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Mini Camp Report

The Cowboys wrapped up their mini camp and we came away with lots of insight as to where the team is right now. Mini camps are held to bring the whole team together and to see what the rookies and veterans can bring for the full scale training camp which will kick off July 30th, its all serious business for Bill Parcells. For the fan though, the mini camps mark the beginning of football, its more of a sneak preview for the fan. There’s a very long-agonizing stretch from early Feb. to August when the pre-season arrives. So, these mini camps wet the palates of the most die hard of fans until then. In this report, we’ll take an early look at the Cowboys and see what we came away with from the end of the mini camps.

Have you ever had a car that kept breaking down and it became more costly to keep it than to invest in a new car? Well, that’s the feeling here with the Cowboys for the upcoming 2005 season. The defense has been revamped, and we will see quite a few new faces on defense. The mini camp marks the first time the Cowboys get to test drive this new defense and the ride looks to be all worth it. The Cowboys invested high draft picks that ALL went to defense. The Cowboys drafted Demarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, and Kevin Burnett with their first three picks.

Alongside the veterans such at DT Jason Ferguson the rookies, Ware and Spears practiced the 3-4 alignment on a full time basis. Its 3-4 fulltime, but that does not mean we will not see the 4-3 on occasion. On Sunday, the Cowboys were running a few 4-3 alignments. So we can surely expect the 3-4 as the primary, but the 4-3 will continue to be used, probably more as a situational package. Rookie Demarcus Ware was quoted as saying, "I know we're going to do 4-3 too, because I see a lot of it in our playbook."

What about the other rookie defensive players?

OLB Kevin Burnett was sidelined from onfield workouts as he continues to rehab his hip scoping, he will be ready by training camp. DE Chris Canty was also on the sideline as he continues to recover from his eye surgery. Jerry Jones states he expects Canty to be ready for field in 4-8 weeks or the early part of training camp and he expects Canty to be a contributor on defense for the regular season. This is truly great news and if Canty does indeed get in on the rotation at DE for the Cowboys we could have a major steal from this year’s draft. Projected a 1st rounder by several mock drafts before the injury he slipped to the 4th and the Cowboys jumped on the opportunity.

Justin Beriault and Jay Ratliff were also practicing during the minicamp. On one play, Beriault was burned by Dan Campbell, but he finished the play by catching the TE from behind and causing a fumble, Beriault still needs more work in coverage and still looked raw in coverage. Ratliff was drafted with the Cowboys last pick, but he showed he is ready to play, and wants do what it takes to contribute to the team. Ratliff showed immense quickness off the line and on special teams.

Ware and Spears looked very good in camp, making penetration to the QB on several occasions. On one play, Ware sped past Pro-Bowler Larry Allen to the QB, the crowds cheered, but Allen refocused and dominated the other defensive players. Allen looks to be in great shape and looks to be in Pro-Bowl form again.

In Shape or Out of Shape?

Speaking of the Offensive line, LT Flozell Adams showed up 10+ pounds lighter, and received high praises from Parcells, he looked leaner and quicker. In addition, Adams dominated OLBs like Thornton and Ware. Looks like Adams is planning to return to true Pro Bowl fashion as he did in 2003. Parcells continued his praise of Marcus Spears who also showed up to camp 13lbs lighter. During the Rookie Camp, Parcells had labled Spears as “Chubby Checker or Fats Domino” Spears took heed to Coach’s advisement of losing weight and Spears delivered. Spears now has a sub-300lb weight. Looking leaner and quicker, Spears did some pretty good things on the defensive side of the ball. Swamp Thang is ready to cause havoc.

RT Kurt Vollers is another player receiving some praises from Parcells. Vollers showed up focused and showed up bigger, as in muscle mass. Vollers did some good things on the Oline at RT when he replaced starter Torrin Tucker at the end of the 2004 season, and his dedication to his body and conditioning could help him take over at RT

Every year there’s that player that shows up overweight, so who was it this year? RT Torrin Tucker…talk about dancing with fire! Not only did Tucker not play well at all at RT last year, he was replaced with Vollers at the end of the season, BUT then he comes to camp overweight? Parcells noticed this and stated that not only was he overweight, he was substantially overweight, wow!. Parcells also stated Tucker had better show him a lot more right now, this is his third year. Parcells is huge into player assessments at the year 3 marker and Tucker is on the wrong path right now, I would even venture to say Tucker may not make this team unless he improves immensely.

