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2016 Cowboys Training Camp: Early Thoughts for Week 1

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - 2016 Cowboys Training Camp: Early Thoughts for Week 1 3

The Dallas Cowboys are playing football, and we are here to talk about it. How awesome is that!? Training camp practices from Oxnard, California have been underway for just under a week now, with plenty of news stories, rumors, and updates to go around.

With the team taking an off day today, now is a good time for Cowboys Nation to gather their thoughts on what we’ve seen so far from the boys in silver and blue on the field.

With help from the awesome “Training Camp LIVE” footage available on DallasCowboys.com, let’s break down what the Cowboys have shown us so far.

The video from yesterday’s practice was broken into segments based on what drill the team was in, and this post will follow that order, so watch along with the link above!

 

Cowboys Headlines - 2016 Cowboys Training Camp: Early Thoughts for Week 1

Inside Running: Impressions from the Offensive and Defensive lines

The first drill shown was a simple strength vs. strength battle between the Cowboys offensive line – regarded as the best at their craft in the entire NFL – and defensive line, which enters the season with expectations at an all time low.

To start off with a positive that jumped out right away though from Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli’s front, the Ryan Russell hype that we have heard so far seems to have some merit to it. In his limited time so far with the Dallas Cowboys, Russell has shown some ability to rush vertically up the field, but what impressed me here was the progress he made laterally.

Often working against Tyron Smith, who consistently puts the opposition’s best pass rusher out of position on Sundays, the second-year player in Russell was able to set the edge and at least provide some resistance against the run.

The same could not truly be said for the rest of the defensive line, although they were working without two important pieces in defensive tackles Tyrone Crawford and Terrell McClain. Knowing how much Dallas will be relying on their depth at DT to generate pressure for this defensive front, it cannot be understated how limited the line was without these two players.

Fortunately, Crawford’s absence was reportedly for more of a scheduled rest day, as he did participate in morning walk through activities. His back injury will still be something to monitor closely as he makes a likely return to the field tomorrow, along with McClain – who should be back out there splitting time next to Crawford with Cedric Thornton.

Lastly, and it may go without saying, but the struggles from the Cowboys’ depleted defensive line obviously made the Cowboys’ offensive line look as dominant as ever – with Zack Martin and La’el Collins shining at right and left guard respectively.

1 vs. 1 Compete Drills: Making Jason Garrett Proud

Cowboys Headlines - 2016 Cowboys Training Camp: Early Thoughts for Week 1 1

Head Coach Jason Garrett tries to use a lot of saying and philosophies to summarize his Dallas Cowboys and the way they go about their business. Perhaps his two biggest messages have always been about competing and representing the team as a whole.

When the team split into these one on one passing drills, with the whole team watching each rep consisting of three players at the coaches selection, they could not have resembled these Garrett remarks better.

It appeared that the first players to be called upon right away were Morris Claiborne, Brice Butler, and Tony Romo. Before the ball was even snapped, this lineup fascinated me for a number of reasons.

You’ve surely already heard about Morris Claiborne dominating throughout every practice thus far, which have also been mentioned in the same breath as Dez Bryant’s “struggles”. Yet, it was not Bryant that came to take a rep with his quarterback against the Cowboys’ best corner back, or Terrance Williams, but WR2 hopeful Brice Butler – ready to receive the pass from Tony Romo.

Once the play was set in motion, the result should no longer come as a shock. Morris Claiborne dealt with Butler’s combination of size and speed perfectly, sticking with him the whole time and delivering a nice hit at the end of the play. Practicing officials gave Butler the juggling reception, but it would have been for a minimal gain.

Also impressive for this Dallas Cowboys secondary was Byron Jones – the sophomore player that finds himself assuming a big role in 2016 as the team’s full-time starting free safety. Byron Jones is certainly up to the task of making this adjustment mentally, and he showed a little bit more on the physical side working against Geoff Swaim yesterday.

At the top of his route, Swaim tried to use his size and strength to push Jones up the field, but Byron held his ground before reacting and bursting to the ball to knock it away. A flag was thrown on the play against Jones, but the contact certainly looked minimal, with the rest of the defensive roster pleading their case heavily on the sidelines over a training camp snap.

Both Byron Jones and Morris Claiborne played with a great level of confidence, which elevated the level of competition that we saw in this drill, the second to last one available on the film.

 

Cowboys Headlines - 2016 Cowboys Training Camp: Early Thoughts for Week 1 2

Final Thoughts: Full Offense vs. Defense

When the entire offense and defense finally came together for some snaps, it was the first time that we would get a sense of anything the Cowboys are implementing game plan and strategy wise. Of course, with training camp just getting underway, the offense kept mostly to their roots and pounded the ball with their multitude of talented running backs.

