After this week's short mini-camp, there will be a long wait until the Dallas Cowboys training camp finally kicks off. Unfortunately, that means there isn't going to be a lot going on until training camp gets underway. But, there are quite a few unanswered questions that still need to be answered.
Today, I want to focus on some of these unanswered questions to give you all something to think about while we wait for the Dallas Cowboys training camp to finally get here. I've narrowed it down to my top four, but please feel free to use the comment section at the end of the article to share any questions or concerns you may have.
Let's get started…
Who's the Starting 1-Technique?
As things stand right now, the Dallas Cowboys have tremendous depth on the defensive line. They are completely stacked at defensive end and have a plethora of players who can play the 3-technique, but the same can't be said about their 1-technique options.
Before the Dallas Cowboys training camp officially gets underway, it looks as if Brian Price is the favorite to start on the inside of the DL at the 1-tech. He performed admirably last season in the same role, but isn't what you would call a difference maker. He is serviceable, but isn't going to be an impactful player.
The time between now and when training camp begins might be a good time for the Cowboys to reevaluate their stance on a big bodied/space eating DT. Jonathan Hankins is the best free agent still available and he would be an immediate upgrade over Price. It's unlikely the Cowboys make any moves, but Hankins is someone I am going to keep an eye on because he would immediately be the best 1-tech with the Cowboys.
Who are the Starting Safeties?
Out of all the positions on the Dallas Cowboys roster, the safety position might be the thinnest. With Byron Jones moving back to cornerback, someone is going to have to step up and start next to Jeff Heath, who should reprise his starting role.
It's going to be really interesting to see how Kris Richard decides to deploy his starting safeties in 2018. He really doesn't have very many options to choose from and doesn't have the talent he had when he was with the Seattle Seahawks.
The door isn't completely shut on possibly adding Earl Thomas, but I think it's highly unlikely. That means second-year DB Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier are the best options currently on the roster to start next to Heath. We could see some kind of rotation with the safeties this season, but hopefully someone will take advantage of their opportunity in training camp and separate themselves from the competition.
Who Replaces Jason Witten at TE?
First off, there isn't anyone who can replace someone like Jason Witten on or off the field. He is the epitome of what you want in a player and those kind of athletes are hard to come by. But, someone is going to have to try to replace some of his production.
Right now, Geoff Swaim is the only TE on the Cowboys roster with a career catch in the NFL. It's a little worrisome to think about all of the inexperience at the position, but it also makes it a little exciting to find out how all of this will turn out.
The Dallas Cowboys need to find a quality starter. They ask their TEs to do a lot within the offensive scheme. They need to be efficient as both a blocker and receiver. Swaim has proven to be a good blocker, but not so much as a receiver so far. Rico Gathers has shown flashes as a receiver, but leaves a lot to be desired as a blocker. Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schulz have a chance to be the "complete package", but may need time to develop.
Who Fits Where at Wide Receiver?
With so many new faces at the wide receiver position for the Dallas Cowboys it is nearly impossible to accurately predict who is going to fit where this season. The only thing we know right now is that Cole Beasley will likely be the only WR on the roster who has played a significant role with the Cowboys in the past. Terrance Williams' future with the team is somewhat in doubt with his recent off the field mishap.
Now that Dez Bryant is gone, the Dallas Cowboys probably aren't going to have a true #1 WR. I personally don't think they need one, but that's just my opinion. I believe they can be just as productive without a #1 WR and be just as productive in the passing game. In order to do that though, they need to find some solid production from some of these new faces.
Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Tavon Austin, among others will all have to be productive in their first year in Dallas. I don't expect any one of them to replace Dez Bryant on their own, but collectively they have to work well with Dak Prescott and become dependable week after week. That's the only way the Cowboys don't become one-dimensional as an offense this season.
What unanswered questions do you have ahead of the Dallas Cowboys training camp?
Is WR Cole Beasley Being Underutilized?
Like any competitor, Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Cole Beasley wants to play and be as heavily involved as possible when the lights come on and the game is on the line. He's become accustomed to to being heavily involved in the game plan, that is until WR Amari Cooper arrived in Dallas.
Since the arrival of Amari Cooper, Cole Beasley has seen his offensive role dramatically reduced. He is no longer Quarterback Dak Prescott's favorite target in the passing game and it even looks as if he is taken a stumble down the Cowboys WR depth chart. At best, he is their WR3 now behind Cooper and Michael Gallup.
That's quite a fall from grace for a player who was Dallas' top receiver the last few seasons and the most targeted in the first half of this year. I can almost guarantee he's not happy about not being utilized more in the passing game, but he's a team player and will do what it takes to win.
Unfortunately for Beasley, Cooper's arrival has changed the Cowboys offense. He is back to his old role of working the short intermediate routes now with Cooper and Gallup playing on the outside. Because of that his stats have taken a hit. His targets, receptions, and the chance to help his team win has dropped off significantly.
In the two games before Cooper joined the team, Beasley had 16 receptions for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 19 targets. The six games since he only has 17 catches for 138 yards on 26 targets. That's a huge drop in production and has nothing to do with his performance. It's how he's being utilized.
Beasley has been forced to take a backseat in the Cowboys aerial attack. Amari Cooper has been highly targeted, and rightfully so, and Michael Gallup is seeing more passes thrown his way as well. Not to mention, Ezekiel Elliott has been used more as a receiver also.
There are just too many mouths to feed and unfortunately Cole Beasley is the odd man out. The sad thing is, that might not change anytime soon with the way the Cowboys offense is playing right now. It's one of the reasons why they currently have the league's best winning streak going for them.
