You might have already forgotten about one of the Dallas Cowboys seventh round picks from just a year ago. The reason obviously is because of the injury he sustained just last August during training camp.
Defensive lineman Ben Gardner tore some ligaments in his left shoulder before the start of last season. He was then placed on the injured reserved list and was forced to sit out his entire rookie year. Hence, the obvious memory loss of fans.
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Gardner played defensive end in a 3-4 scheme in college at Stanford. That is a position that would be similar to a 4-3 defensive tackle in this Cowboy defense ran by defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. So there have been rumors of moving him inside, as well as the Cowboy’s sack leader from just a year ago, defensive end Jeremy Mincey. Now that Mincey is sitting out of training camp in a contract dispute, it could give Gardner the opening he needs to prove himself.
Gardner participated fully in all of the organized team activities earlier this offseason and says he’s feeling just fine. With this defensive line having so much depth for the first time in years, this naturally creates position battles for everyone.
Including Mincey, Cowboys defensive linemen Greg Hardy, Tyrone Crawford, Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Nick Hayden are pretty much a lock for a spot on the final 53-man roster. This leaves guys like Gardner as well as relative unknowns like Jack Crawford, Ken Bishop, Ryan Russell, Davon Coleman, Kenneth Boatright, Lavar Edwards, and Efe Obada a chance to battle it out for the final few spots.
Defensive tackle Terrell McClain is also competing for a strong role on this Cowboy defensive line. McClain is set to be one of the primary reserves at both one and three technique inside. You could possibly see him and Gardner throughout the season a bit more than you thought you would.
Needless to say you can tell Gardner is very excited to finally step on the field at the pro level. Back in June he told the Dallas Morning News he feels that it is an advantage being very fresh after the season while everyone is still recovering from a long season.
In that same interview Gardner also stated:
"“I felt like I was able to get a lot of good work in during the offseason, come in ready and in shape for OTAs. I’m excited to be a part of this group because I think we’ve added some talent and we really have a bright future. I think we can be a great defense.”"
The Cowboys did not draft a true defensive tackle in this past years draft. That alone might tell you what the team thinks of the players they already have on the roster, including Gardner.
As soon as the season ended the way it did in Green Bay in the divisional round of the 2014 /2015 NFL playoffs, Gardner went to twitter to give his thoughts and reflect back on his rookie season:
Also in the offseason back in April the Cowboys gave him a new number. The number was Anthony Spencer’s old one which is 93. Later that week, he showed his excitement through a post on Instagram. Perhaps this could be the beginning of something special for Gardner.
Training camp has now started for the Cowboys. This will be huge for Gardner to prove to the coaches that he is truly healthy. With a strong camp, he can also prove he deserves a spot on this team.