QB depth not quite set

With Vinny gone, Parcells was not comfortable enough in Drew Henson or

Tony Romo to start. We all know Parcells brought in Drew Bledsoe in to take over as the starting quarterback and that is the plan for the 2005 season. So, Bledsoe will be #1, Henson #2, and Romo #3, right? Well, let’s hold the horses on the #2 spot. It looks like the camp battle to really watch for could reside between Drew Henson and Tony Romo. Henson has been working all off season throwing 5000+ passes and learning the playbook, but so has Tony Romo. Let’s remember Parcells had the option to send one of both of the young guns to NFLE, but he opted to keep them both here to work on their game; mechanics, conditioning, and the playbook. It sounds like it’s a race to close to call right now – a dead heat. Parcells has even indicated that Romo may have a slight edge in regards to knowing the system. This is a camp battle we will be watching very close. Either way, it is very good to hear the level of competition is there. Ideally, it’s good to have a solid #2 QB, but if you can have a solid #3 QB, then you’re in great shape.

The 3-Headed Beast

Now, we know what Julius Jones brings to the table – strength, heart, speed, production and more, BUT without Jones, the running attack was nonexistent in 2004. We had Eddie George, and perhaps he was not given enough carries, or perhaps he had lost a step, and Parcells did not want to play Reshard Lee…2004 was a complete mess. Now comes 2005, Parcells knows that a healthy running game is a must for any team, and a QBs best friend.

Are you comfortable with Julius Jones as your starting running back? Without a doubt yes, no questions there, but what if he gets injured, who would we have? Parcells knew this had to be addressed in the offseason, so he drafted Marion Barber III (MB3) in the 4th round a projected 2-3rd rounder type back. Barber brings some solid depth at RB. Through mini camp practice, Barber exhibited good hands and speed. During one of Parcells' press conferences he compared Barber to a former player, Leon Johnson. Saying he was the backup runner, 3rd down back, return man, a player with good receiving hands, and more. He sees Barber as that type of contributor player.

Anthony Thomas (A-Train) was recently picked up and this was a marvelous addition, signed for a one year deal, Parcells likes what he sees in Thomas during camp. Parcells described his role as the in between tackle runner, tough guy, short yardage - goal line

Leading the FS Pack

This has proven to be one of the most active offseasons in years – the Cowboys jumped out of the gate and signed impact free agents and with calculated precision beefed up the defense. One position that has a question mark looming over it is the free safety spot. The Cowboys brought in Corey Hall, but he was less than impressive, and there remains a chance the Cowboys could take a look at upcoming June cuts like Lance Schulters or Corey Chavous. For the time being it appears that FS will be filled from within the team. Throughout mini camp Keith Davis showed that he can make plays, he knows where the ball is at, knocked down a few passes and more. Right now, Davis is leading the pack for that open FS spot. Parcells likes what he sees out of Davis, but he’s torn on the issue – Davis is the team’s special teams star, and Parcells acknowledged that moving him from ST to FS will leave a void. Parcells stated, "I am torn because if he is starting, we are going to be losing a lot on special teams," Parcells also added that, "Davis does have a knack for the ball, the ball does come to the kid. You want those players on defense."

Other players competing for that FS spot are rookie Justin Beriault, Clint Finley, Lynn Scott, and Pete Hunter. Hunter is in the mix, and despite previous reports that he wanted to play CB or be traded, Hunter says he will do what is asked of him. Hunter has great potential at FS with his size and speed; in addition he has added some weight to his frame. We’ll see how this pans out.


From a die hard fans point of view the Cowboys are set to make great strides. The Cowboys organization as a whole has made a true commitment to turn this team around. We’ve shored up some keys positions through free agency, drafted some quality character playmakers via the draft, and have brought on some great assistant coaches into the mix.

What does Coach Parcells think? Parcells said in closing that, "We're going to have more depth, more competition…but I don't know what we're going to have on the inside. I don't know what kind of chemistry we're going to have. I don't know what kind of mental toughness we're going to have. I don't know what we're going to do the first time we get hit in the mouth."


  • At 10:07 PM, Anonymous fbcx said…

    Sounds like a lot of new faces will be adding some new punch, but only if BP lets them play. I lost a lot of respect for his decision making when he pulled DH after he had performed well then threw one interception. The result was we all got to see the vastly more experienced VT throw dozens more interceptions and make rookie bad decision. We also lost a valuable opportunity to watch DH grow and learn in the position. I thought he was showing great playmaking ability and great promise just when he was pulled out for the season.


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