ARLINGTON, Texas -- If you have been following along this training camp, you understand how critical I was in the selection of Bill Nagy, the center/guard from Wisconsin who was a seventh-round pick.
Nagy was not a starter for the Badgers, but to his credit, he was able to find a niche with the group as an extra tight end or spot starter at center. The three games I watched Nagy were against Michigan, Iowa and Indiana. As a group the line was outstanding against Michigan in the way they were able to control the line of scrimmage the entire second half, but Nagy played like just a guy.
Through the first two weeks of camp, Nagy really hadn’t done anything that had caught my eye so my expectations for him in this Denver game were not that high. As the game started, I was more interested in Tyron Smith and David Arkin and how they would fare against Denver’s first group on defense. Smith was fine and Arkin as well but then players like Nagy, Sam Young, Jermey Parnell and Kevin Kowalski took over for the starters. My attention then turned to how would this group handle the protections or work blocks in the running game.
Nagy was the one player in this group that stood out. He played on his feet, got to the second level as a blocker. Showed good footwork on his set and didn’t appear to struggle with his assignments. Nagy was able to do things in the game that he didn’t show on tape in college.
When the morning walkthrough started, I was surprised to see Nagy was running with the first offensive line at left guard. Nagy played well, but not to the point of putting Arkin on the bench. Arkin was solid against the Broncos.
It’s all part of the big plan that Jason Garrett and this staff has for this offensive line and I understand what they are trying to do by not only creating competition among their young players, but seeing where they are mentally and who can handle the pressure and who might not be suited for the job. It’s a way of playing mind games by the coaches but in a positive way. See how these young players act when given a starting opportunity.
Garrett spoke of how he would have liked his offensive line situation to have been taken care of by now and in the grand scheme of things that the same five guys had been playing together for eight years, but it is not that way. The one area of this team that you can see real improvement as a group is with this offensive line. The next task will be trying to do the same with this defensive end group that has only one young player, Sean Lissemore.
*A position that we don’t talk much about is fullback, but it was a position that the Cowboys did address in the spring when they selected Shaun Chapas in the draft.
Chris Gronkowski and Chapas are in a battle for the one and only spot on this roster as a fullback. Gronkowski had his moments during the 2010 season that he would just as soon forget, but the drafting of Chapas had to send a clear message his way that his overall play would need to be picked up.
So far, neither player has really stepped up their game to separate themselves. Chapas is going to have to learn that you can’t stop your feet when you engage the defender or cut the man in the hole and not give your back the opportunity to make a cut. There has been too many times where Chapas hasn’t gotten the job done.
Neither one of these fullbacks is the type of player that will hammer you at the point of attack, but they will need to do a better job of getting some movement when put in that situation.
In practice, I am observing more and more the use of the tight ends in that full back position in formations. If Gronkowski or Chapas don’t step forward, there might not be a spot for a nonproductive fullback, especially with the team’s other needs.
Clubs don’t like to cut draft picks, but they also don’t want to have players taking up roster spots when they need players that can help in other areas. It just another area to watch as the preseason continues.