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:
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.
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?
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.
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!
Should Gregory’s Potential Reinstatement Alter Cowboys Draft Plan?
A lot has happened with the Dallas Cowboys roster in a short period of time leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Just four days away now, the Cowboys are still adjusting to life without Dez Bryant, and may be preparing to welcome back Randy Gregory this season.
After months of speculation about the Cowboys' exiled pass rusher turning his life around for the better, the end result may be Gregory triumphantly returning to the field and filling a considerable position of need in Dallas.
Through Gregory's numerous absences from the Cowboys, the team has searched for temporary fixes at his right defensive end spot until drafting Taco Charlton in the first round last year. In his rookie season, Charlton looked much better at left end behind DeMarcus Lawrence than he ever did rushing against left tackles.
ALERT: Sources offer me very positive reports on #Cowboys DE @RandyGregory_4 coming bid for NFL reinstatement, as @BobbyBeltTX also notes. Randy Gregory has a chance to be a terrific story.
Randy Gregory can beat left tackles with speed and bend, but also has more career suspensions than he does sacks. Finding another defensive end with these traits in the draft could put the Cowboys defensive line over the top, but doing so with this year's class could cost them a pick better spent elsewhere.
Of course, this will be the case if Gregory does complete a comeback that the Cowboys have been understandably quiet about until recently. Stephen Jones has said the plan for Gregory is to apply for reinstatement following the draft.
The Cowboys "smart" approach of rebuilding their front four on defense as if Gregory would never see the field again has yielded them plenty of success - at all but the spot Gregory would line up at. DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Maliek Collins, and Taco Charlton should all inspire hope for this unit in 2018.
This is more than we were ever able to say about forgotten defenders like Benson Mayowa, who remains a free agent RDE.
The same can be said about prospects like Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport. At this point though, it feels like a priority draft pick spent at DE is a sudden sign of nervousness about Randy Gregory's return by the Cowboys.
This team has plenty of depth to deploy Rod Marinelli's patented "waves" of pass rushers, finally entering a season with an elite talent at DE too. The opportunity to have DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory attack opposing quarterbacks from opposite sides is a reality the Cowboys are prepared to work towards.
They should do so looking elsewhere early in the draft, coming back to defensive end if a developmental player they like falls.
Cowboys Quarterback is playing Moneyball
Money talks, and no one talks louder than the Dallas Cowboys. It’s hard to find a more affordable Pro Bowl player than Dak Prescott. A former fourth-round pick from Mississippi State, Prescott is only scheduled to make around $680,000 in 2018. It’s only his third year, but it may be his most important when it comes to his future with the Cowboys.
When a team drafts its franchise quarterback, they usually only get about two seasons to prove they’re "the guy."
Every year, teams draft someone, usually in the first round, with hopes that he'll be their sought after franchise quarterback. However, by being drafted so high, there’s little margin for error afforded to them.
In Dak Prescott’s case, being drafted outside the first round, he wasn’t expected to contribute near as much in his first two seasons as he has. A day-one starter for the then injured Tony Romo gave him his opportunity and he has made the most of it.
In two seasons, Dak Prescott has a 22-10 record, made the playoffs and Pro Bowl, completed 65.2% of his passes and has added a new dimension in the Cowboys offense thanks to his mobility in and out of the pocket. However, I wouldn’t be the first to tell you that his year two wasn’t as good as his year one was. Prescott lost four more games, completed fewer passes and more interceptions in year two.
To be fair, some of his issues attributed to the injury of Tyron Smith, Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and many of his receivers dropping more passes than we’ve previously seen. These issues will have to be cleaned up not only for the team, but for Dak Prescott’s future.
According to Spotrac.com, Dak Prescott’s market value today is around $25 million a year, which would make him among the most paid players in the league. In comparison, Kirk Cousins will be paid the most in the league at $28 million this year, while Aaron Rodgers will make $22 million.
So, the Cowboys quarterback's market value is among the best in the league.
Cowboys fans everywhere are rooting for him to succeed but year three will be crucial. If he can improve on his play from a year ago and keep winning games, he would likely see his extension happen sometime around his fourth season.
People have already seen Prescott at his highs and lows. Going into 2018 with a new receiving core, the return of Ezekiel Elliott and a new left guard will get rid of any excuses.
If Dak Prescott really is who he believes he is, and who fans know he can be, then the Cowboys have their quarterback. If not, then the search will continue.
Prescott should be plenty motivated to be the Cowboys quarterback for the present and the future. Also, he should be motivated by how much money he could get it.
It is a game, but it’s still a business. And C.R.E.A.M.
Cowboys Expected to Pick Up Byron Jones’ Fifth-Year Option
2018 should be a huge year for the Cowboys' 2015 first-round pick Bryon Jones. After being used all over the secondary, it seems like he'll finally find a position to stay next season. The announcement was made that heading into his contract year, Jones would be moved to the cornerback position full-time.
Fortunately for him, the Cowboys are now expected to pick up his fifth-year option. This may come as a surprise for Cowboys Nation, given there haven't been any hints by the franchise to do so. However, it definitely will be a wise decision.
The #Cowboys are expected to pick up the fifth-year option for Byron Jones, source said. That should give him $6.17M salary for 2019, one that is guaranteed for injury. The 2015 first-round pick should benefit from a full-time move to corner.
Since he played most of his snaps as a safety in 2017 (his third year in the league), Byron's fifth-option will be less expensive than one from a cornerback. This is obviously good news for the front office since it means more cap space will be available in 2019.
Hopefully, Byron finds success under the new secondary coach in Dallas, Kris Richard. With him moving to cornerback full-time, we might just see his incredible athleticism translate into consistent impact on the field.
Byron Jones said ever since Kris Richard was hired as the Cowboys' new DBs coach he talked about moving Byron back to CB. "I think it will be a good move for me and the team.
Jones has a ton of talent but bouncing from one position to another is not good for player progression. Heck, we talk about how hard it is for many talented prospects to come into the NFL and adapt, now imagine a player who's played in different spots in the secondary all through his first three years.
If #31 becomes a quality starting cornerback in 2018, the CB room will be loaded in Dallas.
Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis showed us they could become the next great CB duo for the Cowboys in their rookie seasons. Anthony Brown had a rough 2017, but can still play at a decent level if he's not asked to be CB1.
Add Byron Jones to the mix, and Cowboys Nation should be really comfortable with how this position will look next season.
Picking Byron's fifth-year option will be a wise decision for Dallas, and Cowboys fans should be happy about it. Let's go!
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