Top 10 Stories to Watch at Dallas Cowboys Training Camp: #2 The Reclamation Projects
By Matthew Postins
The Reclamation Projects
The Dallas Cowboys need improvement on defense, of course. But they’re looking for depth everywhere, too. As part of that quest the team has taken on several reclamation projects, players at varying stages of their careers who might have enough talent to make an impact in 2014, but there’s no way to know for sure until training camp begins. Here are five “reclamation projects” to track for the next few weeks:
Amobi Okoye. At one time this guy was destined to be one of the best interior defensive tackles in the NFL. Six years later he is something far less. He’s been no more than an adequate player in the NFL, but was he miscast in Houston’s system during his four years with the Texans? He spent two years with Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli in Chicago (2011-12), but his numbers were pedestrian and he became nothing more than depth. Okoye has been out of football for a full year and he sat out all of the offseason as he wasn’t physically ready for football. The Cowboys are hopeful that Okoye, at the least, can be versatile depth at both tackle positions and play 20-30 snaps a game. That would be a victory for Okoye, based on the past 18 months.
Brandon Weeden. When the Cowboys signed Weeden earlier this offseason it was based on the assumption that Kyle Orton would show up, at some point, to play. Well the Cowboys released Orton, so Weeden will now be one of the most watched players in camp, as he would be Tony Romo’s immediate backup. Weeden’s numbers in Cleveland weren’t very good (5-10 record) and he really only had one significant weapon to work with in wide receiver Josh Gordon. The Cowboys have to rebuild Weeden’s confidence and fundamentals. The problem? The Cowboys don’t have much experience grooming quarterbacks, Romo and Troy Aikman excluded, under owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
Rolando McClain. Just a couple of months ago the four-year veteran linebacker was retired, saying that he just didn’t have the passion for the game anymore. It was the second time he had retired in a year and came days after a lackluster workout with his former team, Baltimore. Based on his pedigree alone, McClain should be a baller (he played at Alabama and one season he led the Raiders in tackles). But two questions. First, is he really passionate about the game? Because if he’s not this won’t work. Second, at a listed weight of 259 pounds can he really be effective in the Cover 2, which is based on speed and quickness? The Cowboys gave up a late-round pick for McClain. He needs to pay them back in the form of playing well enough to earn a roster spot.
Jeremy Mincey. The Cowboys are hoping that Mincey can be this year’s version of George Selvie. Mincey had a high-water mark of eight sacks in 2011, but has been unable to match that production in the last two years combined. Mincey was lucky enough to play in the Super Bowl a season ago with Denver. The Cowboys are getting a player that has shown signs of being productive and might be in the right frame of mind to bounce back. Want to know why the Jaguars released Mincey last December, on his birthday no less? Head coach Gus Bradley told The Dallas Morning News that he felt Mincey had “too many distractions” in Jacksonville, including his recording studios. So if the Cowboys can keep Mincey from laying down tracks in the studio, this might just work. If the Cowboys can keep him focused on the field, that is.
Anthony Spencer. At this point Spencer qualifies. After his robust 2012 season Spencer played basically one half of football (against Kansas City) last season before microfracture surgery ended his season for good. The Cowboys let him go and then re-signed him at a huge discount on another one-year deal, partly because it became clear that Spencer would not be ready for mini-camp. He wasn’t. Now he may not be ready for training camp. Will Spencer’s body be right enough for him to contribute this season? And if so will he have enough knowledge of Marinelli’s system to contribute? Those are important questions for a player that may end up on the physically unable to perform list to start training camp.