The Dallas Cowboys are now just a few days away from starting training camp and every time these practices kickoff I start to get the feeling that the season is almost here.
The practice is finally fully padded, the tempers are flaring, and the trash talk is running rampant. Football season is Finally Here!
I don't know about you but I just love the excitement and energy that the football season brings. There is not another sport that provides so much enjoyment and entertainment to my life. Fortunately, for all of us it is just around the corner and for me training camp is the first indicator that the football season is fastly approaching.
One of the things I like to do once training camp is finally underway is identify some of the battles that will take place throughout these practices and really pay close attention to how things play out.
Below are six of the training camp battles that I will particularly be paying close attention to leading up to the 2016 season.
Dez Bryant vs. Orlando Scandrick
Over the years one of my favorite things to watch during training camp is Dez Bryant and Orlando Scandrick go at one another during practice. This year is no different, but with both players coming back from injuries it will be interesting to see how this battle shakes out.
Both players are arguably the most passionate and feisty players on the entire Dallas Cowboys roster. They enjoy using trash talk as a means of trying to get in the head of the players they are going up against and it usually reaches a different level when they are lining up across from one another.
#32 and #88 will both have to be monitored closely throughout training camp to make sure that there are no lingering effects from their 2015 injuries, but I still expect both players to battle it out when they are facing each other in practice.
Zack Martin vs. Tyrone Crawford
Zack Martin and Tyrone Crawford will be battling it out in the trenches in training camp and I for one am really interested in seeing who comes out on top the majority of the time.
Martin is arguably one of the best offensive guards in the entire NFL, but don't count out Crawford when lining up across from #70 in training camp practices.
Crawford was really limited in 2015 because he was battling through an injury the majority of the year. It really had an impact on his effectiveness, but now that he's 100% healthy he should be able to improve upon his career-high five quarterback sacks that he was able to accumulate last season.
Martin and Crawford will probably get tired of looking at one another, but they are both likely to benefit from squaring off against one another throughout training camp.
Terrance Williams vs. Brice Butler
Terrance Williams versus Brice Butler has been an interesting topic for discussion throughout the off-season and there are many people that believe that Butler might just have a chance to beat out Williams for that #2 wide receiver spot.
There will be many eyes following this training camp battle, but I for one don't know if Butler can do enough to unseat Williams at this point.
I don't know if Williams gets enough credit for what he has been able to accomplish since entering the NFL. Yes, there are times where he seems to disappear, but he already has the trust of his quarterback and an upper hand over Butler when it comes to the knowing the offensive scheme.
Both players are entering their last year under contract and you can bet that they will be doing everything in their power to earn a second contract in the NFL.
Cedric Thornton vs. Travis Frederick
Cedric Thornton was the Dallas Cowboys prized free-agent in the off-season and I for one am really excited about seeing him go up against Travis Frederick in training camp.
Of course, this isn't the first time the two have squared off against one another, but it will be the first time they will do so as teammates. Thornton has faced off against Frederick before as a member of the division rival Philadelphia Eagles and should know all too well how to battle it out with the Cowboys offensive line.
Thornton is expected to be an upgrade over Nick Hayden at the 1-tech and should help provide a little bit more spark to the middle of the Dallas Cowboys front seven. Frederick on the other hand will be asked to keep him at bay and keep the pocket clean for Tony Romo.
It is really going to be interesting to see if either player can gain the upper hand in training camp.
Morris Claiborne vs. Brandon Carr
Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr are arguably two of the most hated Dallas Cowboys players on the roster by many fans. Claiborne because he has failed to live up to his draft status and has struggle to stay healthy. Carr because he has failed to live up to the big money contract he received from the Cowboys as a free agent.
As things stand right now, it looks as if both players will be competing to see who starts at the right cornerback position opposite Orlando Scandrick.
I'm under the belief that Scandrick will play left cornerback and then possibly slide down into the slot when the Cowboys are in their nickel package. That leaves Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr battling it out to see who wins the other starting CB spot.
The Cowboys are in their nickel package quite often so both players will get plenty of playing time, but who earns the right to be called a starter will be determined in training camp.
Anthony Hitchens vs. Mark Nzeocha
The 10 game suspension to Rolando McClain really hurt the Dallas Cowboys defense, but I believe that the organization will see what they have in some of their younger linebackers in training camp and then possibly make another move to solidify the position.
