Dallas Cowboys Training Camp: Rookie Progress Report
The Dallas Cowboys currently have 22 rookies on their roster; seven drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft and 15 undrafted rookie free agents.
It will undoubtedly be a tough road ahead for some of these players as they try to prove their worth and make the opening day 53-man roster. Let’s take a look at the Cowboys’ 2013 Draft class.
First Round, 31st overall: C Travis Frederick
Second Round, 47th overall: TE Gavin Escobar
Third Round, 74th overall: WR Terrance Williams
Third Round, 80th overall: S J.J. Wilcox
Fourth Round, 114th overall: CB B.W. Webb
Fifth Round, 151st overall: RB Joseph Randle
Sixth Round, 185th overall: LB DeVonte Holloman
Some notable undrafted rookie free agents include:
Under the guidance of head coach Jason Garrett, the Cowboys have made a commitment to building a young team; a youth movement per se.
At the core of his team, Garrett has players like Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant that will carry the franchise for the foreseeable future. I don’t think I’m speaking for only myself when I say that this is a good start, but there’s no denying that too many draft picks have been wasted over the last five to six years, which in turn have left the Cowboys thin at a few key positions, particularly the offensive and defensive lines.
During the upcoming season, the Cowboys and their fans hope that the additions made through the Draft and free agency can supplement what Garrett has been building. So, without further ado let’s take a look at how the rookies are coming along in this Cowboys rookie progress report two weeks into camp.
If you recall, the Cowboys caught a lot of flak from fans and media, which didn’t understand the Frederick selection.
So far, Frederick has been the Cowboys starting center since the first snap of the first OTAs and has been a really good football player. Coach Garrett described Frederick as the right kind of guy, but admitted that the rookie still has a long way to go.
“He’s still learning a lot, technically in what we’re asking him to do, but he brings it every day.” Garrett said. “He’s smart and tough and wants to get better every day.”
While watching Frederick play in the Hall of Fame Game, I think the Cowboys found a solid starting caliber center that along with left tackle Tyron Smith will help solidify a very shaky offensive line for years to come – hopefully.
Selecting Escobar in the second round was also seen as a head scratcher by some, but the Cowboys knew all along that they wanted to implement more “12” personnel and “13” personnel looks. Coach Garrett hinted that Escobar has improved, but has a long way to go.
“Escobar has grown before our eyes,” Garrett said. “A long way off, but you see him gaining confidence, playing fast and playing with some snap and decisiveness. He’s a natural pass catcher and he’s learning how to block. He has to get stronger.”
While watching Escobar play in the Hall of Fame Game, it’s very obvious that he must increase his strength to be effective in this scheme. One play that stuck out to me was Escobar completely whiffing on his block down near the goal line.
Williams had a shaky start to camp, but has been improving. Coach Garrett said that Williams was once hesitant, but is getting more familiar with the system.
“Williams, again, is growing before our eyes.” Garrett said. “I keep using this word confidence, but you see these guys gaining confidence. They’ve seen the [offense] in the spring. They saw it again in the minicamp and now they’ve seen it for a third time [in training camp]. It’s starting to sink in with them. They’ve been in these situations before, and it’s starting to see them take advantage of them.”
Williams didn’t play in the Hall of Fame Game because he suffered a concussion late in the week and will probably miss Friday’s preseason game also.
Wilcox burst onto the scene as a guy to watch for his tenacity and aggressive nature during practice. It’s something that caught not only Coach Garrett’s eye, but those of executive vice president Stephen Jones also.
“Wilcox we’ve talked about a lot,” Garrett said. “We like the demeanor he plays with. He’s got a physical nature to him that we really, really like.”
While watching the Hall of Fame Game, Wilcox showed some of the promise that made him the Cowboys’ second of two third round picks, but he also struggled with his assignment at times. Because Wilcox only played safety for one season prior to being drafted, it is understandable that he makes mistakes. I wouldn’t worry too much about it because he still has time to develop behind Barry Church and Will Allen. Despite struggling some, Wilcox still managed to register seven tackles on the day.
Webb is another guy who has made noise during practice. In fact, during the Blue and White Scrimmage he undercut a pass from Kyle Orton, intercepted it and returned it for a touchdown. So far Coach Garrett is content with Webb’s development.
“Webb, I think, is really improving as well,” Garrett said. “I think it has a lot to do with what we’re asking him to do and playing with confidence.”
While watching the Hall of Fame Game, Webb looked as if he belonged out there. He looked solid and racked up two solo tackles and a pass deflected, which in my opinion should have been an interception, but Webb couldn’t secure the ball cleanly.
Randle is a player I’m particularly excited about because we know he’s going to have to contribute as a rookie. I say that because as you and I both know, DeMarco Murray is fragile, Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner are both unproven, and Jerry Jones himself said that Randle would be the team’s No. 2 back. However, a hand injury set Randle back in the spring, and the team hadn’t seen much of him practice.
“Randle was the only guy who wasn’t really active for us in the spring with the thumb,” Garrett said. “He’s done a good job in training camp.”
While watching the Hall of Fame Game, Randle looked pretty explosive with the ball in his hands. That’s a good thing because as I stated earlier, the team hadn’t really seen what he could do. He ended up with a team high 13 carries for 70 yards for a healthy 5.4 yard-per-carry average behind Dallas’ new zone-blocking scheme.
When interviewed earlier in the season, Holloman said he wanted to make an impact on special teams and eventually contribute on defense. It’s not very often that sixth round picks make the 53-man roster, but Holloman knows he has what it takes to make an impact and has been putting on a show during practice.
“I think he’s a guy [where] what we saw on tape in college is what we’re beginning to see here on the practice field,” Garrett said. “Athletic guy, rangy guy, can really run to the football, has a nose for the football. He’s learning. He’s getting better every day.”
While watching the Hall of Fame game, Holloman validated everything that Garrett said about him. He’s a big, athletic, rangy linebacker with some pretty impressive speed. If you don’t believe me, just Google search his 75-yard interception return touchdown.
Undrafted Rookie Free Agents
Following the Draft the Cowboys took to the phones to try and land guys they considered priority undrafted free agents.
They ended up bringing in 15 undrafted rookies, and these are just some of the ones who have caught my attention as training camp and the preseason has progressed.
Brandon MaGee: He’s very good at reading the defense and reacting and is an explosive tackler. Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com compares MaGee to former Cowboys linebacker Dexter Coakley. During the Hall of Fame Game, Magee recorded six tackles.
Jakar Hamilton: Not the biggest guy on the field, but someone who is not afraid to hit. In practice, Hamilton has shown that he’s an explosive tackler and reads and reacts well, very rarely getting fooled on plays. In the Hall of Fame Game, Hamilton recorded four tackles, but was caught out of position, which resulted in a touchdown.
Kendial Lawrence: He’s had some good runs in practice and took advantage of his opportunity during the Hall of Fame Game when he broke free and showed off his 4.3 speed en route to a touchdown.
Taylor Reed: Has been impressive in practice and has shown the ability to get to the ball quickly. During the Hall of Fame Game, he led the team with nine tackles and recorded one sack and one tackle for loss.
It appears that the rookies are slowly, but surely coming along as they get used to playing in the NFL. It will be interesting to follow their development throughout the rest of training camp and into the season if they make it that far.