On Thursday May 11th, the Dallas Cowboys opened the doors at the Star in Frisco to a number of drafted, undrafted and tryout players for their 2017 rookie minicamp. As an offering of motivation, the team also released a video entitled “Earn the Star,” the same day. A quote was attached to the video, as well. “Your dream was yesterday. Your challenge is now.” All of the players appeared eager to start earning their stars.
Dallas Cowboys 2017 Rookie Minicamp Review
According to some of the team’s reporters, several rookies impressed the coaching staff and put their names into the ballot box to earn significant playing time next season. Here’s a look at some of the rookies and the position battles that should heat up over the next couple of months.
Left Defensive End
First round draft pick Taco Charlton was definitely the center of attention during the workouts. Video highlights captured him as he participated in a number of defensive line drills. One drill in particular, the “Swat and Swim,” provided an indication of the lack of experience the player has. The drill is designed to have the defensive lineman swat one of his paws at a blocking dummy as if they are swatting at an offensive lineman. They are then taught to immediately swim or rip through the dummy with the opposite arm.
Charlton seemed to wind up extremely far, leaving his chest wide-open for an offensive lineman’s punch during the footage. Chances are this will be an area of focus for coach Rod Marinelli and defensive line coach Leon Lett. Footwork and agility do not appear to be a problem for Charlton who looked like he was in great condition and ready for action on film. Look for the rookie to really challenge both David Irving and Demarcus Lawrence for the starting left defensive end spot.
Irving has proven to be almost freakish with his athleticism and size but he has struggled with his balance of late. There were plenty of times last season where the youngster was easily moved off his spot by offensive linemen, preventing him from getting home in pass-rush situations. Lawrence has struggled to stay healthy the past few years. He is coming off his second back surgery but did show flashes of brilliance at times last season.
Third-year player Trey Flowers from the New England Patriots was the 36th ranked sack leader in 2016 with seven sacks. The 6’2”, 265 pound Flowers was a third round selection out of Arkansas. On the contrary, 6’3” 240 pound Benson Mayowa led the Cowboys with just six sacks. Mayowa, an undrafted free agent who signed with Seattle out of Idaho, is entering his fifth season. Charlton is considered the new thoroughbred among the Cowboys defensive linemen. He will be given every chance to prove himself on the gridiron.
Second round selection Chidobe Awuzie was unable to participate in the opening day of mini-camp due to a previous engagement. The rookie cornerback left the Cowboys complex for Colorado after taking his physical to attend his graduation ceremony. When Awuzie did make it back to camp, his presence was felt almost immediately. Photos and highlights show the player demonstrating his speed and athleticism. Awuzie will wear number 33 heading into OTAs.
Awuzie’s counterpart, third round pick Jourdan Lewis out of Michigan, was also able to show why the Cowboys chose him. According to Cowboys writer Bryan Broaddus, Lewis “looked a little quicker and more confident, initially.” Both players will push for playing time early in training camp. Hopefully, they will remain healthy throughout OTAs and head into camp ready to compete.
Cornerback Marquez White, safety Xavier Woods and tryout player Duke Thomas should be ready to stake their claim to the star, as well. They all participated in the minicamp, displaying many of the attributes that have given each of them a shot to make the team. Young veteran defensive backs like Leon McFadden and Jeremiah McKinnon will likely feel the newest members of the Cowboys secondary breathing down their necks with every rep.
Wide Receiver/Return Specialist
The elephant in the room coming out of the draft was the selection of wide receiver Ryan Switzer from North Carolina. Switzer was selected as another complementary piece to an already potent offensive group. Some believe he was also drafted to push the incumbent return specialist Lucky Whitehead. Whitehead is entering his third season but he has yet to provide many explosive plays on special teams during the regular season. In fact, he hasn’t scored one touchdown in his career.
Switzer’s highlights from the minicamp demonstrate his ability to adjust to the ball when it is in flight and make every catch with his hands. His versatility should also give him a boost when comparing him to the seemingly limited Whitehead. There’s not much talk about the competition that’s brewing at the Star but the battle for supremacy should begin to heat up, when the veterans arrive this week.