Preseason football was wiped out. New rules have limited what can and can't be shared by the media from training camp practices. That means we have little information to go on with just 14 days until the Dallas Cowboys kick-off against the Los Angeles Rams in week one of the 2020 NFL season. When the Cowboys play their scrimmage which will be available to watch on DallasCowboys.com, it will be the first real look at the roster for anyone not in the major sports media.
It will be the first time that we'll get to see these players aside from the short videos we get here and there. Those have been few and far between compared to previous training camps where people like David Helman and Jon Machota would record individual drills and share it with the masses. The Dallas Cowboys have instead controlled what comes out of training camp, as most organizations have done.
With that said, here are 5 players to watch when the Cowboys line up for their scrimmage Sunday night.
1. Aldon Smith, EDGE
The word out of training camp is that Aldon Smith looks great coming off of a five-year layoff. His athleticism, length, and physicality have jumped out to observers and people are excited about what he has in store for his comeback season. He's made enough plays that people are starting to raise their expectations for Smith in his return to the NFL.
2. Trysten Hill, Defensive Tackle
Sticking on the defensive side of the ball, expectations have risen for second-year Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill. Prior to training camp, there were many that were ready to move on from the Dallas Cowboys 2019 second-round pick after being a healthy scratch for most of his rookie season.
After signing Gerald McCoy in free agency and drafting Neville Gallimore in the third round, it looked like Hill would have a fight on his hands to get reps in practice and snaps in a game. After was injured and lost for the season, all eyes turned to Trysten Hill and so far, he's responded well with the opportunity presented to him.
He's stood out in training camp, but he'll need to continue to do so. Tyrone Crawford will get a lot of snaps at the three-technique when the Cowboys come out in a four-man front and Hill will need to continue to progress to earn his snaps. It will be interesting to see how he responds during the scrimmage with an increased workload.
3. CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver
No player in Dallas Cowboys training camp has created as much buzz as the Cowboys first-round pick in April, CeeDee Lamb. He's regularly showed up in practice notes released by observers and some have gone so far to argue he's been the best wide receiver in Cowboys training camp.
We don't need to see much more from Lamb to know that he's going to be a starter in three-wide receiver sets, but it is going to be a lot of fun to watch him in live-action with the first-team offense.
4. Trevon Diggs, Cornerback
Speaking of rookies who have impressed, Trevon Diggs has been impressive as well. With injuries limiting Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie, Diggs has had a lot of opportunities to show what he's worth against the first-team offense. Diggs has regularly made plays in the passing game, showing off his superb ball skills with interceptions and passes defended.
If Awuzie and Lewis are still ailing, we'll get an opportunity to see Diggs with an extensive look against the first-team offense.
5. Dontari Poe, Defensive Tackle
I know it's weird to get excited about seeing a nose tackle at work, but for years, we've asked the Dallas Cowboys to go get a legit run-stuffing nose tackle and they finally got one in Dontari Poe Now it's time to see him work.
Dontari Poe will be charged with clogging up the middle of the field as a two-gap defensive tackle. One of his responsibilities, to keep offensive linemen from getting to the second level and Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. And that will be a welcomed sight as one of the biggest weaknesses of this team has been in the run game. Whether it was Indianapolis or Los Angeles during the 2018 season or Green Bay in the 2019 season, the Cowboys struggled against the run.
6. Noah Brown, Wide Receiver
By all accounts, Cedrick Wilson has locked up the number four wide receiver job at this point in training camp. All eyes then turn to the number five wide receiver battle. Noah Brown, Devin Smith Ventelle Bryant, Jon'vea Johnson, and Aaron Parker will continue to battle it out for what could be the last spot on the wide receiver depth chart. Per reports from those watching practice, Noah Brown appears to be the favorite at this point.
He's an underrated route runner and his ability as a blocker gives him the edge at this point in training camp. As we saw during the Jason Garrett era, Brown could be very effective when deployed in a “light end” role. Under Kellen Moore and Mike McCarthy, it's likely we'll see him in a more traditional wide receiver role. But because of his size and blocking ability, it makes him an option to play in the slot or on the outside. He's been an effective special teams player in his three years with the Cowboys, which should give him the edge on his competition.
7. Blake Jarwin, Tight End
If you've spent much time in this space or following me on Twitter, you know my affinity for Blake Jarwin. For nearly a year, I've clamored for him to get starters snaps in the Dallas Cowboys offense only to watch Jason Witten plod away for another year at the tight end position.
It's gone so far that one follower asked me if I was somehow related to the Dallas Cowboys starting tight end.
Are u related to jarwin?
— Victor Hernandez (@rolyvic11) August 23, 2020
Pssh, I could be so lucky.
The reality is, Blake Jarwin was the best receiving option for the Cowboys at tight end in 2019. Their propensity for getting behind early in games should have had Jarwin on the field more than he was last season behind Jason Witten. Only once in 2019 did Jarwin play more than 50% of the snaps and that was in a blowout win over the Los Angeles Rams toward the end of the season.
Now with a new contract and no veteran to keep him on the bench, Jarwin gets the opportunity to see starters reps and snaps. Production is forthcoming.
8. Bradlee Anae, EDGE
I know, I know, another rookie. It's easy to be intrigued by the rookies because we haven't seen them yet in live action at the NFL level. However, Bradlee Anae has been one of those players I've been excited to see in the silver and blue since he was selected. As his slide in the 2020 NFL draft continued from the third round to the fourth round, and into the fifth round, the buzz continued to grow around one of the most productive and polished pass rushers in the NFL draft.
Testing numbers at the combine cause Anae to tumble down draft boards, but his film and production should have had him selected in the top 100. Word out of training camp is that Anae has been disruptive in 11-on-11 drills, in the backfield frequently, and racking up would-be sacks in practice.
Sure, he's going against what amounts to be backup tackles in practice, but his productivity in practice warrants a longer look against better competition.
9. Tony Pollard, Running Back
Generally, in the preseason, Ezekiel Elliott doesn't see a ton of live work. This gives more opportunities to the rest of the running backs on the roster. Last summer it was Tony Pollard showing out on a regular basis and it's likey he'll get to see a lot of work in the scrimmage tonight as well.
Pollard showed impressive explosiveness and balance when running the football in 2019. Now the Dallas Cowboys go into 2020 with one of the better 1-2 punches in the NFL. Pollard will also get some work as a wide receiver and a kick returner, though we probably won't see him do either during the scrimmage.
10. The Safeties
The safety position is probably the biggest question mark on the defense at this point. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was brought in to replace the outgoing Jeff Heath, however he's begun to cede snaps to Darian Thompson. Then there's Donovan Wilson, who was last year's preseason darling after recording three interceptions. He's yet to prove himself as a possible answer at the position this summer. And now the Cowboys are looking outside the safety room for help.
Earlier this week it was announced that Reggie Robinson would be making the switch to safety. And then there's Earl Thomas, who's lingering in free agency.
The Cowboys haven't found an answer they like at safety next to Xavier Woods. The scrimmage might be the last opportunity for one of these players
The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of interesting names to watch as they give us an extended look into training camp tonight at The Star in Frisco, TX. Who are some of the players that you're looking forward to seeing in action this evening?