Dallas Cowboys: What We've Learned Through Week 3 of Training Camp
Training camp is almost over for the Dallas Cowboys, leaving the players with just one more week to impress their coaches.
This is not your 2013 Cowboys roster or coaching staff. Significant changes have been made on both ends. Whether those moves will help the team move past an 8-8 record this year remains to be seen.
Thanks to training camp, both coaches and fans alike begin to get a taste of what to expect going into the regular season. Some players have raised eyebrows; others haven't.
Depth-chart battles are raging on, and new coaches are attempting to settle into their new team.
With so many different aspects to watch for during camp, here's an overarching look at what we've learned so far about this team.
Rolando McClain Turning into Solid Investment
He has been dealing with some hamstring issues lately, but he has already earned praise from both team executive vice president Stephen Jones and head coach Jason Garrett. The latter told Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he has seen a lot of great traits out of McClain so far.
The No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft didn't play against the San Diego Chargers in Week 1 of the preseason thanks to his hamstring injury.
When he is fully healthy and able to step onto the gridiron, Garrett and his staff can get a better evaluation of just how much McClain can help Dallas this season. If he plays as well as he has performed in practice so far, his role might be a lot bigger than most expected when this trade was announced.
Brandon Weeden Picking Up Where Kyle Orton Left Off
The reason the Cowboys signed Kyle Orton in 2012 was to have a solid, veteran presence backing up Tony Romo. While Brandon Weeden isn't exactly an NFL veteran, he is proving himself to be a reliable one.
Since OTAs began, Weeden has been earning praise from his new coaches, and he put together a fine outing Week 1 against the Chargers. The former Cleveland Brown completed 13 of his 17 passing attempts, throwing for 107 yards and one touchdown.
"The big thing we were interested in seeing is how he conducted himself, the leadership part. From my vantage, he handled it well," Garrett said of Weeden to ESPNDallas.com's Jean-Jacques Taylor after the San Diego game.
Weeden did stare down receivers a few times, but he played as well as Garrett could have hoped. Weeden looked like a capable starter in the first preseason game.
That is the type of performance Garrett hopes the Oklahoma State product can put together if needed when the regular season comes around.
Team Continues to Take It Slow with Tony Romo
Romo did not play a down against the Chargers in Week 1 of the preseason. He has only participated in six of Dallas' nine padded practices through Aug. 6, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com.
The veteran quarterback has said that he is at 100 percent health-wise, though Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News doesn't believe that's true. Machota doesn't elaborate much on why he thinks this, but the team is giving him reasons to think that way.
By keeping Romo out of certain practices and games, one could infer the staff is being cautious for two reasons. Either No. 9 is still hurt or he is truly 100 percent, and the 'Boys are being extra cautious for fear of a re-injury.
It makes sense for Dallas to give Romo a light training camp and preseason workload. Eventually though, he will need to play or practice for a decent amount of time.
Being overly cautious is understandable, but that approach could also lead to some rusty play by Romo come September.
Ryan Williams Isn't Turning Many Heads so Far
A week after the Arizona Cardinals gave Ryan Williams his pink slip, Dallas made him a Cowboy.
The 2011 second-round pick fizzled out in Arizona due to injuries continuously keeping him off the field. Williams has played in just five NFL games so far in his career.
The Virginia Tech product came to Dallas with the hope of earning a roster spot. So far this training camp, he hasn't done much to put himself in contention for one.
In both Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News' Day 13 and 17 observations from Cowboys camp, he noted plays where Williams was tackled for a loss or no gain. Neither mentions any breakaway runs or scrimmage touchdowns for the former Cardinal.
In Dallas' first preseason game, Williams rushed for 29 yards on eight carries. That isn't a terrible stat line, but it's also far from head-turning. Joseph Randle, one of the other running backs hoping to fill out the depth chart, posted 50 yards on 13 attempts.
After the San Diego game, head coach Jason Garrett praised Randle, not Williams, to Jean-Jacques-Taylor of ESPNDallas.com.
If Williams wants to wear the star on his helmet next season, he has to start making memorable plays in practices and games.
Rod Marinelli Still Trying to Patch Defense Together
According to Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News, the average age of a player on the Cowboys' defensive unit is 25.4.
Sean Lee is out for the season before playing a regular-season down. Anthony Spencer is still recovering from an injury that sidelined him almost all of last season. George Selvie missed the first game of preseason due to a groin injury.
New defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli once again finds himself trying to put together the puzzle that is Dallas' defensive depth chart. Defensive end Tyrone Crawford has faith in his former defensive line coach's ability to put together a decent picture, though.
"He's Master Splinter. Definitely," Crawford told Sabin, comparing his coach to the leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Marinelli helped turn Selvie from a journeyman into the team's best pass-rusher last season. He found linebackers to fill in for the injuries sustained by Justin Durant, Lee and Bruce Carter that same year.
As a defensive coach, Marinelli has put together a successful track record when looking at his time in Chicago and Tampa Bay. He'll need to use all he has learned through the years to fill out this young and inexperienced squad.
Probable starting defensive linemen Henry Melton and Jeremy Mincey are new to Dallas. Others like Crawford and Nick Hayden have little starting experience to their credit.
Marinelli still has some time to decide who works best where, but he has a jigsaw-sized workload ahead of him.