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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!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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Game Notes

Cowboys, Seahawks Week 3 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Offense: More Hot Sauce Needed From Cole Beasley 3
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas isn't the only guy whose playing status is in question for today's game. Other key players for Seattle and the Dallas Cowboys appear on the teams' Week 3 injury reports.

The Cowboys are looking to move to 2-1 and maintain a slim lead in the NFC East. The Seahawks are still looking for their first win of 2018, and the drama around Thomas isn't helping the fear of a locker room implosion.

What players may not be out there to help their teams to victory?

Dallas Cowboys

  • C Travis Frederick (illness) - OUT
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - OUT
  • WR Cole Beasley (ankle) - Questionable
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
  • S Xavier Woods (hamstring) - Questionable

Frederick remains out as he deals with his neurological disease. Dallas decided to keep him on the 53-man roster, rather than place him on injured reserve, with the hope that he could return before Week 9. There are still several weeks before we'll know if that was a good move.

Maliek Collins will be out today after a minor knee injury suffered last week against the Giants. Taking his spot will be Datone Jones, who returns from his own knee issue after missing the first two games.

You don't like seeing your quarterback's favorite receiver and your defensive leader on the same injury report. Thankfully, though, it appears both Cole Beasley and Sean Lee will be available today.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

For the #Cowboys, WR Cole Beasley (ankle) is expected to play, and LB Sean Lee (hamstring) should be good to go, as well, based on how he moved around in practice on Friday, sources say.

Finally, we come to the ever-intriguing Xavier Woods. While limited in practice all week, Woods is expected to make his season debut in Seattle. We will see if Xavier gets the start at free safety, or if Dallas will ease him back in and keep Kavon Frazier starting for now.

With all of the hype around Dallas' possible acquisition of Earl Thomas, one has to hope that Xavier won't overdo it and make matters worse with his hamstring. Between the enthusiasm just to play and the threat to his starting job, the second-year stud should be pretty amped up.

Seattle Seahawks

  • WR Doug Baldwin (knee) - OUT
  • C/G Ethan Pocic (ankle) - OUT
  • LB K.J. Wright (knee) - OUT
  • C Justin Britt (shoulder) - Questionable
  • LB Mychal Kendricks (ankle) - Questionable
  • S Earl Thomas (???) - ???

Seattle remains without Baldwin, their leading receiver from 2014-2017, and it shows in their offensive play. QB Russell Wilson is currently at career lows in completion percentage and passer rating, plus has already thrown three interceptions in just two games.

The Seahawks have issues up front as well. Starting left guard Ethan Pocic will also miss today's game. With right guard D.J. Fluker returning this week after missing the first two, that will allow backup J.R. Sweezy to flip over to the other side.

If that wasn't enough, starting center Justin Britt missed the entire week of practice with a shoulder issue. He has not been ruled out, though. Regardless, those are a lot of red flags on your offensive line with the Cowboys' emerging defense coming to town.

Also out today will be Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright. That means we could see Mychal Kendricks, who was just recently booted from Cleveland after being charged with insider trading, playing a major role today. Kendricks knows the Cowboys well, having played with the Eagles from 2012-2017.

And lastly, Earl Thomas.

No health or injury-related reason has been given for why Thomas missed practices on Wednesday and Friday. "Personal reasons" is all you're getting from Seattle, fueling rampant speculation that a trade is in the works. Whether or not that trade is with the Dallas Cowboys is pure conjecture at this point.

What we do know is that Seattle is 0-2 and trending down this year. Holding onto Thomas and his expiring contract, only to lose him for nothing next year in free agency, would be foolish.

We'll see if Earl plays at all today. If he doesn't, the trade talk is going to explode.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Wishlist: Dallas Cowboys VS. Seattle Seahawks

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Center Travis Frederick Still Hoping to "Be a Rock" for Teammates Despite GBS Syndrome

It's week 3 of the 2018 NFL season and this match-up already feels like one of the most important ones the Dallas Cowboys will play in the season. The reason why is they need to prove they're good enough to win consistently and that they won't have another year that feels like a roller coaster of wins and losses like 2017 did. As they travel to Seattle to face the 0-2 Seahawks, the 1-1 Cowboys can't miss a perfect opportunity versus one of the weakest units in football: the Seahawks' offensive line.

As every gameday, here is my Cowboys Wishlist for this week's action. As always, I encourage you to share your wishes with me in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!

Meet Brett Maher, the Cowboys Kicker Replacing Dan Bailey for 2018

Dallas Cowboys K Brett Maher (Shanna Lockwood / USA TODAY Sports)

Wish #1: Brett Maher Kicks a 50+ yard FG.

Dan Bailey recently signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Cowboys Nation will experience a very odd feeling when they see their former kicker wear purple. If there's something that can make fans feel better is watching the guy who replaced Bailey nail a long field goal in Seattle.

Brett Maher showed he could kick a 47-yard FG in preseason, but we want to see him pull it off in a kick that will actually go down in the books. The decision to release Dan Bailey won't leave our minds until we see Maher do his job.

Wish #2: Rico Gathers Scores His First Career TD.

It felt like forever, but tight end Rico Gathers was activated for the first time in his career last Sunday. Rico didn't get his first catch even though he was targeted twice by Dak Prescott. The most notable moment was when Gathers seemed to be open in the endzone but Dak missed him.

Although Prescott's pass could've been better, Gathers did stumble a little bit and wasn't where he should've been to catch that touchdown. No worries, Rico's career is only beginning. I wish his first touchdown ever finally comes this week.

Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie (AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth)

Wish #3: Defense Gets Its First Interception of the Year.

