."
Parnell is a raw talent. He played basketball first at Mississippi, and his one year on the football team was at defensive, not offensive line.
"It's a very hard transition," Houck said. "I think eventually he's going to be a real good football player. He's got all the skills, very quick hands, very quick feet. Now he has to learn to hit the other guy. I know that sounds simple, but in basketball you don't necessarily want to hit the other guy."
Parnell does have the right footwork for blocking pass rushers – a skill he learned on the hardwood.
"Like cutting the man off on the baseline," he said. "That's all it is at tackle. Now you can foul them, so that's what I do."
Both will get a long look from the coaching staff on Thursday night.
"Any time you can go and compete it's a great opportunity," Young said, "and you need to take advantage of it."