Dallas Cowboys Rookie Camp Begins Wednesday July 25: A Preview

Cowboys rookies report July 25.

“The NFL draft is going to be this Thursday. That’s a huge night for college players. That’s the night they start being paid over the table.”  JAY LENO, The Tonight Show, Apr. 24, 2012

Dallas Cowboys rookies will report to camp on July 25 which is almost here. Excitement and anticipation is in the air for Cowboy fans as some of these guys will be expected to contribute quickly to help improve this team. Let’s have a preview of the rookies and what fans should be watching:

Morris Claiborne– The Cowboys prize catch in the draft, Claiborne had surgery on his wrist in the offseason so he was only an observer during OTAs but doctors recently cleared him to practice.  LINK

However Claiborne hasn’t been signed to a contract yet (the only draft pick not) but talks are being reported to resume on Monday. He may not be at camp the first day, but I think Mo will get signed soon after.  Jerry doesn’t have much choice but to fully guarantee his contract which I blogged about HERE. RGIII, Luck, and Mark Barron picked 7th have been signed so Mo should soon follow.

After the Cowboys traded their 2nd pick to move up and get Mo at #6, expectations are high that he will be a starting CB day one.  In college at LSU, Mo, a former WR,  was a ball hawk who plays the ball quite well in coverage. His role will not likely be a “shut down” corner but more of a guy who can create turnovers.  Looking forward to seeing Mo in action at camp.

What to watch:

  • Mo had a low wonderlic score and has just a short amount of time to learn the rather complex defense of Rob Ryan. Can he pick it all up in time for their first game against the Giants? Know his assignment and where to be? Mistake could be costly against Giants. Last season we saw the secondary have blown assignments early in the year particularly.
  • Will his wrist hold up to the demands of practices everyday?
  • Are his cover skills ready for NFL type receivers right now? Remember he will need to play soon.

Tyrone Crawford– The Cowboys drafted Crawford a DE out of Boise State to help provide depth at the position and hopefully work his way into the rotation. A calf strain held Crawford back during OTAs so we really haven’t seen much of him yet. He plays with a very good motor and that is what likely caught the Cowboys eyes.

What to watch:

  • First of all, is the calf injury behind him? Been medically cleared to practice but does he look 100%?
  • Is his development far enough along to get into the Cowboys defensive line rotation early in the season? If so, that additional depth could be a big help against the Giants.

Kyle Wilber– Kyle is an OLB drafted by Dallas out of Wake Forest. Wilber may be easy to spot during camp as he will likely be the guy with a club over his right arm due to a finger he broke during OTAs. Pins have been removed from his finger but I wouldn’t expect him to be 100% when camp begins just yet. Before his injury, Wilber was reported to be slinging people around during OTAs and appears to be a stong player.

What to watch:

  • How is he able to play with a club over his right arm? Can he participate fully at practice?
  • Wilbur is expected to provide depth at his position so I doubt we see him on the field a great deal. I think his best bet to contribute may be special teams so watch to see if he excels there. Can he help special teams right away?

Matt Johnson– So far we have seen little of Matt not due to injury, but because he missed OTAs while finishing up school at Eastern Washington.  Evidently the Cowboys were big on this prospect because they drafted him much sooner than most thought he would come off the board.

Matt certainly has good size for a safety and is known to delivery a pop in run support but he is moving up from a small Division I school to the NFL. The safety position is certainly not one of the strongest areas of the 2012 Cowboys so if Matt can cover, he just may play.

What to watch:

  • Going from covering WRs at Div. I Eastern Washington to NFL receivers is a big step up. Can Matt cover receivers at this level?
  • Matt is expected to contribute on special teams so watch to see if finds a place there to make the roster.
  • Can Matt take some play time away from back up Barry Church?

Danny Coale– Danny was drafted as a slot receiver out of Va. Tech. In the first OTA, he broke his foot so Cowboy coaches just haven’t seen much of what Danny can do yet. Certainly he was expected to compete for the 3rd WR spot and as a punt returner but will not be 100% when he rolls into camp. In fact Danny could end up on the PUP list to start the season.

What to watch:

  • How far along is the broken foot and will he be placed on PUP?
  • If he can practice, then watch to see how he does compared to other young slot WRs like Harris and Beasley.

James Hanna– Hanna a Texas native was drafted out of Oklahoma to provide depth at TE with the departure of Martellus (don’t let the door hit your big butt on the way out) Bennett. Hanna is clearly quick and very athletic so he could prove to be an additional weapon for Jason Garrett in passing situations. Hanna comes in to add depth behind Phillips and one of the greatest TEs in the league, Witten.  One thing about Hanna, he was one of the very few rookies without an injury! I liked this pick during the draft and think he may be a sleeper pick that emerges later in the year as a contributor.

What to watch:

  • Can Hanna block well enough to play more often than just passing situations? His blocking ability is questionable.
  • Hanna has been known to drop passes. How does he catch the ball during camp? Is that improving?
  • Can Garrett find a way to use Hanna’s excellent speed to create some mismatches? Appears to be a TE capable of running down the seams of defenses to present a deep threat. Something Bennett simply couldn’t provide. Hanna’s 4.49/40 time will be a challenge for LBs to cover.

Caleb McSurdy– The last player Dallas drafted is a FB/LB out of Montana. It’s not clear to me if he is going to provide depth at LB or FB or perhaps both but I think he will provide depth at LB. His best chance to make the roster will probably be through special teams.

What to watch:

  • Can McSurdy solidify himself a spot on the roster via special teams?
  • A bit undersized by NFL standards, can McSurdy get off blocks to make tackles in the NFL?

Cole Beasley– An undrafted rookie WR out of SMU that has certainly turned heads in OTAs with his spot on pass route running and catching ability.  With the foot injury to Coale, Beasley has an excellent opportunity to make this team as a WR. Should be one of the more interesting stories of camp.

What to watch:

  • Beasley was impressive running around catching the ball in shorts during OTAs but can the 5’8″ WR get open in the secondary when things get more physical at camp? If so, this guy will make the team.
  • Can Beasley assume the role of slot WR and beat out some young talented WRs to make the team?

Ron Leary– An undrafted guard out of Memphis is an early favorite of owner Jerry Jones who affectionately refers to Leary as his “pet cat”. Really Jerry? Anyway if there is one position that needs help on this team it will be guard so Leary has a legit shot to make this team. Leary does come with a knee that has been trouble in the past however during OTAs, Jerry liked the way his pet cat was moving out there.

What to watch:

  • How does Leary perform when given opportunities at right guard?
  • Does his knee look healthy enough to compete in preseason? Is Jerry right about his movement?

All of the injured rookies have been given clearance to practice when rookie camp begins except for Danny Coale. It appears it will be some time in August when Coale can begin practicing. For the Cowboys to get over the 8-8 hump of mediocrity, some of these rookies will need to step up and contribute quickly.

On Wednesday these rookies start getting paid over the table like Leno said and expectations will be higher for them too.