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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



This is the General Staff account for Inside The Star, a blog for Dallas Cowboys news, scores, schedule, rumors, and analysis. We are the official home for @CowboysNation on Twitter. Follow us today for new content updates straight from our timeline. To learn more about our staff, please visit our Staff listing.

Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Have a Championship Defense

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Have a Championship Defense

The Dallas Cowboys are not only breathing in playoff contention, but they're now the favorites to crown themselves as the NFC East champions in 2018. It's pretty impressive how the tables can turn so quickly in the NFL. Dallas played very well against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday and we learned quite a bit from them as they bounced back to .500. Here's this week's Takeaway Tuesday! Enjoy it as much as you did Brett Maher's game winning field goal a couple of days ago.

Cowboys Have a Championship Defense

Despite taking steps in the right direction, it's impossible to compare this offense to units like the Chiefs, Saints and Rams. However, it's the Cowboys' defense that could be labeled as a championship unit. Facing an offense with such a strong WR core, allowing only one touchdown on the road is impressive.

The Cowboys sacked Matt Ryan three times and were constantly causing pressures. Byron Jones was great once again, allowing only two catches in passes thrown in his direction. And of course, the kid who's been impressing us all, Leighton Vander Esch continued to play out of his mind. He should be the Defensive Rookie of the Year front runner at this point.

The Cowboys' defense is one of the best in the NFL right now, and any offense will have a tough time facing them. It'll be intriguing to see if they can take the next step and stop a high-powered unit like the Saints in a few days.

Offensive Line Woes Are Gone

The offense has improved a lot the last couple of games. Although there is still a lot to work on, they're not struggling as they were in the first half of the season. The offensive line is a huge part of this. With Marc Colombo at OL coach, things have looked very different in Dallas.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Ezekiel Elliott: "I feel great. I feel fast. I feel physical. I feel very comfortable with the running schemes. We just got to keep rolling. That's what's important. We just got to keep rolling.

Ezekiel Elliott has been on a roll the past two weeks and his comments regarding how he feels about the running schemes shouldn't go unnoticed. The offensive line wasn't playing as well as they are right now earlier in the year. Dak Prescott is noticeably more comfortable in the pocket.

It's intriguing to know what will happen at left guard for the Cowboys. With Connor Williams injured, Xavier Su'a-Filo has done a good job filling in for him. Williams has the upside, but should Dallas mess up the mojo this OL has lately?

Dak Prescott Continues To Be Money In Clutch Si

Dak Prescott: Clutch QB

Dak Prescott continues to be criticized by fans while he keeps proving us why it's not that easy to move on from him. The guy is far from the perfect passer, yet he's been clutch time and time again. This time he did so on the road on an impressive two minute drill.

With 1:46 on the clock, Prescott marched his team down to the Falcons' 24 yard line. He managed to give his team another game winning drive in consecutive weeks. The Cowboys' young quarterback needed a confidence boost and this is perfect for him. He needs to keep it up if the team is going to finish the season as the NFC East champions.

Since entering the NFL, Dak has 12 game winning drives. As frustrating as his play is at times, he will not be easy to replace if the Cowboys decide to move on from this guy down the road. Hopefully, they don't have to. I, for one, believe Dak can be way better with a proper coaching staff. But that's a discussion for another day.

Now, it's time to celebrate the Cowboys' victory and get ready for a short week as the Cowboys play the Washington Redskins on Thursday.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Have a Championship Defense" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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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Player News

Geoff Swaim Needs Surgery, Should the Cowboys even use a Tight End?

John Williams

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Cowboys TE Geoff Swaim Quietly Exceeding Expectations? 1

Well, the injury woes continue to mount for the Dallas Cowboys with news coming down this evening that Tight End Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist in the 22-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The injury will need surgery which will mean Swaim will be out a while, if not for the rest of the season.

David Helman on Twitter

Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist yesterday and is going to need surgery. Sounds like it might not be season-ending, but he won't be available Thursday #cowboyswire

In previous seasons this wouldn't be much of a blow to the offense, but Geoff Swaim has been the only tight end that the Cowboys have ben able to rely on this season. Dalton Schultz is a rookie, Blake Jarwin's been inconsistent, and Rico Gathers still isn't fully trusted. With the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan's insistence on using a tight end, it seems there's a huge hole at the position heading into Sunday's first place showdown with the Washington Redskins.

