Anthony Hitchens will try to fill void for Cowboys
When Sean Lee tore his ACL in mini-camp, the Dallas Cowboys were left with a gigantic hole at middle linebacker.
The veteran Pro-Bowler was the leader of the Cowboys’ defense, and now someone must fill his shoes.
Fourth-round draft pick and former Hawkeye linebacker Anthony Hitchens is in a great spot. The team is thin at the position, and if Hitchens impresses coaches during training camp, he could win the starting gig.
Hitchens will compete with Justin Durant and DeVonte Holloman for the job, but he should get good playing time once he gets more comfortable with the system, regardless of whether he starts.
The underwhelming Cowboy defense desperately needs help. Last season, it was torched by opponents through the air and on the ground, ranking 26th in points allowed per game.
Rod Marinelli has taken over for Monte Kiffin as the team’s defensive coordinator, and he will look for more production out of a linebacking corps that produced just four sacks a year ago.
Hitchens is raw but physically imposing, and he could help improve a rushing defense that ranked 30th in yards allowed last season.
Scott Chandler vs. Tony Moeaki in Buffalo
For the Bills, a pair of former Hawkeye tight ends will compete for the starting spot.
Scott Chandler has been the guy for the Bills for the last few seasons, and he posted career highs in receptions and yards last season. He is the favorite to start, but another Hawkeye could make an impact.
Buffalo picked up Tony Moeaki late last season. Because of injuries, he hasn’t played much since the 2012 season with the Kansas City Chiefs. But if he can stay healthy, his combination of size and athleticism could cause the Bills to target him more in the passing game.
Even if Moeaki comes out of training camp as the No. 2 tight end on the roster, he may see the field often in two-tight end sets. In that case, quarterback E.J. Manuel will have two Hawkeyes in his passing arsenal.
Because of the history of injuries, Moeaki is not a lock to make the 53-man roster and is an underdog to beat out Chandler for the starting job. But it will be interesting to see if these two can together help bring the Bills out of the basement in the AFC East.
Shonn Greene to battle rookie for carries
Former Iowa standout Shonn Greene is entering his second season with the Tennessee Titans.
Following the team’s release of star running back Chris Johnson, an opportunity has arisen for Greene to once again become a starting back — but it won’t be easy.
Tennessee drafted running back Bishop Sankey in the second round of the draft, a player who ran for 1,870 yards at Washington. Greene is also coming knee surgery in the off-season.
Sankey is reminiscent of the back Greene was in his days as a New York Jet. He’s shorter, compact, and runs hard and low to the ground.
However, training camp is an opportunity for Greene to prove he can return to form, such as when he posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2011 and 2012.
With a good camp, Greene could potentially win the starting job. With bad camp, he might not see many carries come his way come September.