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2016 Cowboys Camp: Position Most Likely for a New Starter?

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- Ezekiel Elliott, #21

We’ve reached the end of our six-part 2016 Camp Preview series. If you’d like to see previous installments, there are links provided at the end of this article.

The Cowboys’ first practice in Oxnard is today. Some positions have already experienced change at the top of the depth chart. Others have a competition looming. So, we asked our writers…

Which Position Will Most Likely Have a New Starter?

Cowboys Headlines - Morris Claiborne Calls for Dallas to Draft Jalen Ramsey on TwitterRJ Ochoa ( @RJOchoa ) – We spent a majority of the offseason talking about how Brice Butler might unseat Terrance Williams for the second wide receiver spot, and we’ve already crowned Ezekiel Elliott as the primary ball-carrier. A position where the Cowboys have a precarious amount of depth is at the cornerback spot. The return of Orlando Scandrick solidifies him as a starter, but it wouldn’t shock me if a motivated Morris Claiborne does enough to earn the second gig over Brandon Carr.

Sean Martin ( @ShoreSportsNJ ) – Obviously, mentioning the running back position here takes away the fun of diving into some other position-switch controversy, but it is by far the “most likely” thing that is going to happen with the 2016 Dallas Cowboys. Darren McFadden became this team’s RB1 in 2015. Come week 1 of this season, it will be Ezekiel Elliott. Welcome to the league, rookie.

Brian Martin ( @bmart0204 ) – I was going to go with the obvious and say the middle linebacker position, but I’m going to go with Rod Smith and the fullback position. Rod Smith is a brother of Jaylon Smith and is currently competing with converted linebacker Keith Smith at fullback. Rod Smith offers a little bit more versatility than Tyler Clutts and he could be used as an emergency RB as well. It will be interesting to see how he handles the transition from RB to FB in training camp and preseason.

Ian Koplowitz ( @BleedingTheStar ) – If Morris Claiborne goes off in training camp, could we see him put Brandon Carr on the bench? I mean, think about it. Your first pick from five years ago has a lights out preseason (maybe an interception or two?), and you keep him as your third corner because you’re paying Carr more? I just can’t see that. You have to roll with the hot hand, and if #24 has a blistering summer, we may see him covering Victor Cruz come opening night.

Cowboys Headlines - Pre-Training Camp 53 Man Roster Projection 10

James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Kevin Brady ( @KevinBrady88 ) – One player I have my eye on is cornerback Anthony Brown. As we do every offseason, we are expecting Morris Claiborne to take the next step forward and solidify himself as a legitimate corner in this league. Up to this point Claiborne has struggled with injuries and inconsistencies, though he did have a nice season a year ago. If Claiborne can’t get it together quickly, don’t be surprised if Brown starts to slowly take snaps away from him, until ultimately taking the position away outright. It is a bit of a longshot, but I really like Brown’s game and can’t wait to see what he can bring to this team.

Bryson Treece ( @BrysonTreece ) – Does the defense count? You got Mo, Scandy, and Carr all tossing in. Got Justin Durant, Lee, Hitchens, Wilson, Gachkar all tossing in. Got Irving, Mayowa, M. Collins, Crawford all tossing in. About the only sure thing is Byron Jones at FS. And you know what? I love it! Sure, it’s nice to have the starter pre-selected, like with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and even Ezekiel Elliott, but it’s also nice when who starts is just a matter of who plays best. Competition is a good thing.

Jess Haynie ( @CowboysAddicts ) – Brandon Carr has started every game for the Cowboys since arriving in 2012. As long as everyone’s healthy, I think that changes this year with Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne being the starters. Carr will certainly get a lot of playing time in the nickel scheme, but I see the other two getting the nod in the base defense.

~ ~ ~

Here are the previous parts of the Camp Preview series:

Part One: Best Position Battle
Part Two: Biggest Name to be Cut
Part Three: Strongest Position
Part Four: Weakest Position
Part Five: Favorite Dark Horse

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Dallas Cowboys

Can Cowboys Trust Guard Jonathan Cooper in 2018?

Jess Haynie

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Jonathan Cooper

One of the big decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 offseason is at left guard. Veteran Jonathan Cooper started 13 games last year and is now a free agent. Should Dallas bring Cooper back, or should they look elsewhere for next season’s starter?

With a lot of money already being spent on the rest of the starting offensive line, the Cowboys need a bargain at left guard. They didn’t re-sign Ronald Leary in 2017 for that very reason, hoping Cooper or Chaz Green would be able to handle the job for a fraction of what Leary got from the Denver Broncos.

Cooper took over for Green in Week 4 and held the job the rest of the season. The Cowboys rushing attack remained one of the league’s best, even performing well later in the year when Ezekiel Elliott was suspended. It looked like Jonathan could become part of future plans.

However, in Week 17, Cooper went out of the game with a knee injury. It thankfully wasn’t serious and he is expected to be ready for 2018. However, it was a reminder of the injury-plagued past that has caused the former first-round pick so much trouble.

Jonathan Cooper

Dallas Cowboys Guard Jonathan Cooper

Taken seventh overall in 2013 by the Arizona Cardinals, Jonathan Cooper was one of the true blue-chip guard prospects in recent draft history. He seemed like a can’t-miss pick, and interior linemen don’t often go that high in the draft. The Cowboys have even said they coveted Cooper in that class.

