OXNARD PREVIEW: Players Worth Watching

All eyes will be on a handful of players as training gets underway later this week, including Adam Jones, Roy Williams and also Marcus Spears.

CB ADAM JONES: A decision on whether Jones receives full reinstatement isn't due until just before September from Commissioner Roger Goodell. All eyes will be on Jones, who began his personal and professional renaissance by shedding the nickname Pacman, for what he does on and off the field. He hasn't played in over a year, so some rust should be expected. But the expectations he has for himself are enormous. Although highly talented, Jones was not a Pro Bowl cornerback before he was suspended for the entire 2007 season for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

His status seems to have grown to a legendary status since his departure and people, including Jones, are expecting him to come back in 2008 as the second coming of Deion Sanders. That's unrealistic, but Jones could represent a huge upgrade for the Cowboys' secondary and will push Anthony Henry for the starting job at left cornerback.

DT TANK JOHNSON: Tank Johnson was last year's version of Pacman Jones except for the fact that he came to the Cowboys without the benefit of an offseason or training camp once his suspension was lifted. Johnson was admittedly rusty and he struggled in 2007. No player has been helped more by having a full offseason than Johnson. He is stronger and in top physical condition. Owner Jerry Jones said Johnson has looked great in minicamps and OTAs and calls him the player to watch heading into training camp. If Johnson is everything he is purported to be, then the Cowboys can use nose tackle Jay Ratliff at defensive end in an effort to get their best linemen on the field.

SS ROY WILLIAMS: Never mind the five straight Pro Bowl appearances, Williams' career is at a crossroad.

This is a "put up or shut up" season for him and it all starts in training camp. Williams was criticized inside and outside the locker room during the offseason. He has been taken off the field on passing downs, where he's considered a liability because of poor coverage skills.

His plan is return to being the beast he was at Oklahoma and on occasion with the Cowboys. As he aged, Williams has acknowledged picking his spots and not going for the kill shot every play. With his snaps being reduced, look for Williams to be a headhunter again.

POSITION BATTLE: Left defensive end will be a battlefront in training camp because of the average -- at best -- play of Marcus Spears.

The former first-round pick of Bill Parcells has not lived up to expectations as a dominant performer. He is solid against the run but has provided little pass-rush ability and few big plays. He is in the final year of his contract and the Cowboys would like to see more of backup Jason Hatcher, who already has shown to be a superior pass rusher compared to Spears. Worth noting, the Cowboys might also move Ratliff back to defensive end. There was a good chance that Ratliff would have won the job last year if he wasn't used at nose tackle, where he replaced Jason Ferguson.

CAMP CALENDAR: Cowboys report to camp July 24. The first practice is July 25. The team will break camp on Aug. 12. They will travel to Denver and scrimmage against the Broncos on Aug. 13 and 14 before playing a preseason game on Aug. 16.

CowboysHQ Top Stories