Sept 27, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Stanford Cardinal defensive end Ben Gardner (49) reacts after committing a game-ending penalty against the Washington Huskies during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Washington defeated Stanford, 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
I kept up with the rookie mini-camp and was always curious who the fans on Twitter were looking to make a statement. The names like Ben Gardner, Ben Malena, Zack Martin, and even some of the QBs got press. What you didn’t hear a lot about were guys like J.C. Copeland, Jordan Najvar, and Dontavis Sapp. There was some interesting comments about how shifty a guy looked or the size of a guy, but most of the press seemed to be about how a WR caught the ball or a RB moved through the line. Before anyone can say that one guy stood out or to keep an eye on someone to make the team there are a few things that make this difficult.
At the rookie mini-camp there are no pads, there is little hitting, and no tackling. It makes someone like J.C. Copeland less likely to stand out. His time to shine will be when pads are on and he can lay a block on a lineman or get the ball and run over a LB. There are a few positions that just won’t stand out until they can go full speed and actually do their job. While it is great to see football return to the field, this really was about the QBs and WRs getting work and everyone else learning the scheme and techniques. It was more of a class and to see where everyone was before they head to actual training camp.
It was great to see the Cowboys sign some players during the camp, which means they are still trying to upgrade certain positions. Once training camp actually starts is when we will all get to see who really can play and who just looks the part. Over the next few weeks I would expect many of the rookies and new signings to be hitting the offseason workout programs to either bulk up, slim down, or work on their techniques. There will be some guys to keep an eye on that will reveal who has the chance to make this team or are works in progress that will end up on the practice squad.
Here are the guys to keep an eye on once training camp starts and they have had their workout routines fine-tuned for them.
J.C. Copeland – He needs to lose a little weight, but keep the strength. The Cowboys will ask him to block a lot for the RBs and I am sure they are looking to use him in short yardage situations.
L’Damian Washington – He will need to add some size to his frame and work on his catching techniques. If he can get about 10-15 more pounds on him without losing speed, he will be an interesting prospect.
Ryan Smith – This CB/S made some heads turn, he needs to work on tackling and once they decide which position he will be at, he will need to adjust his weight to play it.
Terrance Mitchell – This kid is a physical CB. While he has good work with his hands, it will be time to really judge him once he is put on someone like Dez.
Kolton Browning and Dustin Vaughn – Keeping in mind that Browning is left handed it shows that they are looking at him as a project. Both guys will need to learn the scheme and do better on receiving the snap when not in the shotgun.
Davon Coleman – He had a really good mini-camp, but once the pads come on and he can go full force it will be interesting to see if he can stand up to more elite blocking.
Remember this is only step one of the offseason for these rookies. Keep an eye on how they are doing in their workouts and watch for them in the OTAs in terms of body changes. The ones that look the most changed are the ones to keep an eye on. So if you didn’t hear how your “pet cat” did, don’t worry, once the pads come on and they can actually start hitting each other we will hear about more than just the QBs and WRs.