OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys will hold their ninth practice of training camp today, so what better time to quickly review the good and the bad so far in Oxnard, Calif.
Biggest surprise: Barry Church. From the first practice he showed he was ready to take the safety spot opposite Gerald Sensabaugh. And he did take it. Now, will it translate into a good season? We’ll see, but Church has earned the coaches’ trust in how he has worked his way up the depth chart.
Best player, offense: It’s hard not to say Dez Bryant. He has made a ton of plays. But it should be pointed out he did the same thing inside the Alamodome last summer. Can it carry over to the real games?
Best player, defense: There have been a few candidates. I eliminated Church because the expectations weren’t the same. Sean Lee has been terrific. But the vote goes to DeMarcus Ware, who has been everywhere. Facing Ware has been a good thing for Tyron Smith in the second-year tackle's move to the left side.
Biggest disappointment: Has to be the injuries. Miles Austin aggravating a hamstring early in camp isn’t good. Jay Ratliff not being able to practice isn’t good. Morris Claiborne has had one padded practice. Mike Jenkins isn’t cleared. Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau have not practiced together yet. The Cowboys keep up with the ‘What me worry?’ front on the injuries, but there’s a reason teams hold training camp.
Need to see more from, offense: David Arkin. He’s certainly getting the work necessary to show he can make the team. He’s the first-team right guard and second-team center. It has been a struggle with the snaps. He still doesn’t play with great strength, but some in the organization view him still as a rookie because of last year’s lockout and Arkin being inactive every game.
Need to see more from, defense: Josh Brent. He is being pushed by Rob Callaway for the backup nose tackle job. Callaway can play some end as well. That’ll be a good battle through camp. Brent is the more naturally strong point-of-attack player, but sometimes he gets out of position.
Keep an eye on in the preseason, offense: Wide receiver Tim Benford. He just catches the ball. I can’t think of a drop off the top of my head. He is not a body catcher. He’ll use his hands. He runs good routes. Can he play special teams? Runner-up – Cole Beasley
Keep an eye on in the preseason, defense: Cornerback Mario Butler. He did not have a stellar offseason in the organized team activities and minicamp. He lacks top speed at corner, but he has not been beaten deep. The coaches are using him at safety as well. When you’re talking about the back end of the secondary rotation, position flexibility is a must. Runner-up – Mana Silva