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10 Thoughts After First Padded Practice of Training Camp

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10 Thoughts After First Padded Training Camp Practice

Unless you've been living under a rock, don't have social media, or don't follow professional sports, you should probably know that football is back. That is so refreshing to say.

From a soul crushing loss to Green Bay in the playoffs to hitting a home run in the NFL Draft, and all the drama that has surrounded the team in the past few months, we have finally arrived at Oxnard, California for your 2017 Dallas Cowboys training camp.

Here are my first 10 thoughts after the first padded practice of training camp.

  1. Initially, I thought that Jaylon Smith wasn't going to do much of anything to start camp, but boy was I wrong. Jaylon Smith looked very fluid and explosive doing drills in his first real practice with the Cowboys. In his first time playing real football in 572 days, Smith blew me away on the field. With no real limitations that I could see, the arrow is only pointing up for Jaylon.
  2. The Cowboys have had bad luck in the past with injuries happening early in camp. That wasn't the case yesterday. Charles Tapper and Maliek Collins gave us all quite the scare when both ended up in the trainer's tent before the end of practice. It was later noted that Collins was dealing with a hip flexor and Tapper was just dealing with cramps. So far so good, from an injury standpoint.
  3. Brice Butler is not going to give his job away to anyone from what I've seen so far. Butler looks like a different player from what we saw last season. You can tell he is focused more on route running and snatching the ball with his hands. A lot of people had Butler not making the final roster, but I assure you he'll be on it come September 10th.
  4. Chidobe Awuzie made a great play against Brice Butler in one-on-ones. Awuzie was right on Butler's hip on a quick slant route across the middle and broke up the pass, tipped it up in the air and intercepted it for what would have been a touchdown. The rookie corner is already making plays and we're only a day into camp.
  5. Just two days after getting a two-year contract extension, La'el Collins looked very solid at right tackle. Collins had little to no trouble blocking first round pick Taco Charlton in one-on-ones and in team work. Collins plays so violently, almost to a fault, but man does he look good doing it.
  6. I really hope Mark Nzeocha can find a way to stay healthy. Nzeocha has the ideal size, speed, and length to be able to cover the ground game, shed blockers, and even does a decent job in coverage for his size. His ability to play all three linebacker spots makes him extra intriguing going into game days.
  7. It's unfortunate that Damien Wilson got himself into the situation he found himself in on July 4th weekend. Wilson looked explosive in practice yesterday when shooting gaps and doing all the drills. Wilson would be a starting linebacker for the team this year and an important part of the Cowboys defense. Let's hope some new information comes out involving his July 4th incident.
  8. It looked like Chaz Green struggled a bit at left guard early on in practice. Maliek Collins was giving him fits with his first step and power off the ball. Green's last resort was to give Collins the desperation one arm choke hold on multiple occasions to keep Maliek Collins from getting to the quarterback.
  9. The old theory is rookie defensive ends struggle early on, that rings true for Taco Charlton. Charlton didn't have his best day yesterday against either La'el Collins and Tyron Smith. Charlton's frustration came out when he ended his last rep of practice in a scuffle with UDFA Dan Skipper. Charlton has to learn to use his long arms to keep the tackle's hands off of him, because right now he isn't strong enough or quick enough to shake them once they do.
  10. Last but not least we have Dak Prescott. Prescott looked very good in his first practice of his sophomore campaign. We heard a lot last year how Prescott wasn't a very strong practice player. A lot of people called him a gamer, but that wasn't the case for Dak yesterday. Prescott made multiple tight window throws across the middle to his left and his right. Prescott even showed off his legs running the read-option a few times really fooling the defense. A great start to the season for a guy many are hoping will fail.

 

These are just my thoughts on a few players after the first padded practice and I'm sure I'll have a lot more for you the deeper we get into camp. For now the young players in the secondary are really looking good, and they could make or break this defense while trying to repeat as NFC East Champions and make a run at the Super Bowl.

What players are you most excited to see blossom in training camp?



Born in 1995, loved Football but more importantly the Dallas Cowboys since day one. Living in Redskins Country flying the Blue and Silver flag as high as possible. Covering the Dallas Cowboys for InsideTheStar.com and CowboysNation.com. Catch me on twitter @ConnorNFLDraft!

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Tony Pollard is Just What the Doctor Ordered in Dallas

Matthew Lenix

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Tony Pollard is Just What the Doctor Ordered in Dallas

The Dallas Cowboys have what many believe to be the best running back in the NFL in Ezekiel Elliott. However, you can never undervalue the importance of depth at any position. When the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft came around, the Cowboys added another weapon to the backfield by selecting Tony Pollard out of Memphis.

If you’re looking for a dynamic player maker with the ability to take it to the house at any given moment, Pollard is your man. The former Tiger averaged a touchdown every 13 touches in college. That’s an absolutely insane statistic when you think about it. He also tied an NCAA record with seven kick returns for touchdowns. Long story short, he can get you six points at the blink of an eye.

The versatility in his game is outrageous and undoubtedly the reason why he was drafted. In addition to running for 941 yards on 6.8 yards per rush, he also had 104 receptions for 1,292 yards. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has to be salivating about the possibilities with his new toy. Having a running back that can not only carry the load as a runner but also line up at receiver keeps the defense honest. You never know what angle the offense is going to come from.

This has to be a sigh of relief for Ezekiel Elliott. Now, the Cowboys don’t have to overexert him and can bring Pollard in on third downs if need be. Not just to give Elliott a breather but to change the pace of the offensive attack. You can hand the ball off, throw it to him or run jet sweeps when he is on the field. This sets up a potential combo at running back that could be the leagues very best shortly.