Even though the Cowboys brought back Justin Durant, I see him as a backup player for the 2016 season. That leaves me to believe that Anthony Hitchens and Mark Nzeocha will get the first shot at locking down the middle linebacker position.
Hitchens has the experience and probably the trust of the coaching staff, but Nzeocha has all the physical tools to challenge him for the starting position.
This could be one of the more important training camp battles to keep track of because it could ultimately decide the fate of the Dallas Cowboys defense in 2016.
Are there any training camp battles you are particularly interested in keeping track of?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic so that we can discuss it further.
Don’t Forget Special Teams Value in Cowboys Roster Decisions
Building a 53-man roster in the NFL is a complex formula, requiring balance between numerous positions on each side of the ball. But what often gets overlooked in our analysis as outsiders is special teams, and that's a huge factor for many of the Dallas Cowboys players hoping to make it past final cuts.
Some players have survived in the league by being just good enough at their listed positions but excelling in special teams roles. You may think of former Dallas safety Bill Bates, who was personally responsible for a special teams player being made part of the annual Pro Bowl roster. A more recent example would be Keith Davis, who was an adequate safety but a special teams ace for several seasons.
To be sure, someone is going to be on this 2019 Cowboys more for their special teams value than their actual offensive or defensive ability. Who might he, or they, be?
One candidate is veteran Cornerback C.J. Goodwin. He is considered an exceptional talent in coverage on punts, which is probably the only reason he's still in the NFL today. At age 29, Goodwin has never really emerged as a consistent contributor on defense.
Young players like Donovan Olumba or rookie Michael Jackson, if not already superior cornerbacks to Goodwin, have far more upside to keep on the roster. But
considering how little they may get on the field anyway as the fifth or sixth corners, you can see why special teams value becomes so important. It may be the only time you actually see them in the game.
If the Cowboys don't want to lose a young prospect but can't let go of Goodwin's special teams ability, it may prompt them to go long at the CB position. But that means taking a roster spot from some other position, and thus the balancing act continues.
Another player to watch in this discussion is second-year an Running Back Jordan Chunn. He doesn't have Alfred Morris' experience or maybe Mike Weber or Darius Jackson's rushing talent, but he has been showing up on the special teams units.
Yesterday, Cowboys insider Bryan Broaddus called Chunn "a better Rod Smith" in analyzing his chances of making the roster. If you don't recall, Jaylon's older brother was a solid RB but a standout special teams player in his few years with Dallas.
As we just mentioned with the 5th/6th CB slots, the third running back is not a guy you expect to see much on offense. That will be especially true this year as Dallas will be struggling just to give rookie Tony Pollard the touches he deserves as the number-two RB.
Given that, special teams play becomes vital for the value of whoever is behind Zeke and Pollard on the depth chart. If Jordan Chunn is superior to his competition in that regard, it could negate whatever he lacks as an actual running back.
This same conversation can be had throughout the roster. It's why Noah Brown might make the team over more traditionally gifted receivers, or why a certain linebacker or safety might be more valued than others.
We make the common mistake of referring to "both sides of the ball" when we talk about football teams. There are three sides; special teams can't be underestimated. It will certainly play a part in how the Dallas Cowboys finalize their 53-man roster this season and in years to come.
Cowboys Preseason: Wide Receivers Power Rankings
When cut-down day arrives for the Dallas Cowboys, the team's decision making ability will really be put to the test once they get to the wide receiver position. The Cowboys have plenty of young talent there and choosing the players that will make the 53-man roster won't be easy. Unfortunately, you can't keep them all.
With the Cowboys offense set to take the next step in 2019 under Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore, the team has to get WR right. Since the offseason, we've seen many things from the team's wide receivers that make us wonder who's better than who and who should wear the Star once September comes around.
Today, I share with you my power rankings for the Dallas Cowboys' wide receivers.
1.-3. The Absolute Locks
It's really not necessary to discuss the Cowboys' top three wide receivers. We know there is absolutely no way they fail to make the roster. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb are expected to be the team's starters. Cooper proved he can be a big-time threat as the Cowboys WR1 after many questioned his future following his struggles as an Oakland Raider.
Gallup has had an impressive offseason and preseason, building on his very solid playoff work from last January. This guy is poised for a breakout season and has even shown flashes of having WR1 talent. For now, though, he should be a great number two for Dak Prescott.
As far as Randall Cobb is concerned, he should be more than a decent slot receiver for Dallas replacing Cole Beasley.