But constant battles with injuries caused Cooper to be traded, released, and discarded by the Cardinals, New England Patriots, and Cleveland Browns over his first four seasons. While 2017 was looking like a turning point for him, Jonathan’s injury in the season finale was a sobering reminder of why he’s become a bargain-bin player.

Still, at just 28-years-old, Cooper has good years left and will now have another offseason for continuity and chemistry development with the Cowboys.

Dallas should have to pay more than a few million to keep Cooper on the roster.

If Dallas is leery (no pun intended) of Cooper, they will have options. La’el Collins could move back to the guard position, allowing the Cowboys to go find either the best guard or tackle who would fit with their existing group.

Given so many other considerations this offseason, Dallas will likely try to simplify things by giving Jonathan Cooper another chance. His history is a red flag, but sometimes you have to take those gambles and save salary cap space to handle other needs.

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Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Headlines - Forget the Triplets: Cowboys Need The Underrated to Shine in 2016
Ashley Landis / The Dallas Morning News

For better or worse, the Cowboys don’t even need to play football to be all over national TV. I guess it’s just part of being the one and only America’s Team. For the second consecutive week, Fox Sports had a Dallas Cowboys’ player on set for Fox’s “Undisputed.”

Just a week ago, Brice Butler made waves with some controversial comments that failed to make him look like a “great teammate.”

This time, Fox’s guest was Cowboys’ Cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Unlike Butler, I really think we should give Scandrick credit for being a very good teammate, and acting like one on his TV appearance.

Throughout the segment, it feels as if Orlando is being tricked into saying something against his teammates. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe start bashing on Dez Bryant‘s performance and the fact that he should be replaced.

Of course, this is the kind of stuff fans in Cowboys Nation are thinking about. Heck, I really wouldn’t even mind if Dez isn’t wearing a star next season. However, I really disliked Butler’s comments when asked if he would’ve done a better job if given the same opportunities as Dez.

Scandrick’s responses were awesome though. When asked if he would defend Dez, he didn’t even hesitate.

“I don’t think he’s lost any confidence. He’s one of the most confident players I’ve ever been around. I think it can all be fixed. I think he just needs to get back to work and get back to the basics.” – Orlando Scandrick on Dez Bryant.

Scandrick also answered questions about what went wrong with the Cowboys this season by pointing out the fact they lost one of their best players because of a suspension, and some injuries. But he also said what’s been in our minds for a long time. When asked what was the biggest reason they struggled, he said some painful, yet truthful words: “We played some bad football against some very good teams.”

Later, he was asked about how Sean Lee’s absence affected the defense, he insisted they didn’t step up. At the end of the day, the NFL is a league in which you can’t be that dependent on a single player.

Sean Lee is an awesome player, but I think we’d all like to see this defense be a little less dependent on him.

Scandrick even had to defend Dak Prescott.

Dak was highly criticized after a sophomore season in which he struggled, alongside the entire team. But in the words of Orlando, we should “give him time.” Dak had a lot on his plate, but he made a lot of progress for the Cowboys.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Orlando Scandrick’s time in Dallas may be coming to an end, especially with young guys like Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis taking over. He’s signed through 2019, so who knows; maybe we see him wearing the star for a bit longer.

“It’s always a possibility.” – Orlando Scandrick on potentially not returning to Dallas next season.

Even still, it’s nice to see him support his football team and his friends on a show which featured a non-starting Cowboys’ wide receiver taking shots against his team. Orlando Scandrick deserves an applause.

Tell me what you think about “Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Pursue Veteran Backup at Quarterback?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Cooper Rush
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys only have two quarterbacks under contract right now, starter Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush. With only three years of combined experience between them, one could argue that a veteran presence would be useful. Should Dallas make a veteran QB a free-agent priority in the 2018 offseason?

Of course, there’s plenty of other QB experience on the Cowboys staff. Head Coach Jason Garrett played professionally from 1989-2004, and started his coaching career with quarterbacks.

Scott Linehan has been coaching offense with an emphasis on the passing game for 30 years.

Kellen Moore, who is taking over for the departed Wade Wilson as quarterbacks coach, has played very recently and will bring a fresh perspective.

However, losing Wilson’s experience from the room, and the lack of any veteran player at QB, shouldn’t be dismissed.

Dak Prescott has said veteran Mark Sanchez — who was with Dallas in 2016 — was a major help during his whirlwind rookie season. Tony Romo enjoyed veteran advice from guys like Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton throughout his playing career.

This isn’t to say Dallas would want to bring in a veteran to knock Cooper Rush down the depth chart. After a surprising preseason, Rush took the backup job from Kellen Moore and certainly has intriguing upside.

If the Cowboys were to add a veteran, that player would have to come in with the understanding he’s competing with Cooper and may not be guaranteed a job.

The good news is that it’ll be a buyer’s market for veteran quarterbacks this offseason.

Guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Matt Moore could all be available. Even a player with more pedigree, such as Sam Bradford, may have trouble finding starting work with many jobs taken among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Dallas could even consider bringing back Mark Sanchez, given his previous relationship with Dak Prescott. He only had a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears.

Given Prescott’s seeming durability, Dallas will likely only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2018 and for years to come. Because of that, they may be content to focus on Dak and Cooper Rush, and just get through the offseason with training camp bodies.

However, the case can certainly be made for adding another veteran player with the desire to teach to help these young quarterbacks develop. Prescott was not the same guy in 2017 that we saw as a rookie, and perhaps the absence of guys like Sanchez and Tony on the sideline had something to do with that.

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