Breaking Down Dallas Cowboys' 5 Biggest Training Camp Projects
The Dallas Cowboys' training camp begins in less than one week on July 24. There will be plenty of interesting positional battles and young players to keep an eye on.
Several of the young guys will be viewed as training camp projects who can hopefully show signs of potential. Dallas is relying on several first- and second-year players to be big contributors this year.
Let’s take a deeper look at some of these players and examine who will make the largest impact.
However, McClain is back again on a defense that desperately needs his help. Dallas is extremely thin at middle linebacker and hasn't decided its starter at that spot.
Justin Durant is a decent player but lacks the explosiveness teams want at one of the most important positions on the field. McClain showed he’s capable of doing quality things in the past, but is he mentally ready for an NFL season?
If McClain can get his mind and body right in camp, the possibilities are endless. Even if he only shows some positive signs on the field, he could help provide some depth on the bench.
The next project is one who will most likely start a lot of games in 2014. J.J. Wilcox started five games last year but is by no means a finished product at this point in his career.
The former third-round pick (80th overall in 2013) is only 23 years old and, although he’s shown potential, his game is still extremely raw.
Despite Wilcox’s inexperience, he is the favorite to start for Dallas at safety across from Barry Church. The Cowboys need their secondary to be much more consistent this year in order to improve a defense that allowed the most yards in the league a year ago.
Wilcox will get plenty of reps in training camp to help polish his game and solidify his starting status.
Another project in the secondary is one who will probably take longer than Wilcox to pan out. B.W. Webb was also a rookie in 2013, taken with a fourth-rounder (114th overall) last season.
Even though the Cowboys’ corners stayed relatively healthy, Webb saw a decent amount of playing time for a struggling "D."
After the top three cornerbacks on the depth chart (Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick), the battle for the No. 4 spot is wide open. Webb has as good of a chance as anyone to claim it.
Following the news about Sean Lee's injury, rookie Anthony Hitchens is now one of the team’s most vital projects. The middle linebacker could be very useful if he can find himself ready by September.
According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, Durant has been practicing with the first team at middle linebacker. He’s currently the best option to replace Lee, although this could change in a month’s time.
Hitchens was extremely productive at Iowa and was noticed by many for his work ethic. He does need to work on his overall size (6'0", 240 lbs), but that will come with more time in the league.
No matter what happens with the other linebackers on the roster, I see Hitchens having a significant role in 2014.
The final training camp project to focus on is another defensive rookie. The Cowboys drafted Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon with one of their several seventh-round picks this May.
In spite of his low draft position (248th overall), there is a hope that Dixon can make this team and be an effective player. He is a classic big-hitting safety who tackles violently and with purpose. He could be the intimidating presence this defense needs.
Although he needs to improve his game, Dixon has an opportunity to contribute now. The Cowboys are thin at safety, so if an injury occurs to a starter, it’s anyone’s spot.