But in reality, is there?

For weeks, I've been screaming for this team to use more 10 personnel (one running back and zero tight ends) as its primary passing formation because it gets their best pass catching weapons on the field at the same time. Swaim has been solid and consistent in his first year as a starter, but the rest of the tight end group has disappointed. So why even run a tight end out on the field.

The Dallas Cowboys have options that could replace the tight end in the passing game without actually using a tight end.

First, they could use Noah Brown as the de facto tight end. He's been one of the best blockers on the team in his first two seasons with the team and this is the type of role he's made for. Split him out wide and motion him in tight when you want to run. He can be a threat down the seem and in the red zone with his athleticism. He'd be a mismatch for the linebackers that try to cover him and could open space underneath for Cole Beasley. Brown is also a really good run blocker, so having him on the field doesn't negate what you want to do in the run game.

The other player the Cowboys coaching staff could work into more of the tight end route responsibilities is Allen Hurns. Hurns is a really good route runner, especially in the middle of the field, where the Dallas Cowboys haven't received a lot of production. You can put Hurns in as the fourth wide receiver and split him a couple of yards off the tackle to give him a cleaner release than a TE might get and have him run "Y-option," shallow post routes, or drags. He can be a threat in the passing game if put in situations where he can excel. See below for something Allen Hurns does really well.

Film Review: What's Up with Allen Hurns?

In fact, by going four wide receivers with Brown or Hurns on the field, it's possible the opposing defense is forced to run more of dime packages against the Dallas Cowboys 10 personnel.

Why would you want to get teams into dime packages?

Most NFL teams have two pretty good linebackers that they can deploy in nickel situations, but teams rarely have four corners that they can put on the field and feel really good about. So, if you can force teams to remove one of their 11 best players for a backup corner back or safety, you are already winning that matchup.

That matchup would also get you into much more favorable defensive fronts to run against. Even if the opposition put seven or eight in the box, it would be against smaller personnel like corners and safeties instead of a second linebacker.

Running 10 personnel as their base offense moving forward would be unconventional, but with an opportunity to take control of first place in the NFC East on Thanksgiving, now is not the time for conventionality.



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Player News

Cowboys WR Michael Gallup on Personal Leave; Team Offers Support

Jess Haynie

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Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys rookie receiver Michael Gallup suffered a personal tragedy on Sunday, being informed that his brother committed suicide. He is now on personal leave away from the team, and both Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett have given their full support to Gallup during this difficult time.

According to reports, Gallup was unaware of his brother's death until immediately after the Cowboys' win over the Atlanta Falcons. Michael did not return with the team to Dallas and remained in Atlanta to be with his family.

A formal statement was made by owner Jerry Jones yesterday regarding Gallup:

“Our team and our entire organization are deeply saddened by the news of Michael’s loss. His family is our family. We share in the grief and pain that comes with something so personal and tragic. We offer our support, care and comfort for Michael, and we ask that all of those who have sons and daughters and brothers and sisters join us in keeping Michael and his wonderful family in their thoughts and prayers.”

Throughout his time owning the Cowboys, Jerry has built a reputation for personal loyalty and compassion with his players. His head coach is no different.

As he addressed the media Monday, Jason Garrett did not get into football matters when addressing Gallup's situation:

“This is a very challenging time for him. We’ll take it moment by moment, day by day, and give him all of our love and all of our support.”

While Michael is certainly dealing with something far more important than football, his availability for Thursday's Thanksgiving game against the Washington Redskins does come into question.

The Cowboys have a short week to prepare for Washington, and Gallup has started their last five games. If the rookie has to sit, which seems probable given the timeframe, we can expect more playing time for Allen Hurns and Noah Brown.

Whatever happens happens on that front. Our focus is on Michael Gallup during this sad time, with him and his family in our collective thoughts as Cowboys fans and fellow humans.



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