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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Bench Offers Plenty of Preseason Intrigue

Jess Haynie

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Dallas Cowboys: 5 Players To Watch At Rookie Minicamp
Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News

Some fans don’t need a reason to watch preseason football.  It’s football, after all, and you’ve been waiting six months for just a taste. For two fortunate fanbases, tonight’s Hall of Fame Game gives Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals followers an earlier fix than the rest.

To be sure, you won’t see much of your favorite players tonight. We already have one list of players who did not make the trip to Canton with the team, so obviously won’t be playing:

Jon Machota on Twitter

Players not traveling to HOF game: Maliek Collins, Ryan Switzer, Justin Durant, Jourdan Lewis, David Irving

You can also add Jaylon Smith, perhaps the team’s most intriguing player right now, as he is reportedly not playing tonight. While seeing guys like Smith, Switzer and Lewis would’ve greatly sweetened tonight’s game, there is still plenty for Cowboys fans to be interested in. The first-team players should get at least one or two series, but the intrigue won’t stop when the game gets turned over to the backups.

On offense, many wonder what quarterback Kellen Moore is going to look like after a long time away with an ankle injury. The Cowboys seem to have handed him the backup QB job; is he ready to perform if needed during the regular season? It will also be interesting to see if veteran Luke McCown, who was just signed last Friday, can push Moore at all for the number-two spot.

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys Waive RB Rod Smith 1

RB Rod Smith (Paul Spinelli via AP)

At running back, Rod Smith has been making noise during camp and could be on the way to earning a spot on the 53-man roster. There’s also the recently-signed Ronnie Hillman, whose quickness give the Cowboys a unique options compared to the other backs. Both players pose major threats to the job security of veteran Alfred Morris.

Even without Ryan Switzer, there’s still plenty to see at receiver. Veteran Brice Butler is trying to fight off rookie Noah Brown and prospect Andy Jones. Switzer’s absence also impacts the kick and punt return jobs, were rookies Javontee Herndon and Lance Lenoir may get some looks. Neither can likely earn a roster spot, but solid returning could gets them closer to the practice squad or perhaps a shot with another team.

Who isn’t interested in the tight end position right now? Rico Gathers is a player everyone wants to see; has the former power forward developed into a football player over the last year? It will also be nice to see the returns of Geoff Swaim and James Hanna from their injuries. Who will emerge as Jason Witten’s primary backup this year?

Don’t sleep on the offensive line. Will Emmett Cleary continue to work his way to ward the swing tackle job? How will veteran Byron Bell fit in? What will massive rookie Dan Skipper, all 6’10” of him, look like on the field?

Taco Charlton

DE Taco Charlton

The offense has nothing on the defense in terms of intrigue. What fan doesn’t want to see the first-round pick in action? Taco Charlton should take the field tonight and get some soft assignments against backup tackles. We’re also curious about Charles Tapper, who missed his rookie year with a back issue, and should debut tonight. These two young defensive ends should get plenty of work.

Defensive tackle also offers some fresh faces. Seventh-round rookies Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell should get a lot of work. Undrafted rookie Lewis Neal, who has been earning some praise and even Maliek Collins comparisons in camp, is also worth watching.

While no Jaylon Smith is a huge disappointment, linebacker still has players you’ll want to pay attention to. Mark Nzeocha was one of the stars of the 2016 preseason and may be a significant reserve player this year. John Lotulelei was a standout during the early summer practices and is on the roster bubble.

Chidobe Awuzie

CB Chidobe Awuzie

Second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie stands out among the corners and perhaps the entire defense tonight for intrigue. He’s been making plays in camp and may have to play big snaps early in the regular season if Nolan Carroll gets suspended. Fellow rookie Marquez White doesn’t have nearly the same job security, but any drafted player should be on our radar.

We won’t get to see much of Jeff Heath as a new starting safety, if any, but the backups are also exciting. Kavon Frazier was buried behind veterans last year but once considered the same quality of prospect as breakout corner Anthony Brown. Also, rookie Xavier Woods had a lot of hype coming out of the draft as a potential late-round steal.

~ ~ ~

You can’t blame the Cowboys for being cautious with their players in this extra preseason game. Many would like to see the preseason reduced, so you can imagine how having to play five games goes over with some organizations. Still, important and intriguing roleplayers for the 2017 team will take the field tonight in Canton.

Football is back… kind of!

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Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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4 Comments
  • ThePsychodad69

    I wanna see Rico be the #1, all game.
    I wanna see the draft and the potential.
    Just give me the best 1st team defense, I may not see till week 6 for 2-3 snaps.

    The pool is deep with talent, these kids have room to thrive, I like homegrown.

    • ThePsychodad69

      Wanna see Tapper and the 2nd 3rd years
      And Paea and the udfa LB Wacha give Smith a play, pick a down.
      I wanna see GarrettLinehanMarinelli just go win games…NextManUp , true street race mentality.

  • Russ_Te

    5 PS games, Dak & Zeke sit tonight on my team. No upside to them taking any snaps.

    Larger ? for this preseason: Does Dak play any more snaps than Rodgers or Brady will? He is not in need of extra PS reps IMO after 17 NFL starts. Nor is Zeke. I play them in PS as normal established veterans. I get Moore & McCown most of the snaps at QB.

  • Russ_Te

    So if Moore is 100% recovered, this PS will be loaded with reps for him, and he knows the offense extremely well. I figure he kicks the door in with his chance for promotion to NFL backup.

Dallas Cowboys

Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

Sean Martin

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Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

After hiring Paul Alexander to fill their vacant OL coaching position, the Dallas Cowboys are continuing to retool their offensive staff below Scott Linehan. Sanjay Lal has been hired to coach the Cowboys’ wide receivers, replacing Derek Dooley.

Lal has experience as a WR coach with four different teams, dating back to 2009 with the Oakland Raiders. He was promoted up to this position after serving as the Raiders’ quality control coach from 2007-08.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys have reached an agreement with Sanjay Lal to become the team’s WR coach. Lal was with Indianapolis last season and replaces Derek Dooley on the staff.

Most recently, Sanjay Lal coached the receivers for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He has also been with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

In this interview with the Colts, Lal mentions being very detail-oriented with a focus on the technical aspects of playing receiver.

Lal beats out former Cowboys WR Miles Austin for this position, earning the right to lead a room of receivers in desperate need of fresh talent. In an offseason that’s been about finding fresh ideas with the coaching staff so far though, the Cowboys have a new voice on offense.

Tell us what you think about “Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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