Dallas Cowboys: Salty Vets Retake Lost Ground At Mini-Camp


The Dallas Cowboys promising rookies and their top returning rusher were all the rave during Organized Team Activities.

This week’s mini-camp has shown why competition makes teams better. Salty veterans have stepped up their game and recovered lost ground.

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Rookie lineman La’el Collins was a main story line of OTA’s. The first round hopeful suffered an unfathomable draft dilemma and was acquired cheaply as a free agent.

Collins began at right tackle with Doug Free sidelined by injury. Dallas graded his potential for the swing tackle role, the chief back-up to Free and Tyron Smith.

Towards the end of OTA’s, Collins split time at right tackle and inside at left guard to challenge Ronald Leary.

With the re-emergence of veteran Darrion Weems at swing tackle during mini-camp, Collins has remained inside at guard behind a determined Leary.

It’s the quality play of Weems that’s allowing Collins to focus at guard. An afterthought last week, Weems now looks to be the favorite at swing tackle.

Weems spent time with four other teams during his rookie year, before Dallas poached him from Denver’s practice squad in December 2012.

He impressed coaches while attempting to win the swing tackle last training camp, but shoulder surgery ended his bid prematurely.

Injuries may now help Weems lock down the swing spot, as rookie tackle Chaz Green underwent hip surgery Wednesday. His availability is uncertain for training camp.

"“It could limit him and will limit him early in training camp, and whether or not he’s a PUP situation for the year or not remains to be seen on his rehab. It’s very possible for him to come back and be a part of this team.”  — Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones on Chaz Green"

While Weems has the inside track to land the swing tackle role, Green’s injury may force Collins back outside during training camp.

If that’s the case, then it will certainly help Leary’s effort to hold off Collins while he’s split between two positions.


Behind the big boys still remains the uncertainty at running back. During OTA’s the Cowboys top returning rusher garnered all the praise.

Joseph Randle seemed to separate, impress, and take the lead over newcomer free agent Darren McFadden.

McFadden was mostly held out of OTA practices with a hamstring injury. Dallas called it “precautionary”, which means June practice wasn’t worth risking a real injury.

Nonetheless, the media and fanbase began to condemn McFadden and his inability to stay healthy. Ignoring the fact OTA’s are unimportant when health is involved.

One would think after Miles Austin, not a single Cowboys fan would complain about sitting out as a precaution to avoid a hamstring problem.

Just like Weems’ resurgence at swing tackle, talented veteran runner McFadden was not about to go down without a fight.

After a few days of mini-camp, McFadden is the runner turning heads of the coaches.

"“He did a nice job yesterday. He practiced more than he had over the last couple of weeks. You can see why he was drafted as high as he was, and how he’s been regarded as one of the more talented backs in the league. He can run. I think he’s got a good feel for running, and I think he’s picking up our offense fairly well. It was the most extensive work in a little while. I think he’s responding well to it.” — Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garret on Darren McFadden via DallasCowboys.com."

It’s a great sign to hear McFadden is showing the skills that made him an attractive option to join the Cowboys.

There’s a simple lesson to learn from the initial OTA surges of Collins and Randle, to the mini-camp recoveries of Weems and McFadden…

None of these contested positions are gonna get sorted out until the pads come on in training camp.

OTA’s and mini-camp are great for teaching, experimenting, and assessing potential on a basic level.

Until full contact begins in August, nothing substantial will be determined between competing players.

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