With quarterback Tony Romo and many other starters expected to get limited action, if any, in the Hall of Fame preseason game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, look for the Dallas Cowboys to focus on their younger players.
That puts at the forefront the seven-man 2013 rookie draft class, highlighted by top pick Travis Frederick and second pick Gavin Escobar, who are expected to start at center and tight end, respectively.
Here is a breakdown of each pick and how they have done so far in camp:
C Travis Frederick
Analysis: He has been everything the Cowboys thought he would be as the starter at center. He also has played some at guard and would start there, with Phil Costa at center, because of injuries if the season started today.
Quote: “Travis Frederick has been essentially the starting center for us since the first snap of the first OTA,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “I think he’s handled it really well. He has a chance to be a really good football player. He’s still learning a lot, technically, in what we’re asking him to do. But he brings it every day. He’s the right kind of guy. He’s smart and tough. He wants to get better every day.”
TE Gavin Escobar
Analysis: He remains a work in progress as a blocker and needs to add more weight and strength. But he is a fluid pass catcher and will be an instant factor in the red zone.
Quote: “Escobar has grown before our eyes,” Garrett said. “A long way off, but you see him gaining confidence, playing fast and playing with some snap and decisiveness. He’s a natural pass catcher, and he’s learning how to block. He has to get stronger. We know that. But he’s shown some versatility playing a lot of different spots.”
WR Terrance Williams
Analysis: He had a slow start to camp but has come on fast over the past week. With Dez Bryant missing four days with a quad strain, Williams played a lot with the first-team offense and was impressive. He will be the third receiver on opening night.
Quote: “Terrance Williams, again, is growing before our eyes,” Garrett said. “I keep using this word confidence, but you see these guys gaining confidence. They’ve seen the installation in the spring. They saw it again in the minicamp, and now they’ve seen it for a third time. It’s starting to sink in with them. They’ve been in these situations before. And you’re starting to see them take advantage of them.”
S J.J. Wilcox
Analysis: No pick has received more attention and created more buzz since the start of the camp than Wilcox. He is always around the ball. He is aggressive. He is a hitter. He will be a starter at safety in the near future if not this year.
Quote: “Wilcox we’ve talked about a lot,” Garrett said. “We like the demeanor he plays with. He’s learning the defensive system. He’s getting better. He understands what his landmarks are, and what his assignments are. But he brings it every day. He’s got a physical nature to him that we really, really like.”
CB B.W. Webb
Analysis: He came into camp expected to battle Orlando Scandrick for the nickel cornerback spot. It hasn’t been close. Webb struggled early and Scandrick has been great. But Webb has steadily improved and is gaining confidence.
Quote: “B.W. Webb, I think is really improving as well,” Garrett said. “He made a big play in the scrimmage the other day. He had an interception and returned it in one of those end-of-the-game type situations. Again, same kind of process they’re going through. Sometimes they’re eager. And then it’s ‘Where is this quickness, and where is his explosiveness?’ I think it has a lot to do with what we’re asking him to do and playing with confidence.”
RB Joseph Randle
Analysis: He missed the entire off-season program with a thumb injury. So he started slowly in camp. But he has come on of late with his best practices the last couple of days, including two touchdowns in a red zone drill Tuesday.
Quote: “We think he’s a good football player,” Garrett said. “And part of that is an ability to run the football, and I think he does demonstrate good vision to go along with speed, quickness and explosiveness. He’s got a lot to learn, but that was a good session for him. It was a live drill, tackle to the ground, and he has responded well to those situations throughout camp.”
LB DeVonte Holloman
Analysis: He has impressed with his athletic ability and physical nature. He should make an instant impact on special teams, but the Cowboys see him as a future starter in place of strongside linebacker Justin Durant.
Quote: “DeVonte Holloman, what we saw on tape in college is what we’re beginning to see here on the practice field,” Garrett said. “Athletic guy, rangy guy can really run to the football. Has a nose for the football. He’s learning. He’s getting better every day.”