Through two weeks of NFL action, the Dallas Cowboys defense has been one of the most impressive units. Ranking as the third best in total points in the league, the Cowboys' defense might begin being the team's best side of the ball. At least, it has been for the first two weeks.

Last week, they limited Odell Beckham Jr. to only 51 yards. Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie have played pretty well so far, but I wish they're able to get their first interception of the year. Dallas has one takeaway from week 1 versus the Panthers, but it came in form of a fumble.

Let's get that interception from Russell Wilson, who will be pressured most of the day by a very productive Cowboys' front seven.

Wish #4: 20+ Point Performance

Despite a very exciting first drive versus the Giants last week, the Cowboys' offense still needs to prove it can be successful enough to win games. Scott Linehan's unit had some good drives but it also failed to maintain a consistent attack all game. That may seem okay, but the Cowboys will have to win against some pretty tough defenses.

Seahawks will present the team with a very interesting challenge and one that I wish they pass. As good as the defense is playing, the offense needs to show up in order to win later games.

Wish #5: Contain Russell Wilson

Wilson is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL. His agility might be the best among every other signal caller in the game, becoming a very tough guy to defend. He can hurt you with his arms and legs and can throw on the run pretty well. All week we've been talking about how sacking the Seahawks' QB is a key to the victory, but it's more than that.

Wilson is good in the pocket, but when he starts scrambling or running out of the pocket only to throw the ball once the defense is out of position, he becomes a pretty painful headache. The Cowboys need to put him on the ground, but they also need to contain him all day long. He's basically his team's entire offense.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Wishlist: Dallas Cowboys VS. Seattle Seahawks" 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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Game Notes

Kris Richard’s Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond the Defense in Seattle

Sean Martin

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Kris Richard's Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond Defense in Meeting at Seattle 1

Through just two games, the Dallas Cowboys addition of Kris Richard to their revamped coaching staff appears to be the team's best move of the offseason. Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli revealed that Richard is calling the team's plays on defense, which explains their attacking style of play so far.

It was the Cowboys blitzes that disrupted the Giants offense enough for Dallas to earn their first win a week ago. With the schedule set up favorably for the Cowboys to build off this win, Richard must lead his defense past his old team in Seattle for Sunday's week three match up.

On paper, the Cowboys defense should be able to limit the Seahawks thanks to their strong pass rush and lengthy secondary. Welcoming back Xavier Woods at safety, the Cowboys are getting even better in the back end against the Seahawks, allowing Richard to throw even more looks at Seattle with his front seven.

Starting wide receiver Doug Baldwin and guard Ethan Pocic will both miss this game for the Seahawks.

With an offense still trying to find its footing though, Richard' profound impact on the Cowboys staff has extended past the defensive side of the ball this week. Perhaps the most criticized Cowboys coach this season, Offensive Coordiator Scott Linehan has sat down with Richard to study the Seahawks defense - coordinated by Richard against the Cowboys specifically.

Kate Hairopoulos on Twitter

Scott Linehan and Kris Richard have been spending a good chunk of time together this week dissecting Seattle's approach. Richard obviously knows Seahawks well. Linehan said Richard has great recall, taking him through each play of teams' previous games.

At 1-1, the Cowboys are still looking to put a complete game on the field and prove they deserve to sit atop the NFC East. The defense being their strongest unit through an ugly loss in Carolina and grind-it-out win against the Giants, Linehan's offense creating some explosive plays against the Seahawks could be all the Cowboys need to exit CenturyLink field as winners on Sunday.

Since Linehan officially took over as the Cowboys OC, he is 0-2 against Seahawks defenses coordinated by Richard. When Kris left Seattle, it was believed that he got out at the right time, with the Seahawks defense declining in talent ever since 2015 (his first year as DC).

The NFL's top scoring defense in 2015, the Seahawks were a full point per game worse in 2016, and nearly 2.5 points worse than that in 2017. So far this season, the Seahawks have allowed 27 points to Case Keenum's Broncos and 24 to the Mitch Trubisky lead Chicago Bears.

Kris Richard's Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond Defense in Meeting at Seattle

The Cowboys biggest problem against Richard's defenses had been finishing drives, something they improved on against the Giants last week. Both Cowboys losses coming at home, the Seahawks kept Dallas out of the end zone in both week eight of 2015 and week 17 a year ago.

Last year's loss to the Seahawks should still sting those at The Star who saw a desperate push for the playoffs hit a wall against Seattle's defense - holding the Cowboys to 282 yards in Ezekiel Elliott's return from suspension.

Not having to rely solely on motivation for revenge while sitting back and trusting Elliott to carry them, Richard could be the key to the Cowboys passing game finding some rhythm. After all, his official title beyond "offseason steal" is Passing Game Coordinator - a position occupied previously by Linehan himself back in 2014.

With a win, similarly to 2014 when the Cowboys came out of Seattle victorious, Dallas would go a long way in earning respect around the league.

This goes for both the offense, where the Cowboys will remain a work in progress regardless of result, and on defense where Dallas can expect Maliek Collins (knee) and David Irving (suspension) to return in the coming weeks.

Kris Richard's focus has been on bettering the Cowboys since they added him to the organization with a clear path up the ranks. Just how far Richard ascends, and how quickly, will depend on the Cowboys performance - expecting to be more than ready for the challenge ahead this week thanks to the coach responsible for building the "Legion of Boom".

The Cowboys kickoff in Seattle being FOX's game of the week, this team has never been one to back away from the spotlight, and winning under it with Richard on the sideline would give the Cowboys all the momentum they need returning home for week four.

Tell us what you think about "Kris Richard’s Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond the Defense in Seattle" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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