The Best Rookie Storylines at Dallas Cowboys' OTAs
The Dallas Cowboys kicked off their OTA sessions minus the participation of Tony Romo. Although his inability to play came as a last minute surprise, this is a time to lay the foundation for the 2013 season. It's also a time to merge the veterans and rookies and find out more about the makeup of this roster.
The anticipation is always going to center around the rookies, particularly the draft picks, and how they perform early on. It's what makes it exciting for the fans and it's what makes it exciting to see the fruits of the team's labor.
In the case of the Cowboys, these OTA sessions provide the fans with the first glimpses of the draft picks and undrafted rookies. So while all eyes will be on Travis Frederick, Gavin Escobar, Terrance Williams and Joseph Randle, we should all be paying attention to Eric Rogers and Kendial Lawrence as well.
Might the Cowboys find another diamond in the rough? How did Frederick look? Are Escobar's hands really as good as advertised?
All valid questions seeking just as equally valid answers. Let's look at some of the storylines.
Travis Frederick, along with Tony Romo, will probably be the most talked about players on the team. For Romo this is not news, but for Frederick this is new territory. When the Cowboys passed on players like Sharrif Floyd, Eric Reid, Jonathan Cyprien and Sylvester Williams, this is to be expected.
So how has Frederick performed? Not only is he taking reps with the first team, but he's handled his own while learning on the job. Brian Broaddus of Dallascowboys.com provided a nice analysis of his play during the first week, and it appears he is improving with every practice.
That's to be expected from a first-round pick, and in the case of Frederick, he will improve as the offseason progresses. It is encouraging to see that he is being thrown into the fire, and that his improvement will only add stability to the offensive line.
A lot is riding on the success of Frederick as a player and to the organization that selected him in the first round. The only thing standing in his way might be a competition with Phil Costa.
When the Cowboys selected Escobar with the 47th pick it made perfect sense to Jerry Jones, but not to others. A pass-catching tight end? Why?
Escobar's ball-skills have been very well documented and when you watch his tape the results match the hype. He has hands of glue and he fits Jones' vision of running more 12-personnel in trying to stretch the field and put more weapons in play for this offense.
The question with Escobar, however, is whether or not he can make the type of impact that's expected of him. As with Frederick, the Cowboys passed on a lot of outstanding talent still available in the second-round of the draft. The Cowboys could have filled other needs on defense, but elected to allocate resources to the offensive side of the ball.
One thing Escobar has done so far in OTA's is follow the lead of Jason Witten in trying to adapt to the pro game. I see this as a very smart decision on his part and one that will get him up to speed quickly. This could make a big difference as he has elected to take an approach that Martellus Bennett failed to do.
As a result, maybe the Cowboys will find their other weapon at tight end. There will be a lot of eyes on this player.
Terrance Williams / Joseph Randle
The Cowboys allocated more than a few draft picks to the offensive side of the ball. With the additions of Terrance Williams and Joseph Randle, this completed the upgrade on draft day. Williams could at least challenge Dwayne Harris for the third receiver spot and Randle assumes the void left by Felix Jones.
While the Williams pick may have come as a bit of a surprise to a few, the selection of Randle in the fifth-round may be a flat out steal. The key for both of these rookies is what level of reliability they will present to the Cowboys.
Williams may not lock up the third receiver position but he wasn't drafted to be a window decoration. Randle, as it stands today, is the No. 2 running back on this team and will be expected to perform on a regular basis.
The Cowboys wanted to surround themselves with more weapons but it's up to them now to harness that talent. This franchise simply cannot waste these types of draft picks on experiments and something that might look good in the minds of a few people.
Brandon Magee is looking to follow in the footsteps of former college teammate Vontaze Burfict by going from undrafted player to impact player. By the early looks of it Magee is making some noise in the OTA's by showing off his aggressiveness.
Magee just might be this year's undrafted gem that the Cowboys seem to have a knack for finding. He will have to make his mark on special teams, but this team is looking for help at linebacker and at replacing Victor Butler and Dan Connor.
For now, we will have to monitor Magee's progress, but as the offseason intensifies so will the odds of him making this roster. The Cowboys did quite a bit to secure his services after the draft and he now has the opportunity to repay the Cowboys.
Will he seize his opportunity? The Cowboys need to know as he does represent one of the better stories of this offseason.
Potential Hidden Gems
As I stated earlier, the talk of any type of camp usually surrounds the drafted rookies as it's always interesting to see how the team's decisions come to light. The Cowboys do have an uncanny ability to uncover some hidden gems every year.
No better example of such instances are Tony Romo and Miles Austin. Last year it was Cole Beasley and Lance Dunbar and this year it could be a host of players. Kendial Lawrence is someone worth keeping an eye on as he tries to build on his performance from rookie mini-camp.
In following the OTAs there appears to be other players worth mentioning as well. Wide receiver Jared Green, son of Redskins great Darrell Green, and fellow wideout Eric Rogers could both have outside shots to make the team.
The practice squad seems more likely, but it's hard to tell how Cole Beasley will perform in his second year. Another player to keep an eye on is Jakar Hamilton at the safety position. With many question marks surrounding the position and J.J. Wilcox currently running with the backups, Hamilton has a legitimate shot at making this roster.
So who will the hidden gems be this year for the Cowboys? Time will tell but the odds have dictated that the Cowboys have a few on this roster.
The Cowboys needed to come out of this draft with a safety and they did just that. After selecting J.J. Wilcox in the third-round the Cowboys certainly have a player at safety. However, with little experience, did the Cowboys mess up by passing on Eric Reid or Jonathan Cyprien?
Wilcox certainly has a lot to learn, but the Cowboys feel his upside is tremendous. This could be one of the more interesting storylines as the OTAs progress and so will his development. Is this a plug-and-play safety on day one?
Highly doubtful, but Wilcox's raw ability is certainly undeniable. His development is either going to make Cowboys fans happy or his lack of development will just lead to more questions regarding this organization's ability to evaluate talent.