5 Things to Watch During Rookie Minicamp
Coaches will get their first on-field look at the 2017 Cowboys Rookie Class this Friday and Saturday during Rookie Camp. Here are some of the players and/or positions we’ll be watching:
Todd Rosenberg via AP
IT’S TACO TIME!
As the 1st-round pick and player who plays the greatest position of need (pass rush), all eyes will be on Taco Charlton. The Cowboys really like his versatility. He can play multiple positions along the defensive line.
During Rookie Camp and through a summer full of OTAs and Minicamp, will the coaches let Taco settle-in at right defensive end, or will they move him to other spots along the defensive line? My bet is that they’ll move him around. Will that start as early as Rookie Camp?
Alan Diaz and Chris O’Meara via AP
WHO IS GONNA PLAY QB?
The Cowboys signed two undrafted rookie free agent quarterbacks: Cooper Rush of Central Michigan and Austin Appleby of University of Florida. If either of these two young QBs can make a strong impression, there is a hole on the roster for a third quarterback. Dak Prescott and Kellen Moore are the only two veteran QBs returning from last season; Tony Romo and Mark Sanchez are no longer on the roster. This is a golden opportunity for Rush and Appleby. If one of them flashes enough potential, the Cowboys may decide to keep a rookie as the third developmental QB rather than bringing in a veteran journeyman QB.
Would Rush or Appleby be on the 53-man roster for the 2017 regular season? The Cowboys may decide to keep only 2 QBs on the 53-man roster, but they would keep a young QB on the practice squad. That would give Rush or Appleby a full year on the practice squad to develop as well as learn the Cowboys’ offense.
If you think Rush or Appleby’s chances of sticking the roster (or practice squad) are pretty low, the chances of the undrafted kid from Eastern Illinois were pretty low back in 2003 (yeah, Tony Romo).
REVAMPED DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD
The Cowboys used 4 of their 9 draft picks on defensive backs, and Rookie Camp is our first chance to see all those guys on the field together. Three of the four play cornerback: Chidobe “Cheeto” Awuzie (2nd round pick), Jourdan Lewis (3rd round), and Marquez White (6th round). Xavier Woods (6th round) is a safety.
Awuzie and Lewis are versatile guys. Will the coaches want to see Awuzie take any snaps at safety, or possibly get snaps at left cornerback as well as right cornerback?
Ben Margot via AP
They may decide to let him settle-in on one side at cornerback so he can compete with a returning veteran at that position. Lewis can play inside in the slot at nickel cornerback as well as outside cornerback. He probably will take reps in-the-slot when the defense plays a “nickel” package (5 defensive backs instead of 4, the 5th plays inside in the slot).
Gerry Broome via AP
SWITZER vs LEWIS
Speaking of the nickel/slot cornerback, I will look forward to watching Jourdan Lewis and all the DBs try to defend Ryan Switzer, the slot receiver drafted in the 4th round. Switzer is the Cole Beasley clone (5’ 8” and blonde hair). If we see some 7-on-7 drills, we cold see Switzer working out of the slot. Switzer was also an excellent punt returner in college. He will have the opportunity to compete with returning veteran Lucky Whitehead for the role of return specialist once OTAs and Minicamp get underway. Switzer can expect to get practice reps as kickoff returner as well as punt returner during Rookie Camp.
WHO IS GETTING ATTENTION FROM COACH BISACCIA?
If you want to make the roster, make a good impression on Coach Rich Bisaccia. He’s a hard man to please. He’s intense, and he’ll give you an earful of invectives if you’re not hustling or if you make mistakes. But a rookie’s entrée to the NFL is through special teams, and he’s the Cowboys’ special teams coordinator. You were probably a star player on your college team and maybe you didn’t have to play special teams. But that was then, this is now. You need to be willing to do anything and everything on special teams; play as many units as you can. If you’ve never covered a kickoff or punt in your life, better start now.
During the summer (more during Training Camp than now), I always look for the young players that are getting extra reps on special teams. If a player is getting his attention, that’s a sure sign that Coach Bisaccia is giving him a long look.