Updating Dallas Cowboys' Key Position Battles Halfway Through Training Camp
Unlike most teams, the Dallas Cowboys have two preseason games in the books. Like most teams, Dallas is just a month away from its first regular-season game.
Position battles are in full swing at Cowboys' camp with only so much time remaining for players to capture their desired spot on the depth chart. Let's take a look at Dallas' key position battles and who has been impressing so far.
Backup Running Back
In the Hall of Fame game, Dallas ran the football early and often with rookie Joseph Randle and Phillip Tanner leading the way.
In the team's second exhibition bout against Oakland, Tanner, Lance Dunbar and Randle were all close on the stat sheet, but the latter earned a touchdown.
The two preseason games reflect just how close a battle it has been between the three rushers to become DeMarco Murray's backup.
As Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas recently noted, Randle is fourth on the depth chart in terms of reps during practice. That has not slowed his preseason production.
Tanner and Dunbar are right there in the running with Randle, and it doesn't appear any of them have separated themselves from the others just yet. This is a camp battle that is far from over.
While the backup running back job is the biggest battle on the offensive side, sorting out the safety depth chart is easily the biggest on defense.
Veterans Will Allen, Barry Church, Matt Johnson, Danny McCray and rookie J.J. Wilcox are all trying to grab one of the two starting jobs.
Wilcox recently added a highlight to his cause when he made six tackles during the Raiders' 84-yard drive to the Dallas 6-yard line. The third-round pick made five of those tackles on his own before capping the drive off with an interception off Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
Johnson, on the other hand, has had a rough go so far this preseason. He suffered a minor ankle injury against the Dolphins in the Hall of Fame game, but had impressed Jerry Jones before that happened.
"I thought he was playing well when he went out," the Cowboys' owner told Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News.
While Johnson and Wilcox will put the best camp together they can, in all likelihood, Dallas will start Allen and Church to start the year.
Both Johnson and Wilcox are inexperienced at the NFL level and can learn the speed of the game in a backup role. If the recent draft picks put together solid 2013 campaigns, they will be one step closer to becoming the Cowboys' safeties of the future.
Simply put: The Cowboys are a mess at guard right now with Ronald Leary being the only bright spot.
Nate Livings just had his second knee surgery. Kevin Kowalski already injured his knee. Ryan Cook and Jermey Parnell have both been banged up. Mackenzy Bernadeau just got back from an injury of his own.
The Cowboys don't have many healthy guards on the roster right now, which has given Leary plenty of reps and time to shine. He played every snap in the Hall of Fame game to kick off the preseason and has earned Jerry Jones' praise already.
"I don’t want to be the coach, but I’m comfortable. He has a substance. It’s not just his size, but his punch. He has a base in the middle," the Dallas owner told Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
ESPN's Adam Schefter recently reported the Cowboys are still looking around to sign another guard as well—Brian Waters to be specific.
There are plenty of moving (and injured) parts to the offensive guard situation. Dallas will likely go with Leary to start at left guard and Bernadeau at right if Waters can't be signed.
Unlike his competition, Leary has been healthy and participating in practice all offseason. He has earned Jones' thumbs up, and it's not like Livings played anywhere near lights-out in 2012. This job is certainly within his reach, if not his already.
As for Bernadeau, his case is more of Dallas having to choose the option that will hurt it the least. The Cowboys clearly aren't satisfied with the idea of starting the veteran for another year if they're making calls to a retired guard.
The guard situation is still murky, but the best guess one can make right now is Leary and Bernadeau getting the starting nods.
No. 3 Cornerback
Orlando Scandrick is used to battling things out in training camp at cornerback and should emerge victorious from his latest one.
Rookie B.W. Webb did not exactly impress against the Oakland Raiders, even being specifically called out by his head coach.
The William & Mary product posted just three tackles, fumbled a punt and was noticeably picked on by Oakland quarterbacks.
Head coach Jason Garrett talked to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about Webb's play against the Raiders, saying:
You are not allowed to have one of those nights. One of things you are looking for in any kind of players, a young guy or a veteran is you want to make sure they respond to the successes and adversities of the game.
Scandrick has not posted any huge highlights over the first two exhibition games, but he hasn't had any bad ones either.
He's one of the longest-tenured veterans of the Cowboys' secondary. Scandrick also received a contract extension with the team back in 2011.
Webb has some time to make up for his recent mistakes, but he is the one who has to prove he deserves the No. 3 corner job. All Scandrick has to do is have a decent camp and show he hasn't lost anything since last year.
With Scandrick's veteran advantage, he should outlast the rookie and earn the No. 3 job behind Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr.
No. 3 Wide Receiver
While one could throw Cole Beasley and Danny Coale in, the No. 3 job at wide receiver is really between Dwayne Harris and Terrance Williams.
The 2013 third-round pick derailed Harris' inside route to the third receiver job after his selection back in April. Through the first two exhibition games, neither player has produced a whole lot.
For Williams, offseason workouts brought a rough transition to the NFL, but as long as he progresses and impresses, he'll be Harris out for the job. Harris has very little to show for his first few years in the NFL. He posted 222 yards on 17 receptions last year for Dallas, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Williams was a high draft pick for the Cowboys this year and was one of the more notable receivers in the 2013 class.
Unlike teammate Orlando Scandrick, Harris actually has more of a disadvantage being the veteran in his camp battle.
Since he wouldn't be coming into a starting role, Dallas would not mind Williams taking the No. 3 job. The Baylor product would be able to learn plenty, while still being able to contribute a decent amount in the passing game.
If Harris had more of a proven track record of production, this could be a harder decision for Jason Garrett. That's just not the case here. Harris can still give Williams a run for the job, but the latter has the best chance in this one.