The Dallas Cowboys don't report to training camp for a few more weeks, which means we still have time to discuss and identify players that we will all personally be keeping track of. Most of us already have our “pet cats” identified or the position battles we will be closely watching, but I decided to go a different direction and identify some of the under the radar players fans should watch at the Cowboys training camp.
To clarify, I classify these under the radar players as those who are still a long shot to make the final 53-man roster for the Dallas Cowboys, but still could surprise us in practices. You know, those players that seem to come out of nowhere and start catching the eye of the coaching staff and those lucky few that are able to attend these practices in person.
I narrowed it down to just three players that I think Cowboys' fans should watch once training camp gets underway. All of these players may still be under the radar, but I still think they have a chance to earn a roster spot when all is said and done.
#86 Connor Hamlett, TE
I'm of the opinion that the Dallas Cowboys tight end position is a mess right now. Jason Witten is the only sure thing and both Geoff Swaim and James Hanna have yet to see any off-season work while they continue to rehab from their injuries.
Cowboys' fans have a lot of hope that Rico Gathers can step in and contribute in 2017, but I'm a realist and don't see him far enough along in his development to be reliable. That leaves some roster spots possibly open for a worthy candidate, and I think that's where Connor Hamlett fits in.
Hamlett has the size for an NFL TE (6'7″, 259) and already has a little bit of experience in the league. He started two games for the Cleveland Browns in 2016 before being waived to make room for Jamie Collins. He had just one catch with the Browns that went for 17 yards, but it did result in a touchdown.
Hamlett has supposedly looked better than Rico Gathers so far in off-season practices. But, he will really have to outshine someone the Cowboys have invested so much time developing if he wants to earn a roster spot. It's not out of the question, which is why he is one of the the under the radar candidates I think fans should watch during the Cowboys training camp.
#47 John Lotulelei
Nearly all Dallas Cowboys fans will be watching the linebacker position in training camp, but that mostly has to do with Jaylon Smith's return to the field. How Smith is able to handle training camp will go a long ways in determining what the team has depth wise at the LB position, but someone else is going to have to step up regardless.
The Cowboys linebacker position is even cloudier when you take into account that Damien Wilson is looking at a suspension and possibly jail time after his recent arrest, so depth is definitely a concern. But, one under the radar player that could prove valuable is John Lotulelei.
John Lotulelei has already caught the eye of the Cowboys coaching staff in OTA's, but if he wants a shot to make the final 53-man roster, he is going to have to show up when the pads come on. This will be his fourth team since entering the league in 2013, but he has a chance to stick if he can continue to impress because of the lack of depth.
#65 Nate Theaker
As things stand right now, it looks as if the Dallas Cowboys just have one open roster spot along the offensive line. It looks as if La'el Collins is going to be the starting right tackle in 2017 and replace the retired Doug Free. But, the left guard position is up for grabs.
I think the Cowboys coaching staff is going to do their due diligence in order to find just the right starting left guard. There are some veterans in line who are already the favorites, but I think Nate Theaker could sneak into the conversation if he performs well during the Cowboys training camp.
Theaker has a size of an offensive guard in the NFL (6'5″, 315), but it's a big step up in competition from what he's used to facing at Wayne State. He has a chance to show the coaches what he can do, but is still longshot to make the team. That is why he is one of my under the radar players to watch throughout training camp.