Position battles to watch in Dallas Cowboys training camp

Posted Saturday, Jul. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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1Safety

Barry Church is the starter at one of the safety spots, a testament to the work the former undrafted player out of Toledo has put in. But his partner? Veteran Will Allen, a part-time starter over the past three years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, will get the first shot. The Cowboys have lined up only young competition behind him — second-year man Matt Johnson, rookie draft pick J.J. Wilcox and undrafted rookie Jakar Hamilton. The young players are athletic and have reputations for being hard hitters, and they did not disappoint in the organized team activities and minicamps. But they do not have what Allen has — experience in the league and under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

2Strong-side linebacker

With Sean Lee and Bruce Carter ready to go in the middle and on the weak side, respectively, the Cowboys need to figure out who will play on the tight-end side (or extra-blocker side). One of the few free agents the Cowboys signed, Justin Durant, will get the first shot. But the team’s prized undrafted signee, Brandon Magee, came at the same position. And third-year player Alex Albright has long impressed the Cowboys with his toughness and intelligence. Durant was unable to practice a lot in the spring because of injury. Training camp is where he will have to reward the Cowboys’ belief in him.

3Guard

There might actually be two battles here. At left guard, Nate Livings is the starter, but he had a knee problem in the spring and hardly practiced. In his place, Ronald Leary was good — not great — but that was enough to get some observers interested. Leary has a little bit of momentum on his side. He was activated for the final game last year after spending all season on the practice squad, a little bit of a disappointment for the “priority” undrafted free agent. At right guard, Mackenzy Bernadeau practiced only part time in the spring while he recovered from shoulder surgery. He said he should be 100 percent by training camp. But last year, he had perhaps the most up-and-down year of any player on the offensive line. David Arkin is a long shot to unseat him, but a little consistency could go a long way.

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