News: Five Things To Watch At Mini-Camp -

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by Lord Sun, Jun 4, 2004.

  1. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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    [​IMG] Nick Eatman,

    IRVING, Texas - For die-hard football fans, the summer months always seem to drag on too long.

    That's why so much stock is put on off-season events such as the NFL Draft, the start of free agency, the June 1 deadline, and of course, the voluntary mini-camps.

    And for the Cowboys, only one veteran mini-camp remains before they take an entire month off and get ready for training camp in Oxnard, Calif.

    With camp to begin July 30, these next few days of mini-camp could be vital for several players trying to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

    Over the next three days, the Cowboys will conduct five practices, including two-a-days on Sunday and Monday. Most of the vets and rookies will stick around the following week as well, for on-field training sessions, which are basically just an extension of the mini-camps.

    This will be our first look at Vinny Testaverde, who signed only Thursday but is expected to participate in all quarterback drills.

    While Quincy Carter is the incumbent, starting all 16 games last season and leading the Cowboys to a 10-6 record and spot in the playoffs, he will likely have to win the starting job all over again.

    Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Thursday there will be a competition at quarterback, and Testaverde, despite turning 41 this November, appears eager to become a starter once again.

    Testaverde not only reunites with Bill Parcells, but wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who was traded from Tampa Bay this off-season. Johnson, who also played five seasons with the Jets, has something to prove, after the Bucs deactivated him for the final six games of last season, citing personality differences between the receiver and Bucs head coach Jon Gruden.

    Johnson could be the possession receiver the Cowboys have lacked since Michael Irvin retired after the 1999 season with neck and spinal cord injuries.

    And while the Cowboys didn't go crazy in the off-season and sign a hoard of free agents, there are some new faces, such as defensive end Marcellus Wiley, rookie quarterback Drew Henson and rookie punters Mat McBriar and Ryan Flinn, to keep a close eye on.

    But with five practices in three days, here are five more things will monitor over the weekend, as the Cowboys prepare

    1. Reps At Quarterback
    Everything starts with the quarterback position in football, especially in Dallas where the topic has heated up dramatically in the last three months.

    It started when the Cowboys traded for Henson, giving a third-round pick in 2005 to the Texans for the young, hard-throwing baseball player who has decided to return to football after an unsuccessful three years in the New York Yankees' organization.

    Henson was impressive in a rookie mini-camp in late April, when he was basically the only quarterback throwing to receivers. Now we'll get to see how he compares to Carter and Testaverde, and even second-year pro Tony Romo.

    Now Jones has said there will be competition at quarterback, but that doesn't exactly mean the repetitions will be divided evenly.

    Carter will likely enter all off-season drills as the No. 1 quarterback, with Testaverde as the backup. If Parcells decides to make it a 50-50 split, as he did a year ago with Carter and Chad Hutchinson, then Testaverde might have the advantage, because he's known for taking care of the ball and making few mistakes in the pocket.

    But Carter has a sizable mobility advantage and he's spent countless hours in the film room this off-season, looking at defenses and reads, trying to improve his decision-making as well.

    And then don't forget about Henson, who needs as much work as anyone, having last played a football game in the 2000 season at Michigan.

    With lots of lively arms, it won't be an easy task divvying up the practice reps at quarterback.

    [​IMG]2. All Eyes On Julius
    In a weekend when more attention will be paid to Jerry Jones, and certainly Smarty Jones, the Cowboys have a new running back, so there will be several sets of eyes perched on one Julius Jones as he tries to do what Troy Hambrick couldn't, and that's replace Emmitt Smith.

    Ok, so that goal is probably too high for anyone to achieve, especially a rookie second-round pick. But the Cowboys didn't make Jones their first pick of the draft to ease him along slowly. And when Hambrick was cut last month, it only opened the door even wider for the rookie.

    So with the start of mini-camp, it will be interesting to see just how much of a workload is placed upon Jones. There has been talk veteran fullback Richie Anderson would get more carries this season, and the club is anxious to see how speedy Aveion Cason has returned from a torn ACL, which needed surgery last December. Cason has added about 15 pounds to his upper body and might be able to handle more inside running, assuming he's fully recovered from the knee injury.

