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:
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.
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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.