The Dallas Cowboys, like the rest of the NFL teams, are now just a little more than two weeks away from kicking off their training camp practices. To be more precise, the Cowboys will start on July 28 in Oxnard, California, which if you do the math is just 20 short days away.
I don't know about you, but it sure seems like a long time since the Dallas Cowboys have taken the field. I know I'm personally anxiously awaiting the kickoff for training camp, because to me that finally signals that the start of the 2016 season is just around the corner.
The players will finally put on the pads and we can now get a much better evaluation of not only the new additions join the Cowboys roster, but some of the veteran players we would like to see step up their game.
Training camp is where the really intense practices start to happen and players and coaches alike are more focused on the task at hand of preparing for the season that is fastly approaching.
We will hear the news coming out of training camp of players scuffling or yelling at each other, but that isn't anything new. What I want to hear though is how some of the Cowboys offensive players are progressing.
Here is a list of five players I will be following closely throughout training camp.
You may be wondering why Dez Bryant is on this list, but I for one will definitely be paying very close attention to how he's performing in training camp.
Bryant is mostly on this list because I want to see how he is able to get in and out of his routes after struggling with a foot injury for nearly the entire 2015 season. I also want to see if the Cowboys coaching staff will have some sort of pitch count on him so that he doesn't overdo it.
We all know that Bryant is a competitor and never wants to come up the field, but it won't do anybody any good if he ends up getting injured in training camp before the season even gets underway.
I can also make the same argument for Tony Romo. I ultimately decided to leave him out because he was able to take part in OTA's and mini-camp practices and the word is he was moving around better than he has the past several seasons.
Elliott has already had a lot of high expectations placed on his shoulders, and he has yet to even have a single professional practice in the NFL in pads.
Well, will finally get see why the Dallas Cowboys decided to draft him 4th overall and also what he can do behind the talented offensive line.
Training camp provides the opportunity for Elliott and the offensive line to build a good working chemistry. That chemistry should carry into the season and we all know that the Cowboys are planning on relying on the running game heavily in 2016.
I honestly can't remember a rookie player that I have been this excited about seeing what they can do in the NFL, and it makes it even more intriguing because he's a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Butler could possibly challenge Terrance Williams for that #2 wide receiver spot, but he will have to prove without a doubt is better than Williams in training camp. I don't personally see it happening just yet, but that doesn't mean he can't have a big role on offense in 2016.
Butler could possibly help open up the field for the Cowboys offense because he could provide that speed dimension that has been missing. He has the talent to be a really good WR in the NFL, but for some reason he hasn't been able to put it all together yet.
Maybe everything will start falling in place for him at training camp in Oxnard. He still has a lot to prove, but the talent is there to work with.
Chaz Green is still a mystery man with the Cowboys. He is entering his second year in the NFL, but last year was pretty much just a redshirt year for him because of a hip injury that required surgery.
It was somewhat surprising that he didn't receive any game experience towards the end of the season when there wasn't much worth playing for, so it kind of makes you wonder how much faith the coaching staff has in him.
Green's probably a player that the Cowboys are hoping can be the swing tackle in 2016 and then maybe take over for Doug Free at some point, but he's going to have to prove himself and stay healthy.
This could be a huge training camp for him.
It is said that converted linebacker Keith Smith and Rod Smith are competing to see who can possibly be the starter at fullback. I for one am really interested in seeing what Rod Smith can do once the pads come on.
Maybe it's the storyline that I like the most of possibly seeing Jaylon and Rod Smith (brothers) playing together at some point with the Dallas Cowboys.
This is a new position to learn for Rod and this will be a really important training camp for him if he wants to stick with the organization.
Rod Smith could possibly add yet another offensive weapon for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to play with if he can prove he's capable of playing fullback. I'm really looking forward to seeing how he could possibly be used in some creative offensive packages.
What offensive players will you be keeping a close eye on?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions. I really look forward to hearing your answers and getting your feedback on mine.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.
Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.
Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.
The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.
Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.
Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.
In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.
This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.
Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan
Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.
The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.
Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
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