Five things to watch this week at the NFL Scouting Combine

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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The Dallas Cowboys will be among the teams descending on Indianapolis this week for the annual NFL Scouting Combine. It’s the league’s ultimate casting call for prospective rookies as well as a stock exchange of sorts.

The players’ stock will elevate and descend on draft boards depending on how they fare in interviews and workouts at the combine. Those interviews are intriguing because virtually any topic can be broached.

NFL teams were sent a memo this week reminding them of the league’s anti-discrimination policy. It has long been on the books, but in light of Michael Sam’s recent announcement that he plans to be the first openly gay player in the NFL, the memo is particularly apropos.

This also is a time when teams begin to focus on their own free agents and roster decisions. The Cowboys, who need help on every level of their defense, have a huge decision to make regarding declining and aging superstar defensive end DeMarcus Ware.

Here are five things to look for at the NFL Combine, which begins Wednesday with player arrivals at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and ends next Tuesday:

1What will be the Cowboys’ focus?

Defense, Defense, Defense. More specifically, defensive linemen. The Cowboys took none in the draft last year. This year, they likely will take more than one. That lacking “quick twitch” excuse used in 2013 will be out the window. Dallas needs reinforcements badly.

2All eyes on Johnny Football

Electrifying former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will be a focus of the combine, from his height measurement to his workout numbers to his interviews with the media and teams. How will Johnny measure up? What will he do? What will he say?

3Michael Sam meets the mass media

The scrutiny of former Missouri defensive end/linebacker Michael Sam, who announced last week that he is gay, is only beginning. He will meet a throng of media and answer questions for the first time in an NFL environment. His workout numbers and performance will be under the microscope.

4Will Clowney wow enough to go No. 1?

Former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was the de facto No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft from the moment the 2013 draft ended. Then the season happened and Manziel and the quarterbacks jumped to the top. The 6-foot-6, 275-pounder hopes to change things by running a 4.4 in the 40.

5Jerry Jones talks DeMarcus Ware

Owner Jerry Jones will address the coaching changes and the Cowboys’ plan for the declining Ware. Will Ware, who has a $12 million salary next season and will count $16 million against the salary cap, be forced to take a pay reduction or be cut?

Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760 Twitter: @clarencehilljr

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