LM Otero/Associated Press
Every year, certain positions are up for grabs throughout the offseason and training camp.
There will be fierce competition between multiple players at the following positions. How each player does in each drill, meeting and preseason game will weigh heavily on whom the coaches choose to win that spot.
These are not the only spots that are up for grabs, but they certainly are the most important.
The Sean Lee injury has left the "Mike" or middle linebacker position in flux.
The Cowboys drafted Anthony Hitchens to be the backup, but it is not clear if he is ready to start yet. The Cowboys moved over Justin Durant from the "Sam" to Mike linebacker position to give it a veteran's presence. Then they traded for troubled linebacker Rolando McClain, shortly after mandatory minicamp ended.
McClain is the most talented of the group, but will his head get in the way or stay on football? Durant has the most football experience, but is he talented enough to warrant a starting position? Hitchens is the youngest, but will he be able to handle the mental stress that comes from the position?
All these questions must be answered before someone wins the starting job.
Strong-Side Defensive End
The questionable health of Anthony Spencer has left this position up in the air. He would likely be the starter if healthy; however, he is still working his way back to prime after a microfracture knee surgery and may start the season on the PUP list.
Without Spencer, George Selvie and Tyrone Crawford will compete for the starting job of strong-side defensive end. For my in-depth article on this position battle, click here.
At this point, Selvie is the better pass-rusher, while Crawford is better against the run. This competition will likely come down to which player shows more improvement throughout camp.
Crawford is younger and has the most potential of the two, but can he put it all together? Selvie was the biggest surprise on the Cowboys defense last year; can he do it again?
Training camp will provide the answers to both of these questions.
Strong safety has been a position of porous play for the Cowboys recently. It is very important for the defense that someone proves to be an effective strong safety during training camp.
J.J. Wilcox is likely the leader heading into training camp, with Matt Johnson, Jakar Hamilton and Jeff Heath competing to take that distinction away from him.
The Cowboys were burned on deep passing plays in vital moments last year partly because of poor coverage from the strong safety.
This is what makes Hamilton such an enticing possibility. His strength is his ability to excel in coverage.
While he may be the best in coverage, Wilcox is the most athletic and has the most potential out of the bunch. Jeff Heath is likely the smartest player of the safety group, while Matt Johnson may be the best all-around player.
Nevertheless, each player has big question marks entering training camp. Can Johnson stay healthy? Does Heath have enough talent to make a difference for the Cowboys? Can Hamilton become a better all-around safety? Will Wilcox realize his immense potential?
The answers to those questions will have a huge bearing on who will win the starting job.
One of the most important position battles will take place at left guard. Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary were starters for the majority of last season at each guard spot. However, this year they will battle for the starting spot at left guard.
Leary is younger and has more upside, but Bernadeau played better for the most part last year. It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys split the snaps between them throughout training camp.
For Leary to win, he will have to improve his pass-blocking ability by becoming more consistent with his technique. Bernadeau needs to remain consistent to maximize his chances of winning the job.
Leary may be the leader at this point because of his age and upside; however, if he doesn't become more consistent, Bernadeau will win the job.