Do you know the significance of July 28?
If not, that's the date that the Dallas Cowboys officially start training camp and what I believe to be the start of the 2016 NFL season.
We will finally get to see the new additions to the Dallas Cowboys roster in the full padded practices, thus giving us a better idea of exactly what type of players they are and how they can contribute to the team.
Unfortunately, a reoccurring theme in Oxnard, California, where the Cowboys hold training camp, is players suffering serious injuries that cause them to miss significant time, if not the entire season.
That is why I believe the coaching staff need to monitor some of their players specifically and make sure that they are not receiving too heavy of a workload.
Below are five players that need to be closely monitored in training camp and you might just notice a reoccurring theme with all of these players mentioned.
Tony Romo has been placed on a pitch count in practices before and I don't see any reason why that shouldn't continue in training camp and even into the regular season.
The Dallas Cowboys 2016 season will heavily depend on how Romo performs and how well he will be able to remain healthy. We all witnessed firsthand last season in 2015 just how much the entire team is Romo dependent and they simply can't risk losing him for any length of time if they want to be successful.
Romo knows the offense so the only real reason he needs practice repetitions is to build a chemistry once again with his offensive weapons.
Romo being placed on a pitch count does two things. It allows the coaching staff to get a better idea of the backup quarterback situation and it allows Romo to receive extra time for his body to recuperate.
Much like his quarterback, Dez Bryant had a rather disappointing 2015 season because of an early season foot injury that never quite received the adequate time to heal properly.
To his credit, Bryant played the 2015 season despite the amount of pain he must've played through in order to give his team the best chance to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
We all know that Bryant is a competitor and he gives 100% whether it's on the practice field or in a game. That is a reason why the Cowboys need to closely monitor him in training camp and probably the preseason as well.
Bryant will do everything in his power to receive as much practice reps as possible. That's just the type of person he is. He needs his repetitions in order to prepare for the season, but the Cowboys also need him to be 100% for the offense to be at its best.
Orlando Scandrick missed the entire 2015 season because of a devastating knee injury. He has yet to practice in any of the OTA's or mini-camp practices.
His return should greatly improve the secondary for the Cowboys defense with both his on the field play and the attitude that he plays with.
The coaching staff will need to closely monitor him and how his surgically repaired knee responds to practice in training camp. He might just need to be placed on a pitch count as well.
The Cowboys secondary is thin heading into the 2016 season and Scandrick's return not only helps depth wise, but allows defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to be a little more creative in how he chooses to disguise coverages with his cornerbacks.
Linebacker Sean Lee missed all of OTA's and mini-camp practices after having minor knee surgery to clear up discomfort he was having in his left knee. The same knee that caused him to miss the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL.
In all honesty, I would rather him miss time now than in the season when it really counts.
Lee seems to be an injury waiting to happen and you can bet with the current situation at the linebacker position the coaching staff will closely be monitoring his workload in training camp and in the preseason.
Lee had a fantastic 2015 season which resulted in him making his first Pro Bowl. He still managed to miss two games because of a concussion and a hamstring injury.
He knows Rod Marinelli's defense inside and out and him missing practice repetitions in training camp shouldn't be a big concern. It allows some of the younger LBs to gain a little more experience and prove to the coaching staff that they can be relied upon if needed.
Tyrone Crawford plays the all-important 3-technique in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's 4-3 defensive scheme. He is asked to make plays in the backfield in both the running and passing game, making him one of the most important pieces on the entire defense.
You may be asking yourself why Crawford is on this list, but he struggled playing through an injury in 2015 that really limited how effective he could be.
The coaching staff really needs to monitor his workload in training camp because there is a huge drop-off between Crawford and anybody that is playing behind him.
The Dallas Cowboys defense is already in a tough situation due to the suspensions to Rolando McClain, Demarcus Lawrence, and Randy Gregory. They simply can't afford to have one of the players they are relying on to provide a pass rush to miss any time due to injury.
Are there any other player's the coaching staff should be closely monitoring in training camp?
Please use the comment section below to provide your thoughts and opinions on this topic. I look forward to hearing from you so that we can discuss this further.
Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson
The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.
Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.
The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.
Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.
Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.
For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.
Dallas Cowboys: How “Position-Flex” Has Handcuffed The 2015 Draft Class
Over the last few years the Dallas Cowboys have placed a high level of importance on "position flex." They've drafted Swiss-Army knife players which could be moved around to different positions on the field.
By drafting players like Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods last year, as well as Byron Jones in 2015, the Cowboys have tried to find these versatile players who can be used in multiple ways.
While this seems great on paper, this strategy has handcuffed the majority of their 2015 Draft Class, and is a key reason why the Cowboys seem to be in such a tough spot.
The Cowboys' first round pick in 2015, Byron Jones, quickly became a favorite of mine during his rookie season. Incredibly athletic, long, and skilled in coverage, Jones was able to be both a fantastic cover cornerback and a solid middle-of-the-field safety due to his range.
Due to both injuries to his teammates, and Jones' own versatility, the Cowboys coaching staff couldn't keep Jones in just one spot. Once they discovered how great he was in man coverage against tight ends, they became enamored with trying to play him in the box.
Once in the box, Jones' struggles as a run defender were highlighted, and both the organization and the fans soured on him quickly.
Now it is rumored that Byron Jones will be moving back to cornerback full time. And while I do hope this is the case, the fact that he is in year four, and the Cowboys haven't been able to find their first round pick a permanent home is a huge indictment on their ability to evaluate and develop talent.
Okay, hear me out.
The former third round pick of the 2015 Draft was brought in to be the swing tackle for the Cowboys his rookie year. Mainly due to injuries, Green did not see the field for much of his first two seasons. When he did fill in for Tyron Smith at left tackle in 2016, however, Green was very effective.
Of course, Chaz Green's last appearance with the Cowboys was ugly, giving up a plethora of sacks against the Atlanta Falcons. But Dallas might've made their own bed with Green during the beginning of the 2017 season, when they attempted to move him to left guard full time.
Instead of getting the increased work at tackle, and continuing to work as the swing tackle for the team in case of injury, Dallas started Green at left guard early on in the year. He struggled trying to move positions, and looked even worse when trying to move back to tackle.
Once again, the position flex bit the Cowboys right in the backside.
It's 2018 and we are still talking about what position to play La'el Collins on the offensive line. And that is solely on the coaching staff and front office, not Collins.
Collins was brought in as an undrafted free agent in 2015, but was widely regarded as a first round pick heading into that draft. Though he started at left tackle at LSU, Dallas shifted Collins inside to left guard in 2015. After taking over for Ronald Leary as the starter, Collins produced highlight blocks week after week.
Injuries shortened his 2016 campaign, but heading into 2017 the Cowboys decided to shift him back out to right tackle. Despite some early struggles, Collins progressed nicely throughout the year and became a solid starting right tackle. Plus, he has the upside to become one of the top right tackles in the league.
Instead, it is now being rumored the Cowboys might move him back to guard for 2018. And with that news, I continue to pull my hair out over the position-flex decisions this coaching staff and front office like to make.
If the Cowboys want to get the most out of each draft class, and effectively develop their talent, they need to let those players actually develop, rather than move them around each season. Hopefully they now understand this, and allow both Byron Jones and La'el Collins to reach their full potential.
Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal
At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.
The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.
Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.
Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.
A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.
Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.
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