You would have to have had your head in the sand over the last week to not know that the young quarterbacks will be under the spotlight in today’s Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage at Dallas Cowboys training camp.
Rookie Dak Prescott and second-year man Jameill Showers are the team’s primary focus following Kellen Moore’s fractured leg and the empty so search so far for a veteran backup.
But outside of those two, here are five other players to watch:
1. Receiver Andy Jones, an undrafted rookie from tiny Jacksonville University, has turned heads since the opening of camp. He catches everything. He is only the best of the undrafted rookies but he has jumped over several incumbent backups. He has even gotten some reps with the first team offense.
“He has a lot of physical traits,” receivers coach Derek Dooley said. “The biggest thing with him was he came from a I-AA program, so he didn’t get a lot of the attention, didn’t quite have the production, didn’t have the exposure, probably didn’t have the development in a lot of ways. So we’re excited to see where he can go from here.”
2. Cornerback Anthony Brown, a rookie sixth-round pick from Purdue, started camp with an interception of quarterback Tony Romo on the first day and has not slowed down. He has the inside track to be the team’s fourth cornerback behind Orlando Scandrick, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. He is the backup slot corner to Scandrick and soaking in tips from the heady veteran every day.
“He’s a young player. Learning what we’re asking him to do,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s a conscientious guy. He certainly has athletic ability. He just needs to play. We’re going to give him plenty of chances to do that. He’s played both inside and outside and he’s making progress. He’s just a good athlete. You want to give guys a chance to show what they can do. He’s done a good job.”
3. Linebacker Mark Nzeocha, a seventh-round pick in 2015 from Wyoming, had a redshirt year as a rookie because he was recovering from a college knee injury. But he has a strong start to camp. He is currently working with the first team at strong side linebacker. But he could become a factor in the middle. Keep an eye on his development.
“He’s one of those guys who did not get much of a chance last year just because of the knee injury, but he’s worked very hard to come back,” Garrett said. “He’s a very good athlete. You’re starting to see the athleticism we saw from him on tape in college. Again, he’s a young player. He has to learn a lot about how we want to do things. The system, the techniques, all of that. But he’s making strides and we’re giving him plenty of chances, both on defense and in the kicking game.”
4. Tackle Chaz Green, a third round pick 2015 from Florida, missed all of last year as a rookie because of injuries. The Cowboys are counting on him to show some progress and development as the third tackle behind starters Tyron Smith and Doug Free. So far, Green has been inconsistent at best.
“He had some ups and downs,” Garrett said. “There are so many things that you are looking for evaluating a young player. One of the is responding to adversity. He goes against good guys in that first group. He’s not going to win all the time. They’re going to have some success against him. The reps for every player are critical to get ready to play. Any time a young player misses opportunity his rookie year, it really puts him behind. Because the chance to grow is so significant with every snap that you take. He did a good job at the end of the last year when he came back and started practicing with us. It’s good to see him be able to go through the off season, come into training camp and kind of just lay the foundation for his growth and development. He’s done a good job and again, we’re going to give him plenty of chances.”
5. Defensive Ryan Russell, a fifth-round pick in 2015 from Purdue, spent much of his rookie season in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s dog house. He has made strides during the off season and shown growth a a player. But he is working with the starters right now out of default. Randy Gregory is suspended and Benson Mayowa is recovering from knee surgery. The Cowboys need pass rushers and they need Russell for the light to come with Russell. If not keep, keep an eye on Mike McAdoo, a first-year player from North Carolina, who has flashed some in camp.
“You know, Ryan is one of those guys who falls into that category of making big strides after his rookie year,” Garrett said. “I think as the season went on last year he developed a better understanding of what we’re asking him to do and how to play, how to play in the system, the techniques we want to use and just emotionally, how to play, the intensity you need play after play. He’s done a nice job leading up to this training camp. He had a good off season. He’s off to a good start.He’s in the mix with a lot of other guys, just rotating through on that defensive line and we’re going to give him plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.”