During our visit to the Dallas Cowboys training camp in Oxnard Ca., I spent a lot of my time doing player analysis. I did take some time for interviews, but I was more concerned with evaluating this group of young players and a couple of the veterans who are going to get some opportunities this year. After much contemplation and review of the video we shot there, I came up with a list of the “Top 10 Players To watch”.
The Dallas Cowboys training camp is actually a battle field. There are 90 men out there fighting for 53 jobs. Every day these guys are leaving their blood, sweat, and tears on the grid iron. They are learning the glory of victory and the agony of defeat.Â They are kicking and clawing in the mud and the blood. Pushing their bodies to the limit. Using every ounce of courage and might that they have to try and get noticed by the coaches.
This is when all of the years of hard work and endless hours in the weight room will either make them or break them. This is when all of the film study needs to pay off. This is when these guys have to reach down deep in to their soul and find that extra ounce of energy to finish the last play of the day in hopes it gets noticed. This is when it is determined whether their childhood dreams of playing in the NFLÂ will come true. This is when they will either earn their star and becomeÂ a Dallas Cowboy, or clean out their locker and go home. Disappointed, defeated, and broken.
I spent a lot of time contemplating which players would make this list, What was my criteria? As someone who spent a good deal of time on the field myself as a young man, I have a fairly decent idea what the coaches are looking for. “Potential” is one of the most overused words when it comes to football.Â Hall Of Fame head coach Bill Parcells said it best:
We are in the player acquisition business, not the “potential” business.
I am looking for heart, discipline, technique, mental toughness, instincts, athletic ability, dexterity, agility, awareness, and strength. My brother-in-law was fortunate enough to get to know Parcells and got a hold of a copy of his draft guidelines that I will include in a future article . Believe it or not, they are still in use by the Dallas Cowboys scouts to this day. How closely they are following them is up for debate. Now that all of the preliminaries are out of the way, I will compile my list. keep in mind, there is no need to include current stars like Romo, Witten, Ware, Bryant etc. This list is the guys who are battling for a spot on the Dallas Cowboys 53 man roster, or former backup/situational players who are battling for a startingÂ job, or to keep their current spot.
It’s okay to have a few projects (players with “potential”), but for an NFL team to be successful enough to make it deep in to the playoffs, they need a multitude of starting quality players. There is no room for penciling guys in just because of their draft status. The best guys should make the roster period. Hopefully this year they cut bait with some of the dead weight and give some of the new guys a chance to shine.
10 players to watch:
- Jason Hatcher: Hatcher has been one of those guys that has fought hard to stay on this team. Despite his age, he has continued to get better every year. I was impressed with not only his versatility, but his technique. He has demonstrated that he can play either the one technique or the three technique effectively. He plays with power and tenacity. I expect to see some big plays from him this year.
- Cole Beasley: Beasley has become everyone’s poster boy. Here we have a guy who was told his whole life that he was too small to play football. This is a guy with “Rudy-Like“ heart. Cole Beasley has defied the odds his entire life. He averaged over 80 catches a season at SMU. The fact he not only made the 53 man roster last year as an undrafted rookie free agent, but showed that he can be very effective in the slot tells me that he will turn some heads this year. I was fortunate enough to talk to him while in Oxnard and the energy he puts off is pure determination. He has excellent instincts and quickness. Beasley has proven that he always manages to get open. Expect him to make an impact this year.
- Lance Dunbar: The Cowboys brought in Dunbar as a project. The strides he made in one season are amazing. He is quick, has good vision, patient, and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Not to mention he has proven to be very effective on special teams. Dunbar should be a Cowboy for a long time.
- JJ Wilcox: I was a little leery about Wilcox because he only had 1 year of experience at the safety position. He has shown that he has good instincts and a nose for the ball. I like his physical style of play and being that the veteran Brandon Carr nicknamed him “ The Red Zone Killer“, and told us that Wilcox was the most improved defensive back in camp. Expect to see some great things from him.
- James Hanna: Hannah is an interesting story. He was brought in as a mid round pick last year and most fans had never heard of him. It didn’t take long for him to get noticed. He runs good routes, has good speed and soft hands. He needs to get stronger and improve his blocking skills, but overall I think he is a better TE than Gavin Escobar. It will be interesting to watch the battle between the two of them.
- George Selvie: Selvie has been around a bit the last few years, but he has turned some heads in camp. I liked his power at the point and his motor. He also has shown some versatility and plays with some quickness. He had a few sacks already in preseason, and I think that coach Marinelli will turn him in to a solid player.
- Landon Cohen: I didn’t know who he was was prior to seeing him in camp. I actually had to look him up on the roster. He caught my attention when I watched him plant the Cowboys 1st round pick Travis Frederick on his backside with a bull rush. I didn’t see him get many reps, but this kid plays with power and showed some flashes of the ability to develop in to a good player. I will keep an eye on him in these final preseason games. I don’t see him making the roster, but he could be a good developmental player for the practice squad.
- DeVonte Holloman: I was really impressed with Holloman. He was all over the field. He has good instincts, is a good tackler, and showed excellent coverage skills. He is always around the ball and already has a couple of interceptions to his credit. I expect him to make the roster.
- Travis Frederick: I was one of the disgruntled fans when the Cowboys drafted him in the 1st round. I still think he was a reach, but after talking to him in Oxnard I realized just how intelligent he is. He has done a good job of learning the line calls and seems to be doing fairly well in preseason. If he can improve his upper body strength and improve his footwork he will be a solid lineman for years to come.
- Alex Tanney: He continues to amaze me. Cas recently did an article on him and I have to agree. He has a high football IQ, excellent leadership skills, good pocket awareness, good arm strength, good anticipation, he is accurate and makes good reads. His instincts are off the charts. Jason Garrett has nothing but positive things to say about him, and I believe he could very well be the #2 QB by next year. If they don’t find a spot on the 53 man roster for him, he will never clear waivers and make it to the practice squad. After his performance against the Cardinals, there will be more than a few teams who will have him on their radar. QB is the hardest position to find in the NFL. I am anxious to see him progress throughout the preseason.
Well, there you have it, the 10 Dallas Cowboys who deserve watching as they prepare for the season opener. Who will you be watching?