Dallas Cowboys Training Camp: Week 2 Stock Report
The Dallas Cowboys are just days away from their first preseason game, but it feels as though training camp has just begun. In such a small time frame, it’s inevitable that we’ll see short-term fluctuations in play—players either overachieving or playing poorly in relation to their true skill set.
It’s important to not overreact to these fluctuations, which tell us very little about each player’s capabilities. Nonetheless, they’re still important to monitor because the coaches obviously care about who is performing well and who isn’t; they don’t have too much data or game film to use when making roster decisions, so practice reps matter for the majority of the players.
With that said, let’s examine the Cowboys’ Week 2 stock report—four players who are up and four who are down.
Stock Up: FS J.J. Wilcox
Second-year safety J.J. Wilcox is starting opposite Barry Church in the back end of the Cowboys’ secondary, and he apparently looks much improved from last year. Asked how Wilcox looks in coverage, Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com said “quicker and more confident.”
Everyone could see Wilcox’s confidence on display this weekend when he took a few shots at wide receiver Dez Bryant. Bryant told Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “J.J. put a nice hit on me. He pissed me off, but at the end of the day, I loved it.”
Wilcox is a big favorite to start at free safety this season.
Stock Down: QB Tony Romo
In what Rainer Sabin of the Dallas Morning News described as “an uneven performance,” quarterback Tony Romo’s weekend reportedly could have been better. Romo had a short throw to running back Joseph Randle skip in the grass and also got picked off by cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
This is an example of a situation that is effectively meaningless in regards to the 2014 regular season. Since he’s not a player in danger of not making the roster, the only thing we need to be worried about with Romo is his health.
And although there are still concerns about his back, there’s no evidence to suggest that his recent poor play was caused by an injury.
Stock Up: RG Zack Martin
Rookie guard Zack Martin has drawn a lot of praise so far, the latest from DallasCowboys.com’s Bryan Broaddus, who remarked that defensive tackle Henry Melton has looked “good except when he goes against Martin.”
That’s big-time praise for the rookie, especially considering that Melton’s skill set—one that relies on speed and quickness—is what could give Martin problems on the inside. He’s locked in as the starting right guard and has the potential to really give the Cowboys one of the league’s dominant short-yardage rushing attacks, which is huge.
Stock Down: CB B.W. Webb
Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News listed second-year cornerback B.W. Webb as someone whose stock is sinking. Said George:
The cornerback whom the Cowboys drafted in the fourth round in 2013 out of William & Mary has really struggled in camp. He’s been beat often in 1-on-1 drills and in team drills. He has a hard time staying in front of bigger receivers. With the rise of rookie Terrance Mitchell, Webb could be on the outside looking in come final cut-down day.
I agree with George’s assessment. Webb is athletic, but he’s a 184-pound cornerback who now has competition. In addition to Mitchell, Webb is also competing with veteran Sterling Moore for a roster spot. At this point, it seems fairly likely that Webb won’t make the final roster.
Stock Up: LB Rolando McClain
Linebacker Rolando McClain has been impressing in training camp, and as DallasCowboys.com reported, head coach Jason Garrett recently said, “It’s easy to see which he was a Top 10 pick in the draft.” Garrett went on to add, “I have liked what he’s done so far. He’s smart. He picks things up very quickly in meetings and is able to translate it on the field.”
McClain was probably overrated coming out of Alabama and no one believes the Oakland Raiders should have drafted him with the eighth overall selection in 2010, but this is still a 25-year-old player who was once highly regarded coming out of school. The fact that he’s impressing in camp and seems to be recommitted to football suggests that we might be looking at the Cowboys’ starting middle linebacker.
Stock Down: S Ahmad Dixon
In his latest 53-man roster projection, Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas had safety Ahmad Dixon making the team. Archer noted that Dixon needs to step it up, though, claiming “Dixon has to make an impression in the preseason games. It's been a slow start to practice for him.”
The safety position in general is difficult to project because we don’t really have any locks outside of Church and Wilcox. Jeff Heath, Matt Johnson, and Jakar Hamilton are all competing with Dixon. We also don’t know how many safeties the Cowboys will keep, although five seems like a good guess given the special teams abilities of many of the candidates.
Stock Up: Defensive Line
After a putrid start to camp, the Cowboys’ defensive line has reportedly been picking up their level of play in recent practices. Rowan Kavner of DallasCowboys.com wrote, “After a couple weeks of praising the offense, particularly the offensive line, it was the defense that showed up in close quarters during Saturday’s practice. With the Cowboys practicing live situation goal line drills, the defense stuffed the offense four out of six times.”
There’s no positional unit whose play is going to be more representative of the Cowboys’ overall team success than that of the defensive line. Right now, you can’t like the defense’s chances of generating pressure without blitzing. If that’s a continual struggle, it’s going to be a long year.
There’s some upside here, though. Melton could make a really big impact on the inside and the Cowboys have the versatile Tyrone Crawford back in the mix as well. Throw in George Selvie and the eventual return of both Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Lawrence and you have a wide range of potential outcomes for the Dallas defensive line.
Stock Down: OT Darrion Weems
The Cowboys are pretty loaded across their offensive line, but the team is certainly lacking quality depth. That’s especially true at offensive tackle, where Darrion Weems and Jermey Parnell are competing to be the top backup option.
Weems recently dislocated his shoulder, according to David Helman of DallasCowboys.com, and is expected to miss at least a week or so. Weems might have been the favorite to win the backup job, so it will be interesting to see if Parnell can gain any ground while Weems is on the shelf.