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5 Defensive Players To Watch In Training Camp

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - 5 Defensive Players To Watch In Training Camp

The Dallas Cowboys are just now 19 days away from the start of training camp and I know that there are a lot of individual players that you will want to be keeping an eye on.

Yesterday, I decided to share with you the five offensive players to watch in training camp and now I thought I would share with you the players on the defensive side of the ball that I will be paying close attention to in training camp.

It’s no secret that the Dallas Cowboys defense could use all the help that they could get with the suspensions to Rolando McClain, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Randy Gregory. That means that some of the players are going to need to step up and prove that they are ready for larger roles in 2016.

Here are the five players I will be following closely in training camp when it finally gets underway later this month on July 28 in Oxnard, California.

Byron Jones, Free Safety

Cowboys Headlines - 5 Defensive Players To Watch In Training Camp 1

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to seeing Byron Jones solely focused on the free safety position and what he should be able to do for the Cowboys defense.

I am anxiously anticipating a few training camp battles between Byron Jones and Jason Witten. They already kind of scuffled with one another in mini-camp practices, but with the intensity of practices picking up now that they will be in full pads it should only add a little more fuel to the fire for both players.

I’m personally expecting big things from Jones in 2016 and the experience he should gain from guarding a crafty veteran tight end like Jason Witten in training camp should help him progress as a player.

If Jones performs the way I’m hoping, he could be on the verge of making his first Pro Bowl.

Cedric Thornton, Defensive Tackle

Cowboys Headlines - 5 Defensive Players To Watch In Training Camp 2

(Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire)

I can honestly say that I don’t know much about Cedric Thornton except that he was previously a member of the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. I do however think he will be an upgrade over Nick Hayden at the 1-technique in the middle the Cowboys defense.

I’m hoping that Thornton’s presence in the middle will not only provide a little more pass rush from the 1-tech, but also help free up Tyrone Crawford to put pressure on the QB as well.

Thorton’s defensive play could also help keep defensive lineman off the middle linebackers and we know that’s a question mark now that Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first 10 games.

Whoever starts at MLB for the Cowboys might become Thorton’s best friend if he is able to just run and make plays instead of having to fight through traffic.

I’m really interested to see what Cedric Thornton can do for the Cowboys defense in 2016 and the training camp will be the first glimpse we will have of him in full pads going up against the Cowboys talented offensive line.

Ryan Russell, Defensive End

Cowboys Headlines - 5 Defensive Players To Watch In Training Camp 3

(James D. Smith via AP)

Ryan Russell has the opportunity in front of him to seize one of the starting defensive end positions to start the season with DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory suspended the first four games.

The second year DE has wisely taken advantage of the Cowboys’ off-season weight training and conditioning programs and has transformed his body to better prepare himself for the physical nature of the NFL. Russell’s hard work may pay off and earn him a starting role along the defensive line.

Russell’s name popped up several times in OTA’s and mini-camp practices, but now he will need to be able to prove to the coaching staff that he is ready for a larger role once the pads come on.

I will be paying close attention to #99 in training camp and see how he performs against both Tyron Smith and Doug Free.

Charles Tapper, Defensive End

Cowboys Headlines - 5 Defensive Players To Watch In Training Camp 4I don’t know about you, but I for one am really excited to see what Charles Tapper can do in training camp for the Dallas Cowboys. The defense is desperate for pass rush help and Tapper might just be the player to help in this area.

I really haven’t heard his name mentioned much since being drafted by the Cowboys in the fourth-round, but I’m expecting to see him get his chance to prove to everyone including the coaching staff that he can at the very least be a good rotational defensive end in 2016.

Tapper has rare athleticism for a player his size and I’m really hoping that he can learn to use his athleticism properly in hopes that he can be an impact player sooner rather than later.

Tapper should receive plenty of practice repetitions in training camp. I’m just hoping that he is a quick learner and can develop into a quality defensive end for the Cowboys.

Mark Nzeocha, Linebacker

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(James D. Smith via AP)

Mark Nzeocha isn’t a name that a whole lot of people are familiar with, but I personally think that he could be an option for the Cowboys as a middle linebacker. He has the  size and athletic ability to play the position, but he simply lacks the experience.

Nzeocha didn’t receive much playing time as a rookie because he was still recovering from an injury he suffered while he was still in college at the University of Wyoming. He did however get a little bit of game experience towards the end of the season last year, but that was mostly on special teams.

Anthony Hitchens is probably the favored linebacker to take over for the suspended Rolando McClain, but I really think Mark Nzeocha has the physical tools to play the position as well.

I’m really interested in seeing how he is used in training camp practices and how he has developed from his rookie year to his second year in the NFL.

What defensive players will you be keeping a close eye on in training camp?

Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions. I look forward to hearing back from you so that we can discuss this topic further.

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Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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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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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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