Don't worry about the three starting wide receivers. They should be a very good unit.
4. Cedrick Wilson
I might be high on Cedrick Wilson, but I really believe he can be special for the Cowboys. I put him at number four because I believe he's the most balanced player among the other wide receivers. Before going down injured versus the San Francisco 49ers in preseason, he was having himself quite a performance, shadowing undrafted rookie Jon'Vea Johnson, who was supposed to steal the show at WR.
I liked him as a prospect coming out of Boise State last year and I still do. I believe he'll make the roster. He's also shown he could have a role as a returner on special teams.
5. Tavon Austin
Austin didn't have a chance to prove his worth in 2018 after being out most of the season due to injury. With him returning and being in the thick of the WR battles, he'll likely have a spot on the roster. He has potential to play in the slot and steal a few snaps from Cobb while also being a threat for opposing defenses in the deep game thanks to his speed. Not to mention, he's expected to be a contributor on special teams.
6. Noah Brown
Often, I'm surprised by how many in Cowboys Nation feel about Noah Brown. However you may feel about the team's 23-year old receiver, don't expect him to be cut from the team.
We know the coaching staff values his blocking skills very much. Plus, he has upside as a receiver and could develop into a more serious weapon on offense. With the Cowboys set to carry only three tight ends, Brown is an important player for this football team.
7. Devin Smith
I expect the Cowboys to carry six receivers on their roster, so this would be where I expect the front office to start making cuts. Devin Smith has shined lately, specially against the Los Angeles Rams last Saturday when he hauled in a TD pass from Cooper Rush.
He has a chance to make the roster if he keeps turning heads, but right now, I have him in the outside looking in.
8. Jon'Vea Johnson
The undrafted rookie from Toledo was having a very strong offseason but his stock has been falling since preseason began. Unfortunately, Johnson's route running and ability to create separation aren't enough if his drop issues continue.
Hopefully, the Cowboys can keep him for the practice squad and continue to develop him because he really seems to be a special player. Right now, though, there are other guys the team should get on the team.
9. Jalen Guyton
Another undrafted rookie that made plenty of noise in the offseason. Sadly, we didn't see much from Guyton in preseason. This is another guy who could make the practice squad, but his chances of making the 53-man roster seem almost nonexistent right now.
10. Reggie Davis
Davis' chances of making the team took a huge hit when he muffed fumbled a punt versus the Rams last week. When you're fighting for those final spots, you can't make those mistakes on special teams.
Cowboys S Donovan Wilson’s Stock Continues to Rise
It's been no secret that the safety position for the Dallas Cowboys has been one of frustration in recent years. They've locked down the free safety spot with rising star Xavier Woods, however, the strong safety role hasn't found it's true ruler as of yet. Jeff Heath has started 31 of 32 games the last two seasons at strong safety but continues to be a liability in coverage and making tackles in the open field. Veteran George Iloka was brought in during free agency but still hasn't surpassed Heath as the number one. But the best attempt to shore up this particular position was made when the Cowboys took rookie Donovan Wilson in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
In the Cowboys first preseason game against the 49ers, Wilson got his first interception on the pro level. If you watch the video below, he does a fantastic job of reading the eyes of the quarterback and doesn't allow himself to be fooled when he tries to look him off. He sits on the route perfectly and creates the turnover. This is the kind of discipline you want to see from a rookie defensive back.
Rookie Donovan Wilson with the INT for the #Cowboys! Makes it a lot easier when the QB (C.J. Beathard) throws it right to you https://t.co/EIcACB6TSR
According to Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, Heath missed last weeks game against the Rams due to a neck stinger. This made his participation in practice limited for a few days and allowed Wilson to get some work with the first-team defense this week. He also split reps with Xavier Woods as the down safety in the box. A box safety's responsibility is to give support in the run game as well as jamming receivers/tight ends off the line, blitzing the quarterback and providing coverage in the flat.
Another added dimension for Wilson is that he had two years of nickel corner experience at Texas A&M. Anthony Brown is the starter at the position currently but having another guy with this skill set provides the Cowboys with the all-important position flex.
Wilson had 8 interceptions in college so he has some ball skills. His 21.5 tackles for loss at proves how effective he was in run support in the box safety role. With the help of Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, who developed top talents like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, Wilson could see himself with a huge role on this defense fairly quickly. So much so that I wouldn't be surprised if by seasons end he's the permanent starter at strong safety.
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