I've always said that training camp is my absolute favorite time to be doing exactly this -- discussing Dallas Cowboys football. It's a time for fans, writers, coaches, and players to come together with one goal in mind, build the foundation for a successful season while learning more about the roster everyday.
As part of this process, it's important to take a step back from the daily flood of Cowboys updates we're all living in. When other members of the national media make their way to Oxnard to take in a Cowboys practice, taking note of who they think stood out is extremely valuable.
Such was the case for Yahoo reporter Charles Robinson, who had the following to say about his visit to America's Team:
Couple post-#Cowboys visit thoughts: 1. I absolutely see why Chido is getting his hype. ⭐️ 2. No idea what kind of weight it is, but Randy Gregory is noticeably thicker. 3. Jaylon is 100%. We can stop asking. 4. I bet all three Dallas QBs will be in the #NFL 8+ years.
1. Chidobe Awuzie in Kris Richard's secondary
This truly is a match made in heaven. When the Cowboys added Kris Richard to captain their young and upcoming secondary, visions of the Seahawks "Legion of Boom" defense had Cowboys Nation fired up. Equally as fired up is Richard, a spirited coach who's liked what he's seen from Awuzie.
Putting an emphasis on length at cornerback, Chidobe Awuzie is in position to benefit the most from Richard's presence.
Playing with toughness on the boundary is Awuzie's strength, fighting through injuries as a rookie to close the season on a high note. His instincts on the ball and never-back-down attitude put him well ahead of most second round picks.
Across from Awuzie, Byron Jones is also coming along nicely in his transition back to CB. Both similar players physically, the Cowboys secondary shouldn't surprise anyone with their level of success in 2018. This is a deep and talented unit being coached by one of the best in the game.
2. Randy Gregory's weight
In their opening press conference, the Cowboys brass fielded plenty of questions about Randy Gregory. The feel-good story of this training camp, Jason Garrett said Gregory reported at 242 pounds.
At the 2016 Scouting Combine, Gregory weighed in at 235 pounds. Both numbers are abnormally low for defensive ends, but so too are the speed and bend traits that Gregory possesses.
It's no secret the Cowboys have been missing a pass rusher like Gregory in his extended absence. In no rush to play him at full speed, the Cowboys know what they might have in a focused Randy, and it changes the entire complexion of Dallas' defensive line.
Simply being in shape is a huge first step for Gregory to begin working with Rod Marinelli and the Cowboys soon.
3. Jaylon Smith coming into his own
If Gregory is the Cowboys top feel-good story coming out of Oxnard, Jaylon Smith is 1A. By all reports, including this one from a reporter that hasn't been around for every step of Smith's rehab, he looks like the player he was out of Notre Dame.
As if a reminder was needed, that player would have been a top ten pick in the draft. The Cowboys would be deciding between Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon. Coming away with both players is looking better and better by the day for the Cowboys.
Elliott will of course be this team's starter in the backfield, needing to carry a significant load on offense. On defense, the same may be said about Smith, as he helps the Cowboys revamp their linebacker corps.
The Cowboys can ease rookie Leighton Vander Esch into play at the NFL level thanks to Smith's awe-inspiring consistency so far in camp. Smith has yet to take many snaps alongside Sean Lee, but this is the plan for the Cowboys to start the season with an intimidating front seven.
4. Crowded QB Room?
The Cowboys depth chart at quarterback features Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Mike White, and Dalton Sturm. It's safe to assume Robinson is referring only to Prescott, Rush, and White in his tweet.
The competition to backup Prescott between second-year UDFA QB Cooper Rush and rookie Mike White is likely to have implications on the entire Cowboys roster. With enough arm talent and poise to close the gap quickly on Rush, whose only advantage may be a year of experience in an evolving Cowboys offense, White playing his way onto the roster is a reality the Cowboys must prepare for.
If Robinson, working with such a small sample size, sees three quarterbacks that will play for over eight years, the Cowboys likely see at least three that will play 2018.
The need to make a trade or signing elsewhere could quickly change this QB depth. For now, the Cowboys should feel pretty good about what's behind Prescott.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Evaluating training camp is all about keeping the bigger picture in mind. Finding the 53 players that deserve to wear the star doesn't happen in a few days worth of padded practices. Players that are standing out now must continue to impress, and those that have yet to flash could well be on the way.
