This is the time of year where as a personnel guy you look at your board in your office at camp and try to really figure out where those final roster spots are going to come from. The questions going into camp where at left tackle, free safety and kicker.
At tackle, Doug Free has come in and from day one has been focused on the task at hand. It started in San Antonio and has carried over to the preseason games and into Oxnard. His ability to work against DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer on a daily basis proved that he can handle this job. His technique improved each day and you never saw that period of time where you really thought he would struggle with the transition.
Alan Ball and Mike Hamlin were in competition for the safety spot opposite Gerald Sensabaugh. Hamlin started off well, but Ball has been more instinctive and showed better range, then Hamlin who got dinged and it was over for his chance. Hamlin will get another opportunity to shine in replacing Sensabaugh these last two preseason games.
Ball has been steady and error free on the back end. He is a fluid moving player that his cornerback mates have come to appreciate. The importance of a safety with range and ball should never be under valued.
Roster spots on this squad will be tight. Does this team just carry five receivers instead of six? Is Jesse Holley really better than Sam Hurd? Can one of those safeties, Church or McCray, be that guy that takes Hurd’s place on the 45 each week?
I have been jumping up and down for guys like Bryan McCann and Josh Brent. But is Junior Siavii, who has had a much better camp since the arrival of Brent, too strong for Brent to take his job? Brent, to use a scouting term, has huge “upside” but Siavii is strong and is a hard guy to move.
Maybe this squad is looking for that type of player to play behind Jay Ratliff, who is undersized for the position but through quickness, explosiveness and desire is one of the better defensive players in the NFL.
Jerry Jones spoke of the possibility of keep three players at nose tackle. Maybe not a far-fetched idea if you only carry two quarterbacks, five wide receivers or make a trade during camp. To carry extra players, you have to take from another position.
I have been the most impressed with Sam Young. This guy has a chance to be that next Doug Free type of player. At practice on Wednesday, he showed the ability to pass line stunts and understand what his responsibility is in the scheme. He shows good toughness, smarts and the ability to stay on his feet, which at times can be difficult for young linemen.
With two preseason games still ahead, watch what happens ahead with Hurd, Holley and Stephen McGee. Also pay very close attention to what happens at linebacker and defensive line, which could affect other positions.
Also keep this in mind too as you are watching this team: Is there someone else out there that will get released that is better than what the Cowboys are playing with? Waiver claims also give you a chance to help your squad improve.