The Dallas Cowboys are headed to Oxnard, Ca. for their preseason camp that gets under way on Monday July 30. Countdown to their first game against the Super Bowl champ Giants on Sept. 5 will begin on that day as well. About a month left to put this 2012 version of the Cowboys together which means there a few questions that must be answered soon. Let’s take a look at the main areas the Cowboy coaches will be focused.
1. Starting CB opposite Brandon Carr?
No doubt about it, first round pick Morris Claiborne is expected to step up and play the corner opposite of Brandon Carr who they picked up in free agency. However Claiborne is a rookie and will need to learn the defense quickly while developing his cover skills up to an NFL level too. The talented CB will be a fine corner in the NFL but what if he needs more time to develop?
Can’t count on Mike Jenkins starting at corner as he went to the PUP list after surgery on his shoulder in the offseason. There are other young inexperienced guys who have impressed early but without question, Dallas coaches are expecting Claiborne to secure that spot by opening day. No one wants to think about a “plan B” yet.
2. Who will be at WR along with Dez Bryant and Miles Austin?
This spot is Ogletree’s to lose but the experienced and yet not so impressive WR is facing good competition from young talented players capable of wrestling that 3rd spot away from him. Undrafted Cole Beasley, out of SMU, is one guy is playing with confidence and a great deal of determination to prove he belongs in the NFL. Each practice he makes plays and impresses coaches.
Could Beasley be the guy that steps in to play with Dez and Austin opening day? It’s one of the more interesting stories and battles of any NFL preseason camps. Keep an eye on this one. It can change quickly as there are other WR prospects capable of getting into the picture too.
3. Who will be at guard with Livings?
When the Cowboys brought in guard Nate Livings, an experienced guard from the Bengals, it would appear he is expected to be a starter. But the other guard position is far from decided. Mackenzy Bernadeau was brought in from the Panthers and it appeared he was a leading contender but he is recovering from hip surgery in the offseason and may not be able to play in time for the first game.
The Cowboys have David Arkin and Bill Nagy who were drafted last year to compete for the spot. Arkin proved to not be ready for the NFL last year and unless he has improved a lot, may not be the best option. Nagy showed promise but was injured last year. It is looking like this guard spot could be a real weak spot for the team and it is not a good thing to have defenders getting turned loose in the middle to take shots at Romo.
Ronald Leary? Leary is an undrafted rookie guard that will get a serious look at this spot. He appears to have knee issues behind him and has moved fine during OTAs earlier. Still, he is a rookie and may not be ready to start just yet. The uncertainty of this guard spot is the kind of thing that could keep head coach Jason Garrett up at night not to mention QB Tony Romo.
4. Who will be at safety opposite Sensabaugh?
Gerald Sensabaugh returns at safety but the other spot is not so secure at all. Brodney Pool was brought in from the Jets to fill the spot. While Pool does come in with some familiarity of Ryan’s defense, he does not have this position locked up by any means. Backup safety Barry Church displayed talent at safety last season and could possibly win the starting spot.
Rookie Matt Johnson was drafted by Dallas to compete at safety but he missed OTAs while finishing school then developed a hamstring injury which could get him off to a slow start in the preseason camp. It remains to be seen when he will be cleared to be in the mix to compete but with the injury causing a slow start, it seems likely he can be ruled out as the starter.
Safety has not been a solid area for the Cowboys in the past several years and it needs to improve if they hope to have a much improved secondary this season. Can Pool help solidify the deep part of the secondary or will Church get his opportunity to step in and shine?
There you have it. Four questions that must be addressed in the preseason in order to get ready for the Giants and the start of the season.