The Dallas Cowboys have welcomed their rookies to training camp which began July 19th, inside The Star in Frisco, Texas. This means we're not far off from opening ceremonies of training camp 2017 which starts on July 24th.
With the preseason nigh upon us, that means we can begin the "process" of predicting how the 2017 NFL Season is going to turn out.
With that, here are five bold predictions for the Dallas Cowboys 2017 training camp.
1. Noah Brown is the WR Darling of Training Camp
Whether it was Andy Jones in 2016 or Devin Street in 2014 and 2015, the story is the same every year.
Some unknown wide receiver makes a lot of plays against second and third team players (who aren't going to be on the roster) and Twitter and Cowboys sites go ablaze predicting their future stardom.
You can read Sean Martin's post-draft scouting report on Noah Brown.
This year it's going to be Noah Brown. While Brown arguably has an outside shot to make the 53 man roster out of training camp, it's likely as the 6th wide receiver and will be more of a result of his blocking ability than his receiving ability. Cause let's be honest. Who on the depth chart is Brown going to displace?
Not Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, or Ryan Switzer. He might have a shot to knock Brice Butler off the roster, but it's likely that Dallas brought Butler back for quarterback Dak Prescott. Don't forget how important continuity is.
Brown has ability and can make plays. Just check the highlights from Ohio State's game against Oklahoma last year -- sad face. He was unreal. There was a reason, though, that he was drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He has some things to work on.
Going against 2nd and 3rd team players are going to give Cowboys fans a lot of excitement.
2. Kellen Moore Silences His Critics
You may have noticed a trend here at Inside The Star. We don't like the Cowboys prospects if any meaningful games need to be played by Kellen Moore.
I really don't think a successful preseason will cement #KelMo's status as the career backup to Dak Prescott, but it will definitely silence people like me.
See what I wrote about Kellen Moore when I asked Who's Already Locked Up a Spot on the 53 Man Roster?
I don't think he's good enough to play in the NFL.
I've said as much several times.
That said, he will probably play well enough in the preseason against backups to maintain his hold on the depth chart. He'll get a chance to throw to Ryan Switzer, Brice Butler, and Noah Brown and behind a decent offensive line too.
If he is ever going to show that he belongs in the NFL, now is the time to do it. The Dallas Cowboys need to solidify their backup quarterback position and with Kellen's age, he can likely be that guy for the next decade.
3. Rico Gathers is Ready to Roll
Since the Cowboys made Rico Gathers their 6th round pick in 2016, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the former Baylor basketball standout.
With the size of a defensive end and the hands and athleticism to play tight end, Cowboys Nation has been eager and excited to see what the big man has to offer.
With depth at tight end a question mark, now is as good a time as any to realize that potential that has everyone dreaming of Rico in the red zone.
Blocking will be the biggest key to Gathers making the roster and having an impact during games. Now with a full offseason in the Dallas Cowboys program, and having spent much of last year working with Tony Romo on the scout team, Gathers should be ready to make an impact.
He isn't going to supplant Jason Witten on the depth chart. That just isn't going to happen, but he could provide the stability that has been lacking with injuries to James Hanna and Geoff Swaim.
Get ready, because this preseason will be the one we all look back on and say, "that's when Rico became Rico."
4. Jaylon Smith Starts Season on the PUP List
As excited as we all are about the prospects of former All-American linebacker Jaylon Smith making an impact on the defense, the reality is he's a valuable resource that the team shouldn't rush onto the field.
Brian Martin talked about the progress that Smith has made this offseason and the new brace that he's wearing.
Like Marcus Mosher--from Locked on Cowboys and Bleacher Report--tweeted the other day, there's no reason to rush him to the field if he isn't 100%. Let him continue to improve and get healthier before bringing him back.
Getting Jaylon at 100% come playoff time will be a huge lift to the defense.
5. Alfred Morris is a Cut-Down Day Casualty
As excited as we all were about Alfred Morris' signing last offseason, it's been met with an equal amount of disappointment. Outside of the first game or two when Ezekiel Elliott seemed to be trying to find his NFL legs, Morris was pretty underwhelming in his first season in Dallas.
Every statistical category was a career low for Morris; carries, yards, touchdowns, and receptions were all disappointing. The category that is the most troubling, however, is his yards per carry. 3.1 represented a career low for the now six-year pro.
Behind what is considered, at the very least, a top-five offensive line in the NFL that featured the league leader in rushing yards, Morris should have been better.
If no suspension befalls Ezekiel Elliott, I could see the Cowboys going in a different direction with their third running back. Someone like Rod Smith offers more athleticism and versatility, while also playing special teams.
As much as we all wanted Morris to be the guy that ran for over 1,000 yards his rookie season, he just hasn't been that guy. To me the writing's on the wall.
Do you expect anything surprising from Dallas' preseason?
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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