TRAINING CAMP GOALS
1. The Cowboys need to find a way to come to some peaceful accord with cornerback Mike Jenkins who is unhappy his job was taken away in the offseason and who has asked for a trade. The Cowboys did right for the team when they signed free agent Brandon Carr and drafted LSU standout Morris Claiborne to improve a secondary that was among the worst in team history the past two years.
But Jenkins, who showed toughness and heart last year while playing through injuries went from a starter and former Pro Bowler to third cornerback at best. He is in his contract year and believes the Cowboys have hurt his value. The Cowboys need him to buy in to reach their full potential because you never have too many quality corners. They also don't need a distraction in camp.
2. The Cowboys need to continue to learn and master Rob Ryan's defense. They were unable to do that last year because of the lockout. It was a problem throughout the season and late in the season as the Cowboys were plagued by missed assignments and confusion.
"When we look back at ourselves and re-evaluate, I think I started a little too fast," Ryan said. "I think I put a little too much in and too fast. And we didn't have any basics. We had no foundation."
Ryan has gone about the business of re-teaching his defense throughout the offseason in OTAs and minicamp.
He plans to continue the process in training camp so the players can play fast and react and not have to think as much. He believes the knowledge and understanding will pay huge dividends on the field.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Running back DeMarco Murray gave the Cowboys a glimpse of things to come in 2011 when he rushed for 897 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per carry in an abbreviated rookie season that began as a third stringer and ended with him on injured reserve.
Still, the Cowboys saw enough to declare him the team's best all around back since Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith retired and look to him as a cure for their ailing running game that scored just five rushing touchdowns last year. Murray is completely healthy from the fractured ankle that cut his season short after eight starts last year and he's raring to have an even better sophomore campaign. Rushing for 1,200 or more yards is certainly a possibility if he can stay healthy for 16 games.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Safety Brodney Pool signed with the Cowboys as a free agent to take Abe Elam's place in the revolving door that has been the team's free safety position. Ken Hamlin started in 2009, Alan Ball in 2010, Elam in 2011. Pool was supposed be the guy in 2012, but he was unimpressive in minicamp and OTAs and could have the job taken away by Barry Church or rookie draft pick Matt Johnson in training camp.
If Pool doesn't win the starting job he will likely not make the team. His advantage is he is familiar with Rob Ryan's system from their days in Cleveland. But Church and Johnson are younger, more athletic and could make more plays. Pool made no plays in minicamp. Strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh, the lone returning starter in the secondary, could be slow out of the gate after a minor procedure on his knee in July.