Cowboys' 'redshirt' players out to prove worth

When training camp starts for the Dallas Cowboys in late July there are several players from the 2012 rookie class with something to prove for the 2013 season. You could say last season was a redshirt year for some members of this class.

1. Matt Johnson. The safety didn't play a down in 2012 because of hamstring and back issues. The brief moments he did practice showed the Cowboys coaches he had the ability to make plays in the secondary. Johnson stayed in the Dallas area in the offseason to show the organization and his teammates his commitment. He's battling for a starting job behind veteran Will Allen, and the impressive work of rookie J.J. Wilcox during the OTAs and veteran minicamp will also push Johnson.

2. Kyle Wilber. Wilber didn't get much time on the field in 2012 and the Cowboys expected more from the fourth-round pick. With the switch to a 4-3 defense, Wilber was moved from outside linebacker to defensive end. Wilber added nearly 15 pounds in the offseason to make sure he could handle the constant pounding he'll take from opposing tackles. The Cowboys believe he's got the pass-rush moves necessary to make the switch, and the age of the defensive line -- three of the four projected starters are in their 30s -- should give Wilber not only this season, but next, to keep a job.

3. Ronald Leary. After the 2012 draft, Jerry Jones was raving out the undrafted free agent guard from Memphis. Leary spent the bulk of the season on the practice squad until a late-season call-up to the active roster occurred after Oakland tried to sign him. Leary received first-team reps in practice during the offseason with Nate Livings out with injury. If Leary impresses coaches, he could win a starting job or become one of the backup guards.

4. Danny Coale. Health was a major problem for Coale, from a stress fracture, hamstring injury and finally a torn ACL suffered in November, which ended his 2012 season. He was on the practice squad for most of 2012, and now nearly healthy he's behind Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris and Terrance Williams on the depth chart at wide receiver. Coale has the potential to make plays if he gets the snaps necessary, but he needs to remain healthy to get a chance.

5. Caleb McSurdy. The linebacker tore his Achilles tendon in training camp and spent the rest of the 2012 season recovering. McSurdy is healthy and was getting offseason practice snaps at linebacker and fullback in short yardage situations with Lawrence Vickers (back surgery) out. McSurdy has two options: He could make the 53-man roster as a strong special teams player or participate on the practice squad.