Breaking Down Some of the Most Important New Faces on the 2014 Dallas Cowboys
An exciting part of any new NFL season is the various new faces on the team at the start of the summer. Training camp is just around the corner, and plenty of new players are optimistic about their chances to make the 2014 Dallas Cowboys.
Obviously, not everyone wearing a star on his helmet at minicamp this week will be on the final roster, but as of right now, there’s no reason to not hope for the best.
As with any sport, players age and teams have to refresh their roster with youth. There are also many new veteran free agents who plan on having an impact with Dallas.
Let’s break down some of the most important new faces on the Cowboys and explain what each player's expectations will be this season.
After a number of important defensive linemen departed Dallas, owner Jerry Jones knew he had to add some players with experience to help replace the holes. One of those additions was former Houston Texan Terrell McClain.
McClain enters camp as a potential starter at defensive tackle, along with Henry Melton and Nick Hayden. Although it could be quite difficult to duplicate what Jason Hatcher did last year, McClain can still be a key contributor.
It was clear that the Cowboys’ biggest weakness a season ago was their defensive front. Even if McClain doesn’t start, he makes the team better by creating depth on the bench.
The former third-round pick has been a disappointment thus far in his career, but it’s never too late to turn it around. Just look at defensive end George Selvie in 2013.
ESPNDallas.com’s Todd Archer reported how McClain was impressing the coaches so far. Jason Garrett said, “He’s one of those guys who doesn’t say anything to anybody. He’s just quiet and goes to work every day, but he’s absolutely one of the guys who is showing up the most in these practices.”
McClain is someone who should absolutely make the team and hopefully is a surprise playmaker during the year.
Another new face Cowboys fans could get used to seeing is that of quarterback Brandon Weeden. Dallas acquired the former first-rounder this summer after the Cleveland Browns decided to move in a different direction at quarterback.
Weeden’s situation isn’t solidified for the mere fact that the Cowboys don’t know what Kyle Orton is doing with his life. The fact that he hasn’t reported to camp at all leads one to believe his playing career is complete.
If that’s the case, then Weeden all of a sudden has an extremely vital role. Besides Caleb Hanie and Tony Romo, he’s the only other quarterback on the roster with game experience and is the leading candidate to be the backup.
With Romo still out recuperating from his back surgery, Weeden has been the man leading the offense at practice. According to NFL.com’s Marc Sessler, the former Oklahoma State signal-caller has been getting all of the first-team reps. Weeden said, “It’s definitely a breath of fresh air. I’m excited to be here. I love coming to work every day.”
The Cowboys are hoping they won’t have to play their new quarterback this year because it would mean that Romo was sidelined. However, if Orton is no longer in the picture, Weeden will be ready to take the reins.
The first rookie on this list is former Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Dallas drafted the 6’0”, 240-pounder in the fourth round of this year’s draft.
There are other Dallas rookies around who will face higher expectations, but Hitchens will be very interesting to watch. Dallas thought it was taking the linebacker simply to add depth; however, after Sean Lee went down for the season, Hitchens could find himself in an extended role immediately.
The youngster could be just what Dallas has been missing in the middle of its defense. In college, he was described as an excellent tackler who had an even better work ethic. He also proved to be durable by missing only one game in his collegiate career.
It’s too early to tell exactly where Hitchens will play on this defense, but it seems he will definitely be seeing a decent amount of playing time. He’s learning both the middle and weak-side linebacker positions, so expect Hitchens to play often, if not start.
The other new face to observe on the offensive side of the ball is wide receiver L'Damian Washington. The undrafted free agent might be unfamiliar to some Cowboys fans, but his play could change all of that sooner than later.
Washington is an extremely lanky target at 6’4”, 195 pounds. The former Mizzou Tiger was projected to be drafted as high as the fifth round, but he fell out of the draft altogether, in large part because of his thin frame.
There’s no doubt that Washington is extremely raw. The rookie needs to work on getting better and, most importantly, stronger.
Nonetheless, there have been a few notable undrafted players in recent years who became factors in the NFL. Anyone who’s Washington’s size and can run a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash is someone with an opportunity to make an NFL team's final roster...including that of the Cowboys.
The final new face is probably the most uncertain. Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye was a former top-10 overall selection, and the Cowboys could potentially be his final chance in football.
The 27-year-old Nigerian-born Okoye was a monster in college at Louisville. He was without a doubt one of the most explosive players in the 2007 draft and was rewarded with a high pick by the Texans.
Okoye has arguably his best season as a rookie in 2007, when he recorded 5.5 sacks. After that, it’s gone mostly downhill. Since 2010, he’s started only one game.
The Cowboys are taking a chance on the tackle because of the massive amount of potential he showed while entering the league. Jones signed Okoye to a two-year deal, none of which is guaranteed.
By teaming Okoye back up with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, Dallas hopes to catch lightning in a bottle. With there being little to no expectations for him, Okoye could shock everyone and make this team or start thinking about the next chapter of his life.