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July 30, 2013

Garrett takes stock of Cowboys draft class that has put four players with the starters in practice

As the Cowboys’ first preseason game approaches, each of their top four picks has taken or is taking first-team snaps.

Travis Frederick has been the No. 1 center since he was drafted, but now, in part because of injury, second-round pick Gavin Escobar is playing with the 1s at tight end, third-round pick Terrance Williams is in at a receiver spot and fellow third-round pick J.J. Wilcox is paired with Will Allen at safety.

At least three of the four are likely to be in the starting lineup when the Cowboys play Miami in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday.

“I don't find that remarkable at all,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of how the top four picks have been elevated. “I think what you try to do, before you draft a player, is you try to have a vision for them. What does this guy do best? What are some of his weaknesses? What is his role in year one? What is his role in year two? What can he grow into? What is his upside?”

Wilcox was expected to move back to second-team safety once Barry Church returned from a toothache. But Escobar and Williams could remain with the 1s for a few more days as they fill in for James Hanna (hamstring) and Dez Bryant (hip).

“You certainly want more from them as quickly as you can get from them,” Garrett said. “I think their approach has a lot to do with their success and their ability to function in practice so far.”

Garrett then gave a quick evaluation of each of the Cowboys’ seven picks.

“Travis Frederick has been essentially the starting center for us since the first snap of the first OTA. I think he’s handled it really well. He has a chance to be a really good football player. He’s still learning a lot, technically in what we’re asking him to do. But he brings it every day. He’s the right kind of guy. He’s smart and tough. Wants to get better every day.

“Escobar has grown before our eyes. A long way off, but you see him gaining confidence, playing fast and playing with some snap and decisiveness. He’s a natural pass catcher, and he’s learning how to block. He has to get stronger. We know that. But he’s shown some versatility playing a lot of different spots.

“Terrance Williams, again, is growing before our eyes. I keep using this word confidence, but you see these guys gaining confidence. They’ve seen the instillation in the spring. They saw it again in the mini-camp, and now they’ve seen it for a third time. It’s starting to sink in with them. They’ve been in these situations before. And you’re starting to see them take advantage of them.

“Wilcox, we’ve talked about a lot. We like the demeanor he plays with. He’s learning the defensive system. He’s getting better. He understands what his landmarks are, and what his assignments are. But he brings it every day. He’s got a physical nature to him that we really, really like.

“B.W. Webb, I think is really improving as well. He made a big play in the scrimmage the other day. He had an interception and returned it in one of those end-of-the-game type situations. Again, same kind of process they’re going through. Sometimes they’re eager. And then it’s, ‘Where is this quickness, and where is his explosiveness?’ I think it has a lot to do with what we’re asking him to do and playing with confidence.

“Joseph Randle was the only guy who wasn’t really active for us in the spring, with the thumb. We talked about him being engaged with our team. He’s done a good job in training camp.

“DeVonte Holloman, what we saw on tape in college is what we’re beginning to see here on the practice field. Athletic guy, rangy guy can really run to the football. Has a nose for the football. He’s learning. He’s getting better every day. The approach of each of these guys is been really good. They want to get better. They want to be a member of this team. They want to have a role on this football team. So collectively, I think they’ve done well one week into camp.”

-- Carlos Mendez

Twitter @calexmendez

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