Coming in with an objective look at the team, Charles Robinson's immediate reactions out of Cowboys camp are all things the media around the team everyday have been hitting on. This is a great sign considering how important Awuzie, Smith, Gregory, and Prescott will be for Dallas in 2018 and beyond.
CB Byron Jones Not Expected To Return Until Week 1 Against NYG
Coming off what was clearly the best season of his career thus far, Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones underwent surgery to hopefully fix a nagging hip injury.
While he earned both his first All Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2018, his first season as a full-time cornerback, Jones still has a lot to prove in the upcoming season. Some still criticize him for his lack of interceptions, and there's no doubt his stellar play slowed down a bit towards the end of the year.
I'm willing to wager that the slight decline had a lot to do with his hip troubles, but nonetheless he must come up with his elite level play once again to earn himself a nice contract somewhere in 2020.
Oh, did I forget to mention it's also a contract year for Byron Jones? As it is for so many important Dallas Cowboys, it seems.
So when will Byron Jones be able to return to the Cowboys' lineup? Well, the initial date reportedly set by Jones and the team was late July, giving him a chance to practice and play a bit before the season opener in September. But, according to the Team Site this week, that date may be pushed back a bit, and we might not see Byron Jones until that season opening game against the Giants.
"As for Jones, all along the Cowboys have been targeting his return for the season opener, but hopefully at that. So, don’t expect to see much of Jones in training camp, and if so, certainly no more than individual and walk-through drills." - Mickey Spagnola
Ultimately, as long as Byron Jones is good to go when the regular season starts, that's all that matters, but the fear of rust when Jones returns is a real one.
It's tough to go from no live football straight to the meaningful games, but if anyone would be able to do it it would be the guy with the freakishly athletic traits. The guy who can get out of the bed in the morning and set athletic records at the Combine.
And, of course, that guy is Byron Jones.
Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure
When the 2016 NFL Draft came around the Dallas Cowboys were in search of the heir apparent to Tony Romo. Unfortunately, coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season, Romo would find himself on the shelf again after suffering a broken bone in his back during a preseason game against the Seahawks. However, the Cowboys had an ace in the hole, in the form of Dak Prescott who they drafted in the fourth round.
The idea was the groom him for a few years before taking the keys to the car so to speak from Romo, but fate had another idea in mind. Prescott would be thrust into the starting lineup against one of the Cowboys most hated rivals to start the season, the New York Giants. Added to that, was the pressure of living up to Romo's stellar resume as the franchise's all-time leading passer. After struggling in a tough 20-19 loss, no surprise there for a rookie quarterback, Prescott began to take flight.
Over the next eleven games he wouldn't suffer a single loss as the Cowboys were sitting pretty at 11-1. What made this streak more impressive was the efficiency of Prescott. He threw 19 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions over that span. In the process, he set an NFL record for the most passing attempts to start a career without an interception with 176. This broke the previous record held by Tom Brady of 162. It didn't stop there, as he also set a rookie record for completion percentage (67.8), was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl.
The Cowboys would finish 13-3 and win the NFC East. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the franchise only winning two postseason games in 21 years, Prescott was definitely under the microscope. After the offense struggled to produce points in the first half and fell behind 21-3, Prescott lead a furious comeback. Helping the team storm all the way back to tie the game at 28 and again at 31. He finished with 302 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first playoff start against future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Even though the team lost 34-31, Prescott proved how much of a gamer he was as he basically went yard for yard and point for point with one of the NFL's elite signal-callers. It was clear the Cowboys were in good hands going forward.
2017 started off well as the Cowboys were 5-3 and firmly on pace for another playoff run. Unfortunately, All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott lost his fierce battle with the NFL over domestic violence allegations, and Dak along with the offense struggled. After a 9-7 season and falling one game short of a Wild Card berth, the pressure on Prescott heading into the next season was immense.
Once 2018 came about Prescott had more pressure than ever with Elliott back for a full season. After a slow 3-4 start the Cowboys traded for Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, providing the team with it's first true number one receiver since Dez Bryant. Putting even more expectations on Prescott to turn things around, and boy did he ever.
He would complete 71.6% of his passes in the final eight games of the season, and the Cowboys won seven to finish 10-6. Now, with another division title under his belt, came a playoff matchup with Super Bowl-winning Quarterback Russell Wilson.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were hanging on to a 17-14 lead. They faced a 3rd and 14 inside the redone with just over two minutes left. After dropping back a few steps, Prescott scrambled for 16 yards setting up a first and goal from the one-yard line. The team held on for a 24-22 victory but here's why that scramble was so important.
