OXNARD, Calif. -- After eight practices, Five Wonders is back for its second training camp installment.
Away we go:
I wonder whether we’re seeing a rookie class that could be a lot more productive than last season's. The 2012 class was hurt by injuries (Kyle Wilber, Matt Johnson, Danny Coale, Caleb McSurdy) with only Morris Claiborne and Tyrone Crawford playing big roles for a full season. Two weeks into camp, Travis Frederick is a starter, Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams have big offensive roles, and J.J. Wilcox could be a starter and a main special-teams guy. B.W. Webb and Joseph Randle could develop into role players as well. The Cowboys needed an infusion of young talent, and so far so good with the draft picks. Before you (or I) get carried away, let’s see them in games, but this is a good start.
I wonder whether I underestimated linebacker Ernie Sims. On my final 53-man roster projection leading up to training camp, I did not have Sims on the final list. I thought he would lose out to Brandon Magee. Sims has gotten off to a really good start. He did a nice job filling in last season after Sean Lee got hurt, all the while playing a foreign 3-4 defense. He started six of his 10 games, and finished with 42 tackles and a sack. Now back to his more comfortable 4-3, Sims has been hitting everything that moves. He’s done a nice job in pass coverage and he can play special teams. More important, he will not cost a lot against the cap. Sims is moving better than he did last year, which is probably a product of having a complete offseason of training.
I wonder why the Cowboys didn’t go to the wristband play sheet for their quarterbacks sooner. Getting the play called and to the offense seemed like a struggle at times, and led to things being hurried. With Tony Romo wearing a wristband now, the process should be streamlined, even with Bill Callahan in the coaches booth. The coaches are not relaying plays to Romo, but rather numbers for him to read the play call. It will help with the time and it will help Romo getting the plays out. Jason Garrett’s system is quarterback-friendly in that regard. It’s not that verbose. I remember Brad Johnson telling me that one Jon Gruden play was 30-plus words long. How do you memorize something like that and spit it out with a 40-second play clock?
Undrafted rookie wide receiver Eric Rogers has been one of the early stories of training camp. He played at Cal-Lutheran and was something of an afterthought when the Cowboys picked him up. But then he caught everything that was thrown his way in the offseason, which piqued the curiosity more. In Oxnard, Rogers has continued to catch everything. But I wonder whether he can win a spot on the 53-man roster. He does not run well. He doesn’t offer up wide receiver flexibility in terms of finding a role, either. Cole Beasley has a role as a slot receiver. Dwayne Harris has a role as a backup at both receiver spots and can return punts. Rogers will have a chance to continue to make his way, but right now I’d say he is more of a practice squad candidate than a player on the final roster.
Let’s continue to wonder about the makeup of the 53-man roster. I believe it’s a near certainty that the Cowboys will keep four tight ends, but I wonder whether they could keep a fifth. Seriously. Andre Smith could put himself into the mix. He is a true blocking tight end at 270 pounds, but he has caught the ball surprisingly well. Now it should come down to him playing some special teams, and his lack of speed could catch up to him there. I believe one of the final spots will come down to a running back (Phillip Tanner), a tight end, a wide receiver (Anthony Armstrong) or possibly a 10th offensive lineman.