It's to hard make an argument for Beasley receiving more looks in the passing game with the way the offense is playing, with the exception of in the red zone, but I do believe he needs to be more involved. After all, he is still one of the Cowboys best WRs and can't be covered by anyone in the league one-on-one.
I don't know about you, but I'm hoping things will circle back around and he will once again be more involved in the passing game. His ability to get open is uncanny and it's a shame to not take advantage of that God-given gift.
What do you think, should Cole Beasley start being utilized more?
Time to see What Darius Jackson can do as Zeke’s Backup?
I hate to say it because I really like Rod Smith, but I think it may be time for the Dallas Cowboys to reevaluate the running back position as it pertains to Ezekiel Elliott's primary backup. Smith just hasn't been good this year, which is why I think it may be time to see what Darius Jackson can do if given the opportunity.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting the Dallas Cowboys move on from Rod Smith or demote him right now, but I would promote Darius Jackson from the practice squad to the active roster as insurance in case something were to happen to Zeke. It just seems the right time to make that move after #21's injury scare Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Eagles.
You may have forgotten, but Ezekiel Elliott had to spend some time in the medical tent Sunday against the Eagles. He was luckily able to return to the game not long after, but it did shine a spotlight on Rod Smith and the lack of depth behind him.
Despite how much I like Rod Smith, and I do, he just hasn't been the same player this season as he was last year as Zeke's fill-in. He is just not running with any kind of authority and has been too apt to run east and west instead of north and south. I think it's one of the reasons why the Cowboys have continued to give Zeke such a heavy workload, despite him being banged up.
Now, Rod Smith did look a little better against the Eagles, but I still believe it would be wise for the Cowboys to promote Darius Jackson to the active roster. Having more depth at such a physically demanding position is just smart football.
With the Dallas Cowboys playoff spot all but secured, it might be time to start thinking about lightening Ezekiel Elliott's workload just a little bit. Whether it's Rod Smith or Darius Jackson, the Cowboys have to find someone who can step in and be productive.
Rod Smith has had his opportunities this year, but hasn't really been able to capitalize like we believed he could. It might be time to turn to Darius Jackson, a fan favorite, who unfortunately just hasn't been able to prove what he can do as of yet in a meaningful game. I think it's time we change that.
As much as I like Rod Smith, I might like Darius Jackson just a little bit more. I think he is kind of like a poor man's Ezekiel Elliott. He is just as athletically gifted and can be a threat as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. He just needs the opportunity to prove it.
There's really no way of knowing if I'm right or wrong about this, but I believe he is worthy of a roster spot on game day if nothing else. I'd rather have him and not need him then need him and not have him.
Do you think it's time to see what Darius Jackson can do?
Cowboys Lassoing NFC East Title as NFC Dark Horse
Well don’t look now but the Dallas Cowboys are in control of their division and anything short of a catastrophic collapse will see them hosting the first round of the playoffs. Dallas strengthened their grip on the NFC East by knocking off a divisional rival and the reigning Super Bowl champions with a 29-23 overtime win over the Eagles.
Those who have a favorite online sportsbook and wagered on the Cowboys were ecstatic to see Dak Prescott hit Amari Cooper for a 15-yard touchdown pass in overtime, thus covering the 3 ½ point impost that oddsmakers hung on Dallas.
The Cowboys have now won five consecutive games, with three of those over divisional opponents Philadelphia (twice) and Washington. But before we celebrate, we must consider that there's still a mathematical possibility of either Philadelphia or Washington stealing the division crown away from the Cowboys.
The Giants' only hope is an outside shot at a wildcard berth if they win outright but they've been eliminated from contending for a division title due to their 1-4 record against NFC East teams.
Essentially, all the Cowboys must do is win one of their three remaining games in order to celebrate a division crown. If Philadelphia or Washington loses any of their three games they will be out due to tie breakers that go in the Cowboys’ favor.
As of this moment, the Redskins are a disaster with no one under center to captain their rudderless ship, and the Eagles must defeat the Rams in LA, which would be considered a stunning upset seeing as any reputable online sportsbook is offering the Rams as 9 ½ point favorites as of this writing; then they must win at home against Houston and on the road against the Redskins.
Of course, the Cowboys are counting only on themselves to reel in the division title and with games at Indianapolis, home against the Bucs, and wrapping their season in New Jersey against the Giants, at least one win seems likely.
The addition of Amari Cooper to the Dallas offensive arsenal has been a game-changer as the former Oakland Raider hauled in 10 of 13 targets for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner last Sunday against Philadelphia. He was the top-tier receiver Prescott had been lacking and his presence on the field improves both the passing game and running game by virtue of his dynamic playmaking abilities. Ezekiel Elliott has eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards in four of the six games since Cooper has been on the Cowboys roster.
Furthermore, Dallas has averaged 24.4 points per game over their last five wins with Cooper in the lineup, which is more than five points improved from where they were prior to their winning streak without him in a Dallas uniform.
In addition, Prescott has morphed from a game manager at 202 passing yards per game to a game breaker as evidenced by his 285.7 passing yard average in six games with his new target at his disposal.
Ultimately, the Cowboys will be tasked with turning all of this good mojo into a deep run into the postseason. We can now confidently say that there is one other team to consider besides the Rams, Bears, and Saints as this year’s NFC entrant into the Super Bowl. However, Dak Prescott will need to eliminate turnovers and interceptions if Dallas is truly going to contend against the powerhouses they will face in the playoffs.
Last Sunday, Prescott caught fire in the fourth quarter and ended with 455 yards passing, connecting on 42 of 54 passes with three touchdowns, but his two interceptions were converted into nine points by Philadelphia. As we move forward, Prescott will need to lead right from the get-go and understand that one poor decision can cost his team what is now a realistic shot at a championship season.
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