The Stars are in Frisco, Texas for the first of the 2017 Organized Team Activities (OTA’s). Veteran Stars have joined the rookies at the new facility for the very first time. Even though there is NOT any tackling nor full contact, this is the opportunity to see what the veterans bring to the learning curve for the new arrivals.
Players to watch
One of the biggest storylines to emerge from this camp will be the progression of a player who hadn’t put a helmet on since the 8th grade, Rico Gathers.
Rico Gathers has all the tools to become the heir-apparent to the sad day when Jason Witten decides to turn in his Star and ride of into the sunset. Standing 6’6″ tall and weighing between 277-290, Gathers will add the dimension to the offense that former tight end Gavin Escobar never accomplished. Gathers is another huge Red Zone target for Dak Prescott.
Michael Irvin says that Rico, “Looks like Zeus.” Gathers should earn his Star after being among three players last who were basically “redshirted” last season. Gather’s learning curve was the hardest of the new players; however, Rico has made noticeable strides in his game and should be ready to contribute this season. This appears to be another win in a gamble the front office took last year.
Also joining Gathers at the Star is another wide receiver who is a Cole Beasley clone, rookie Ryan Switzer. Defenses are going to be torn apart by whom to put coverage on when Scott Linehan decides to go five wide. Switzer is also going to challenge for a lead role on the special teams units. Ryan is a tough minded kid who runs crisp routes, fearlessly, over the middle of the field and will open the game up for the long ball.
On the Defensive side of the ball
Jaylon Smith is the player to keep an eye on. Smith brings something special to this team. He is a true Mike linebacker. Smith will be able to do what Anthony Hitchens could not do, be a stopper when met at the point of attack.
I don’t mean to knock Hitchen’s game, but he has NEVER been a Mike who could fill a gap and defend it. Hitchens game is more about being on the move to make tackles. Some good games when Rolando McClain was plugging up the middle (before drugs became more important than his NFL career) were shades of what Jaylon will bring to this defense.
Charles Tapper will finally be healthy enough to join a crowded defensive line corp. Tapper is a bit short to play end, but his quickness off the snap may earn him a spot in the rotation there, anyway.
Outside of Orlando Scandrick, Jeff Heath and Byron Jones, the secondary is full of new faces. Competition is going to be a blast to watch from these new faces. Nolan Carrol will not give his spot up easily and Anthony Brown already has a successful season under his helmet. May the best five Players be awarded the jobs that are open back there.
Watch out for rookie safety Xavier Woods. Woods has a huge chip on his shoulder and he will come in to rustle a starting job away from a starter on special teams, and he will challenge for a spot on the regular defense.
This is going to be a fun summer to watch the development of the new and redshirted players as they attempt to take huge strides towards earning their Stars.