For this reason, my takeaways here didn’t vary much from what we observed in the run-only drills.

Ezekiel Elliott was doing his thing slashing through gaps, and even taking a few hits on the way. While the Cowboys have been clear in stating that all of these drills are intended to be ran without bringing the running back to the ground, the players on the defensive side of the ball desperately needed to respond to getting beat all day – and they did so in a great way by expanding what the rookie Zeke will see moving forward.

Along with their prized possession in Elliott, the Cowboys’ offense called on Alfred Morris, Darius Jackson, and Rod Smith to carry the ball, and all three were able to do so with some success.

While everyone is getting ready to watch how dominant a Cowboys’ running game built around Ezekiel Elliott could be come the regular season, it will be the other capable backs on this roster that can truly make this ground attack for the Dallas Cowboys elite.

Particularly, Darius Jackson played with great burst through the hole, and was able to make some impressive cuts in small spaces. Dallas has a preseason game in just ten days, and we can expect Jackson to be getting a lot of live reps at running back.

We’ll have much more on the Cowboys practices leading up to that game against the Los Angeles Rams right here on Inside The Star!


Until next time, thank you so much for checking out my thoughts and analysis on the Cowboys early 2016 training camp activities. Feel free to use the comment section below to discuss any of these notes further, or email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com. 

You can also follow me on Twitter @ShoreSportsNJ to talk Cowboys anytime!

Tell us what you think about “2016 Cowboys Training Camp: Early Thoughts for Week 1” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we're not how you think we are. Host of "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

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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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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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Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal is a Good Hire for Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal Is A Good Hire For Cowboys

Yesterday, it was announced that the Dallas Cowboys will hire Sanjay Lal to be their new wide receivers coach. Lal spent 2017 with the Indianapolis Colts in the same position, but has made multiple stops around the NFL prior to joining the Cowboys staff.

Most recently and arguably most notably, Sanjay Lal was the receivers coach for both the New York Jets (2012-2014) and the Buffalo Bills (2015-2016). This means he coached on Rex Ryan’s staff for two different teams, with two very similar offensive philosophies.

Run the football.

As seen in the video below, Sanjay Lal has experience working as the wide outs coach for an offense with a run-first philosophy. He even says himself that their offense in New York was “ground and pound,” but notes that “without a pass game there’s no pound.”

Cowboys fans became all too familiar with the truth behind that statement during the 2017 season, as even solid efforts in the run game were rendered meaningless by their lack of explosion through the air.

Jets Nation Inside Camp: Sanjay Lal Mic’d Up

Jets wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal is mic’d up during training camp, and also discusses trying to play pro football before becoming a coach in the NFL.

A lot has been made of Sanjay Lal’s lack of 1,000-yard receivers during his time as a coach. The offensive philosophies of the teams which he coached for, however, show why this criticism is flimsy.

It’s quite possible the Cowboys will once again be without a 1,000 yard pass catcher this season, but if Ezekiel Elliott and the run game are clicking, and Dak Prescott is spreading the ball to different targets, this stat won’t mean a thing.

Lal was also the coach in Buffalo when Sammy Watkins had the best years of his career, including a 1,000-yard season.

During that stint he coached Robert Woods to productive seasons as well. Now Woods is a dangerous target for the Los Angeles Rams after being coached by Lal for multiple seasons.

These were also the same years that quarterback Tyrod Taylor was at his best.

While in New York, with the Jets, Lal’s most productive receiver was Jeremy Kerley, who finished with 827 yards in 2012 and 523 in 2013. What’s important to note here is that Kerley played as a slot receiver for much of his time as a Jet.

The Cowboys lacked any type of production from the slot in 2017, but maybe Lal can change that by getting the best out of Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer, as he did with Kerley.

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Know that some believe he had a real shot to be an OC in this league one day. https://t.co/1s21w2jZGR

All indications from those “in the know” suggest Sanjay Lal is on his way to becoming an offensive coordinator soon. Many believe he has the smarts and the football IQ to command an offense himself, as soon as he gets the right opportunity.

Maybe that opportunity will come down the line in Dallas, where he can continue to coach within that “ground and pound” style, which he has done for many years while also implementing elements of his own passing game expertise.

Everyone has been critical of the Cowboys’ inability to bring in external hires, and to spark up new/creative offensive ideas. Lal has spent time among some of the smartest offensive minds in football.

Maybe he’s the man to bring in that outside creativity this offense seems to lack.

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