Today ends the first week of Cowboys camp, with the Blue-White Scrimmage taking place tomorrow. Here are some preliminary run downs of young offensive players and some bubble players in the running for Cowboys roster spots. Developmental curves are never linear, and guys who have lagged may suddenly have their light go on and make their move in week two or three. Therefore, take these reviews as temporary.
– Travis Frederick: Your starting center. That’s set. The team continues to work him from time to time at the guard spots, but when the team scrimmages 11-on-11, he’s the guy feeding the ball to Tony Romo.
He’s been steady. He and his fellow guards had some trouble coordinating in the first couple of days and tripped each other on stretch runs. That has disappeared. Frederick is still working on handling really quick DTs. Ben Bass can swim past him in 1-on-1 drills. When the play is live, Tony Romo’s inner pocket has been sound, and that’s due in great part to Frederick’s presence. That part of the Cowboys offense is far ahead of last year. He’s been pulling on flanker screens, another benefit from his spot. Having another interior who can pull adds flexibility to the running and passing games.
– David Arkin: We’re still waiting for Mackenzy Bernadeau to challenge him but at the moment Arkin is the starting right guard. Phil Costa is working at this position, but he’s taking all his reps with the 2nd unit. Arkin has always been able to pull and the Cowboys are using his quicks to flip their run balance. In their glory days, they put Nate Newton, their best power puller, at left guard and ran power, their inside counter, to the right behind RT Erik Williams, their best straight-line blocking tackle.
These days, that power OT is LT Tyron Smith. Dallas is now running power, for the first week anyway, primarily to the left, with Arkin pulling behind Smith.
Arkin needs more consistency hitting his targets on the move, but he looks much stronger in his lower half and is anchoring much better than he did last year, when he was walked back in the pocket by bull rushers.
– Gavin Escobar: He’s a work in progress, but a promising one. He’s dialed in the pro game’s speed and is getting up the field with regularity now. The team is not limiting his duties, thinking he’ll work as an H-back as a rookie. He’s got the full F-back package of duties. He flexes into the backfield on inside running plays. He takes on ILBs in the hole. He blocks inside and on the edge against LB blitzers. He’s been the second TE on the flank and the on-the-line Y. He’s lined up in the slot and as a flanker.
His success this year will be dictated by the little things. Does he get low and root out LBs on the lead draw? Can he master the route tree? Can he add some of the little feints and push offs veterans like Witten and Dante Rosario have down? His skill set is very appealing. I still see him struggle to break free on out-breaking routes. He gets caught up with arms and feet. He’s not a burner, but like Jason Witten, he’s fast enough up the seam. He’s so massive and has such long arms that he can play box out anywhere in the middle of the field . When he crosses a LB’s or S’s face, it’s over. He’s open and he’s catching the ball.
– Terrance Williams: He’s following the learning curve you would expect from a rookie who ran a limited route tree in college. He looks very comfortable working from the numbers to the sideline. He’s not as smooth on the in-breaking routes of the route tree.
He’s working very hard, however, and chases every pass in his vicinity. He’s starting to get the hang of using his hands to get quicker releases off the line. Brandon Carr mugged him the first few days of camp, but Williams has bounced back nicely. He’s working with the first unit 3-WR set, and he belongs. His role there is the flanker outside Jason Witten, a role which plays to his college strengths. He’s getting open deep more and more as his off-the-line releases improve. Show some patience with him. He looks like a guy who could really start producing a few games into the season.
– Cole Beasley: some fans love guys like him in proportions which far exceed his value to the team. At his best, he’s the 5th receiver. He knows it and is making the most of his skill set. He’s a slot receiver, period. He’s too small to play in base sets, because corners and safeties rag doll him when Beasley tries blocking on the edge.
In the slot, he’s been a terror. He is quick and he does run very precise routes. Consequently, he’s earned a lot of time in the three and four receiver packages. With Miles Austin out yesterday, Beasley tore it up in the two-minute drills from Austin’s usual spot. Tony Romo looked to him regularly in the middle of the field and Beasley produced. He caught three passes on the O’s first scoring drive, producing first downs each time.
The coaches are working Beasley as the first punt returner, in an attempt to flesh out his special teams duties. (He looks too frail to contribute on coverage.) For a guy with good hands, he’s looked uncomfortable fielding the ball.
He’ll need to max out his slot work and greatly improve his punt returning game. He looks safe for now, because he’s far ahead of the guys behind him in the regular offense. The minute one of the bigger kids challenges him, Beasley will drop down the WR totem, because of his size.
– James Hanna: He was running as the first F-back, ahead of Escobar and Rosario, but he tweaked a hamstring before full pad practices began. He’s getting a big incomplete for now.
– Eric Rogers, Jared Green and Anthony Armstrong: These guys are fighting to convince the coaches to keep a 6th wideout and each shows flashes. Armstrong made some strong plays working with the first unit yesterday, but his age (he’s older than Miles Austin) is working against him. Any winner will need to raise his game in the 2nd and 3rd week.
– Phil Costa: He spent a second day at right guard. He’s worked exclusively here, with /Ryan Cook taking the C snaps with the 2nd team. I have a very small sample size to work from, but he’s not pushing Arkin for the starting spot and he may be 3rd team RG when Bernadeau returns next week. It will be interesting to see if Costa gets more reps — or any reps — at center in the coming days.
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