On Tuesday, the Dallas Cowboys became the third team to report to 2014 NFL training camp. The club officially begins practice on Friday in its quest make the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Dallas finished last year at 8-8 for the third straight season. They play their first preseason game on Aug. 7 against the San Diego Chargers, and start the regular season a month later in San Francisco.
While players like Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are returning for another year, the team lost the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher.
Below are a few players to watch for at Cowboys’ training camp that might be under the radar.
As the 119th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Hitchens was the team’s third selection. Even though he wasn’t taken until the third and final day of the draft, the linebacker will be immediately thrust into an important role on defense.
While the Cowboys took Hitchens with plans of making him a backup to Sean Lee, he’ll get much more playing time, now that the middle linebacker has been sidelined for the entire season with a torn ACL. Hitchens has a lot to prove, and many draft experts felt the team took him two or three rounds too early.
Dixon doesn’t come to the NFL with much hype. Drafted out of Baylor with the 248th overall pick, it’s unknown what can be expected out of the rookie. Playing with the Cowboys, though, might be the best chance he has to have a major role in the 2014 season.
As a free safety, Dixon will compete for playing time in training camp. Dallas lacks depth at the position, and Dixon doesn’t have a lot of established competition. The Cowboys ranked 30th in the NFL last year, allowing 287 passing yards per game. If Dixon shows some promise, he’ll find his way onto the field during the regular season.
The linebacker was a sixth-round selection in 2013, and ended up making two starts by the end of the season. While Hitchens could get more playing time than initially thought because of Lee’s injury, Holloman has a real chance to start. His main competition will be Justin Durant and Rolando McClain.
Durant played 10 games for Dallas last year and might be the safest choice. McClain was the No.8 overall pick in 2010, but he’s trying to make a comeback after retiring from the NFL. Holloman should have the upper hand on McClain, who will miss the start of training camp, as he heads to trial for charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.