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.
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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