    And the Cowboys will want to see some things from Erik Bickerstaff and ReShard Lee, a pair of rookies last season who flashed potential at times, but will need more reps to prove themselves on a consistent basis.

    But if the Cowboys are going to have a full-fledged competition at quarterback, it's not likely they would want another at running back.

    This should be Jones' job to lose, and while it will be difficult to fully evaluate a back, or any player, until the pads come on, expect the rookie from Notre Dame to get plenty of opportunities to shine, early and often.

    [​IMG] 3. Still Hunting For Corner?
    The Cowboys figured to sign at least one, maybe two of the many veteran cornerbacks that were available in free agency. Not only did they not sign one, they let Mario Edwards get away as well, refusing to match his six-year, $18 million deal with Tampa Bay.

    And with the Cowboys not drafting a cornerback until the fourth round (Bruce Thornton), it's been safe to assume Parcells and the coaching staff is willing to take their chances with Pete Hunter at right corner.

    The Cowboys should be in good shape on the left side with Terence Newman returning from a stellar rookie season. But on the right side, Hunter is rather inexperienced, although he certainly passes the eye test.

    At 6-2, 212 pounds and 4.3 speed, Hunter has the physical tools, but now it's time to see if he can put it all together.

    There won't be any tackling going on this weekend, but plenty of one-on-one cover drills to see just how far along Hunter has progressed. He'll get his dose of Keyshawn and Terry Glenn and Antonio Bryant this weekend.

    How well he performs this weekend could determine how interested the Cowboys will be in acquiring a veteran corner before camp. Of course, the options are limited, with Tyrone Williams (Atlanta) and Mike McKenzie (Packers), who is still under contract with Green Bay, two of the best available.

    But for now, it's in Hunter's hands (and feet) to keep the Cowboys content with their current group of corners.

    [​IMG] 4. Who Tackles Right Side? Like the cornerback position, the Cowboys didn't address offensive tackle during free agency, but made a stronger effort to fill the void through the draft. The Cowboys picked Southern Cal's Jacob Rogers in the second round and expect to move him from the left side, where he played three years at USC, to the right.

    The Cowboys won't mess with Pro Bowler Flozell Adams, who had his best season of his career last year manning the left side. The club is hoping Rogers can make the switch to right tackle to replace Ryan Young, who missed eight games last year with a chronic knee injury, which led to his release this past March.

    But like all positions, Rogers will have to win the job and he'll likely compete with second-year pro Torrin Tucker, a converted guard who spent his rookie season trying to adjust to tackle. The Cowboys like Tucker's size (6-6, 330) and footwork, but they know he's far from polished.

    And don't forget about Kurt Vollers, who actually filled in for Young with eight starts last season in just his second season in the league. He might get the chance to compete with Rogers and Tuckers, but more than likely, he'll be moving to the left side to back up Adams as an insurance policy.

    And time is running out on Javiar Collins, now in his fourth season with the Cowboys, but with only nine games under his belt. He'll have to jump ahead of Tucker and Rogers either now, or early in training camp, for a shot of making the team.

    5. Center Of Attention
    Sticking with the offensive line, the Cowboys thought they found their answer at center last year with rookie Al Johnson, who needed a week of training camp to earn a spot on the first team. But disaster hit when Johnson suffered a right leg injury, which required microfracture surgery last August. It's not an easy injury to return from, but so far, Johnson has progressed nicely and is expected to participate in drills this weekend.

    The Cowboys usually limit players returning from knee and leg injuries to just one practice during two-a-day sessions, which could be the case for Johnson.

    But if he can return to 100 percent and regain his starting job, it could be the first step in retooling the offensive line. It would also give the Cowboys several versatile backups, who can play center and guard. Matt Lehr started all 16 games last year at center, but has plenty of experience at guard. Both Gennaro DiNapoli and Tyson Walter can play center and guard, and Walter even played tackle in college.

    But the key is Johnson, who could make things easier if he returns to full health.
  2. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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    Sorry, guys, repost. Delete away, mods.

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