IRVING, Texas -- The best part of training camp is that you actually get to see the players practice. During the regular season we only get to see them go through some individual drills and stretch before we are hauled back to the media room.
Training camp gives you the best feel for a player and if he is or isn’t ready to play or has a chance to make a contribution. After seeing Doug Free work during camp vs. DeMarcus Ware, you felt pretty good about him at left tackle and that proved to be true.
As we continue with the cautious optimism regarding the talks between the league and players on a new collective bargaining agreement, there are a few players I want to see on the practice field this summer.
Offensive tackle Sam Young – If you believe what you hear from the conditioning work and player-run practices, he has had a great offseason. A sixth-round pick in 2010, Young was active for only three games and saw action only on special teams. The Cowboys missed a chance to play him at least a little in the final two games just to get a taste of what he could do in 2011 and beyond. He is a smart and tough kid and could be the swing tackle in 2011 depending on what happens with Marc Colombo. In his rookie training camp he needed to add some muscle but he was not as out of place as most rookie linemen seem to be.
Safety Andrew Sendejo – He joined the team in November after excelling for Sacramento in the UFL. He saw only limited special teams’ action in the two games he dressed, but according to some players at the May practices he did a decent job. He was a stat sheet filler in the UFL, so it will be interesting to see if he can do the same with the Cowboys. Will he be a star? I can’t do there but with a new coordinator in Rob Ryan he could get a chance to develop as a player.
Offensive tackle Jermey Parnell – The Cowboys took him off New Orleans’ practice squad with the idea of redshirting him. A converted basketball player, Parnell looks the part for a left tackle. Along with Young and Phil Costa, he would stay late after practices working on his technique. Before games he would work on his pass sets and footwork by himself. A training camp would allow him the chance to show the coaches he has the chance to be a rotation guy in 2011.
Tight end John Phillips – His 2010 season was ruined by a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the Hall of Fame Game. At that time he was pushing Martellus Bennett for serious playing time behind Jason Witten. Can he regain that form? He has gone through this rehab before and his toughness cannot be questioned. He is not a star, but watching him battle in one-on-one pass rush drills is a sight to see. He also improved as a pass catcher.
Safety Danny McCray – We know he can be a special teams’ stalwart. He led the Cowboys with 28 tackles there as a rookie. But can he contribute on defense? He was swimming in coverage early in that dime package but seemed to play better there later in the year. Can he continue to be a piece of the defensive puzzle and keep his ace role on special teams? He’ll get the chance to prove himself in camp.