If the Cowboys don't convert that 3rd and long that would've set up a field goal attempt. Assuming it would have been successful, that would've only put them up 20-14. Giving Seattle a chance to more than likely win with a touchdown and an extra point or two-point conversion. Prescott essentially won the game with that 3rd down run. Proving once again there's no situation he can't handle.
He's set an NFL record for completion percentage in the first three years of a quarterbacks career at 66.1 percent. No quarterback has won more games than him since 2016 except Tom Brady. No one has more game-winning drives than him since he entered the league. His 13 primetime victories are tops in the NFL over the last three seasons. Simply put, Dak Prescott is a winner and doesn't fold under pressure, instead, he embraces it. There are no bigger lights in the NFL than the ones that shine in Dallas. With those lights come huge expectations and pressure, and it's clear this young man is made of the right stuff to handle it.
Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Le Espera a Connor McGovern?
El pasado abril, los Dallas Cowboys nos sorprendieron más de una vez durante el NFL Draft 2019. Desde la segunda ronda, sus selecciones no fueron malas, pero nos dejaron con una ceja arriba. La más sorprendente tomó lugar en la tercera ronda, cuando se anunció el nombre de un guardia ofensivo proveniente de la universidad de Penn State, Connor McGovern.
La selección no fue sorprendente por el nivel del jugador. Durante su carrera colegial, McGovern demostró ser un muy buen liniero ofensivo interior y seguramente merecía salir dentro de las primeras tres rondas.
Sin embargo, la línea ofensiva era una unidad que el equipo no necesitaba atender tan pronto. Después de todo, los Cowboys son reconocidos por tener una de las mejores líneas ofensivas en toda la NFL. Hay algunas dudas debido a lesiones o ausencias con las que el equipo ha tenido que lidiar, pero los titulares son muy buenos. Liderados por Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick y Zack Martin, esta unidad no le pide nada a nadie.
Y aún así en aquella ocasión, los Cowboys anotaron el nombre de Connor McGovern en la tarjeta que entregaron en la tercera ronda. Se dice que el equipo realmente ve mucho potencial en él y que era su mejor jugador disponible en ese momento. Todos los equipos en la liga tienen filosofías diferentes, pero si los Cowboys decidieron ir por el mejor jugador en vez de atender una necesidad, es una decisión más que válida.
Pero ahora la pregunta es, ¿cómo y cuándo se utilizará a McGovern? La posición queda más que clara. McGovern tomará el lugar de guardia izquierdo ya que el otro lado está más que cubierto por el mejor guardia derecho en la NFL, Zack Martin. La mejor pregunta es ¿cuándo?
Como sabrán, todo parece indicar que al comenzar la temporada del 2019, McGovern estará en la banca y no en la alineación titular. El pick de segunda ronda del año pasado es el favorito a ser el titular. Connor Williams no tuvo el mejor inicio a su carrera, pero fue mejorando conforme avanzó la temporada y se vio mucho mejor después del despido del ex-coach de línea ofensiva Paul Alexander.
De una manera u otra, la incertidumbre continúa dentro de la unidad. Muchos especulan sobre lo que podría pasar en el futuro. El tackle La'el Collins solo está bajo contrato por el 2019 y no ha demostrado lo suficiente para justificar un enorme contrato a largo plazo. No ha jugado mal, pero ¿cuánto pedirá para quedarse en Dallas?
Cuando llegue el momento, el equipo tendrá que tomar una decisión depende de la actuación de Collins en el emparrillado la próxima temporada. ¿Pagarle a Collins? ¿O hacer un movimiento fuerte en la línea ofensiva? Recordemos que este equipo tiene espacio en el tope salarial ahora, pero este se irá rápidamente con futuras extensiones a jugadores clave como Dak Prescott.
Sabemos que Connor Williams tiene lo necesario para jugar como tackle. Una opción será mover a Williams al extremo derecho y dejar que McGovern tomé su lugar en el interior de la línea ofensiva.
Quizá suene problemático mover tantas piezas, pero tendría sentido financieramente. McGovern y Williams seguirían en contratos de novato mientras que Collins pedirá una buena paga al terminar este año.
Pase lo que pase, el futuro próximo de Connor McGovern dependerá de muchos factores ajenos a él mismo. Su talento le da lo necesario para jugar desde su primer año en la liga, pero tendrá que recibir la oportunidad.
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