Speed, quickness, and agility are all wrapped up in the Tony Pollard package. The Cowboys now have a running back that can line up at multiple positions if need be. Also, this prevents a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the body of Ezekiel Elliott. This combination has all the potential to set the NFL on fire in 2019.



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CB Byron Jones Not Expected To Return Until Week 1 Against NYG

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones

Coming off what was clearly the best season of his career thus far, Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones underwent surgery to hopefully fix a nagging hip injury.

While he earned both his first All Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2018, his first season as a full-time cornerback, Jones still has a lot to prove in the upcoming season. Some still criticize him for his lack of interceptions, and there's no doubt his stellar play slowed down a bit towards the end of the year.

I'm willing to wager that the slight decline had a lot to do with his hip troubles, but nonetheless he must come up with his elite level play once again to earn himself a nice contract somewhere in 2020.

Oh, did I forget to mention it's also a contract year for Byron Jones? As it is for so many important Dallas Cowboys, it seems.

So when will Byron Jones be able to return to the Cowboys' lineup? Well, the initial date reportedly set by Jones and the team was late July, giving him a chance to practice and play a bit before the season opener in September. But, according to the Team Site this week, that date may be pushed back a bit, and we might not see Byron Jones until that season opening game against the Giants.

"As for Jones, all along the Cowboys have been targeting his return for the season opener, but hopefully at that. So, don’t expect to see much of Jones in training camp, and if so, certainly no more than individual and walk-through drills." - Mickey Spagnola

Ultimately, as long as Byron Jones is good to go when the regular season starts, that's all that matters, but the fear of rust when Jones returns is a real one.

It's tough to go from no live football straight to the meaningful games, but if anyone would be able to do it it would be the guy with the freakishly athletic traits. The guy who can get out of the bed in the morning and set athletic records at the Combine.

And, of course, that guy is Byron Jones.



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Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure

Matthew Lenix

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Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure

When the 2016 NFL Draft came around the Dallas Cowboys were in search of the heir apparent to Tony Romo. Unfortunately, coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season, Romo would find himself on the shelf again after suffering a broken bone in his back during a preseason game against the Seahawks. However, the Cowboys had an ace in the hole, in the form of Dak Prescott who they drafted in the fourth round.

The idea was the groom him for a few years before taking the keys to the car so to speak from Romo, but fate had another idea in mind. Prescott would be thrust into the starting lineup against one of the Cowboys most hated rivals to start the season, the New York Giants. Added to that, was the pressure of living up to Romo's stellar resume as the franchise's all-time leading passer. After struggling in a tough 20-19 loss, no surprise there for a rookie quarterback, Prescott began to take flight.

Over the next eleven games he wouldn't suffer a single loss as the Cowboys were sitting pretty at 11-1. What made this streak more impressive was the efficiency of Prescott. He threw 19 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions over that span. In the process, he set an NFL record for the most passing attempts to start a career without an interception with 176. This broke the previous record held by Tom Brady of 162. It didn't stop there, as he also set a rookie record for completion percentage (67.8), was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

The Cowboys would finish 13-3 and win the NFC East. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the franchise only winning two postseason games in 21 years, Prescott was definitely under the microscope. After the offense struggled to produce points in the first half and fell behind 21-3, Prescott lead a furious comeback. Helping the team storm all the way back to tie the game at 28 and again at 31. He finished with 302 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first playoff start against future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Even though the team lost 34-31, Prescott proved how much of a gamer he was as he basically went yard for yard and point for point with one of the NFL's elite signal-callers. It was clear the Cowboys were in good hands going forward.

2017 started off well as the Cowboys were 5-3 and firmly on pace for another playoff run. Unfortunately, All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott lost his fierce battle with the NFL over domestic violence allegations, and Dak along with the offense struggled. After a 9-7 season and falling one game short of a Wild Card berth, the pressure on Prescott heading into the next season was immense.

Once 2018 came about Prescott had more pressure than ever with Elliott back for a full season. After a slow 3-4 start the Cowboys traded for Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, providing the team with it's first true number one receiver since Dez Bryant. Putting even more expectations on Prescott to turn things around, and boy did he ever.

He would complete 71.6% of his passes in the final eight games of the season, and the Cowboys won seven to finish 10-6. Now, with another division title under his belt, came a playoff matchup with Super Bowl-winning Quarterback Russell Wilson.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were hanging on to a 17-14 lead. They faced a 3rd and 14 inside the redone with just over two minutes left. After dropping back a few steps, Prescott scrambled for 16 yards setting up a first and goal from the one-yard line. The team held on for a 24-22 victory but here's why that scramble was so important.

If the Cowboys don't convert that 3rd and long that would've set up a field goal attempt. Assuming it would have been successful, that would've only put them up 20-14. Giving Seattle a chance to more than likely win with a touchdown and an extra point or two-point conversion. Prescott essentially won the game with that 3rd down run. Proving once again there's no situation he can't handle.

He's set an NFL record for completion percentage in the first three years of a quarterbacks career at 66.1 percent. No quarterback has won more games than him since 2016 except Tom Brady. No one has more game-winning drives than him since he entered the league. His 13 primetime victories are tops in the NFL over the last three seasons. Simply put, Dak Prescott is a winner and doesn't fold under pressure, instead, he embraces it. There are no bigger lights in the NFL than the ones that shine in Dallas. With those lights come huge expectations and pressure, and it's clear this young man is made of the right stuff to handle it.



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