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Cowboys Mini-Camp: Day 1 Takeaways

The Dallas Cowboys took the field yesterday for the first day of mini camp, with familiar faces on both sides of the ball like Tony Romo, Tyrone Crawford, Morris Claiborne, and Ezekiel Elliott – who have all been at every team practice this summer. Unfamiliar faces like Rolando McClain and Ronald Leary also arrived to Valley Ranch, where the practices are now mandatory. Head Coach Jason Garrett took to the podium and started off a day that would mostly be negative for the Cowboys though, as he announced the injuries to RB Darren McFadden and DE Benson Mayowa. Click here for more on the current status of both players.  The not-so-great day continued for the Cowboys when the helmets went on for practice.

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Mini-Camp: Day 1 Takeaways

The Dallas Cowboys took the field yesterday for the first day of mini camp, with familiar faces on both sides of the ball like Tony Romo, Tyrone Crawford, Morris Claiborne, and Ezekiel Elliott – who have all been at every team practice this summer.

Unfamiliar faces like Rolando McClain and Ronald Leary also arrived to Valley Ranch, where the practices are now mandatory.

Head Coach Jason Garrett took to the podium and started off a day that would mostly be negative for the Cowboys though, as he announced the injuries to RB Darren McFadden and DE Benson Mayowa. Click here for more on the current status of both players. 

The not-so-great day continued for the Cowboys when the helmets went on for practice. This article is going to focus on some of my takeaways and thoughts from the overall lackluster practice, which I was able to check out some footage from thanks to the official team site’s “Minicamp LIVE” video with Bryan Broaddus and Nick Eatman. The videos are well worth your time, as there will be practice footage posted from today’s practice as well as tomorrow’s final day – both of which I will review here.

Watch along during day one with this article, and share your thoughts at the end!

Offensive Line Sharp as Always…Mostly

I’ve already hinted at the fact that this practice lacked crispness, which we will touch on more later, but the one unit that always shows up for the Dallas Cowboys is the offensive line.

While this unit did contribute to the sloppiness with their fair share of procedural penalties, La’el Collins was consistently making the right blocks and springing Zeke Elliott to the second level.

Without Benson Mayowa, the defensive front was even more depleted, but the interior of the line did a fantastic job on Tyrone Crawford. A healthy Crawford seems to always find his way into the backfield causing havoc at some point, but not against the likes of Zack Martin and Travis Frederick yesterday.

Air Mayle

Cowboys Nation‘s favorite practice squad WR Vince Mayle was making the most of his opportunities, hauling in passes from Romo and Kellen Moore with his big build and strong hands.

The competition is going to be stiff across the board at wide receiver for the Cowboys this summer, and Mayle certainly still faces an uphill battle. However, based on the little I saw from him yesterday, he absolutely deserves a chance to prove himself as a red zone target.

The 2015 Cowboys struggled mightily in the red zone without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. While we expect those two players, along with Elliott, to immediately provide a boost in this regard, you can never have enough capable offensive players with the ability to find the end zone on your roster.

As a big scoring target, Mayle may see competition from UDFA Andy Jones. Keep an eye on both of these players.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

Cowboys signed UDFA WR Andy Jones. Settle down, ladies.

Wilber Wheeling

The Cowboys current situation at linebacker is full of unanswered questions, but the position certainly does not lack depth for Rod Marinelli to work with. Likely the deepest unit on this defense, I’ve written before about some possibilities for each player to find a role with Dallas.

//insidethestar.com/cowboys-headlines/who-will-emerge-from-the-cowboys-linebackers/

One guy that has seemingly and surprisingly gone under-the-radar from the linebackers’ unit is veteran Kyle Wilber. Wilber has specialized as a run defender, coming off the field in nickel packages as the Cowboys typically do with their rotation of SAM linebackers.

While it was only one play, Wilber caught my eye when he stayed in at the strong-side spot on a drop back for Tony Romo. After going through his reads, Romo was forced to try to dump the ball late to Elliott breaking out of the backfield. Wilber came all the way across the field to make things difficult for Ezekiel, who already had to adjust for the ball thrown behind him.

The result of the play was an incomplete pass, although it wasn’t officially broken up by Wilber, but the play had to make Marinelli along with Matt Eberflus smile as the veteran showed some nice versatility and hustle.

Deji Olatoye Ola-toying with Wideouts

Ever since CB Deji Olatoye took the field for the Cowboys as a starter for the final two games of the 2015 season, I’ve kept my eye on him as a physical and lengthy guy that fits the mold for a Dallas defensive back while bringing coverage and tackling skills.

All of these things were again on display yesterday, as Deji consistently looked like a guy that is not only going to seize control of the fourth corner spot, but potentially move even further up the depth chart when its all said and done.

Terrance Williams made a sliding catch in front of Deji, but the play spoke a lot more about Terrance than it did the defender. Olatoye was able to drive downhill on the ball and put himself in a great position to make a play.

Later on, working against Vince Mayle, he rode him out of the play by pressing him into the sideline.

Should Morris Claiborne be forced to miss time, or if Brandon Carr is struggling across from him, the Cowboys could feel very comfortable going to Olatoye if he continues to impress.

 

Byron Biting

 

Byron Jones is going to have plenty of time to focus on his skills as a now full-time free safety, but the learning curve is certainly there for the second-year player.

In what turned out to be a pretty solid showing from Terrance Williams, he snagged a slant pass on the run from Romo and turned it up the field in a hurry. Jones, who is used to being able to come straight down towards his target, completely misjudged the speed of Williams – failing to move laterally enough to keep Terrance from taking it all the way across the field and up the far sideline for a huge gain.

Obviously, the vast expectation is that Jones will be a very reliable safety for this Cowboys’ defense when the regular season rolls along, and plays like this will only further etch into his head what it will take to do that.

These are my thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys’ first day of mini camp practices. What do YOU have to say? Comment below with your thoughts to start the conversation, email sean.martin@insidethestar.com, or tweet me @ShoreSportsNJ! 

Be sure to also check out a new edition of “MiniCamp LIVE” today on DallasCowboys.com, and look for my review on Thursday right here on Inside The Star! 

Tell us what you think about “Cowboys Mini-Camp: Day 1 Takeaways” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we're not how you think we are. Host of "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

Dallas Cowboys

Can Cowboys Trust Guard Jonathan Cooper in 2018?

Jess Haynie

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Jonathan Cooper

One of the big decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 offseason is at left guard. Veteran Jonathan Cooper started 13 games last year and is now a free agent. Should Dallas bring Cooper back, or should they look elsewhere for next season’s starter?

With a lot of money already being spent on the rest of the starting offensive line, the Cowboys need a bargain at left guard. They didn’t re-sign Ronald Leary in 2017 for that very reason, hoping Cooper or Chaz Green would be able to handle the job for a fraction of what Leary got from the Denver Broncos.

Cooper took over for Green in Week 4 and held the job the rest of the season. The Cowboys rushing attack remained one of the league’s best, even performing well later in the year when Ezekiel Elliott was suspended. It looked like Jonathan could become part of future plans.

However, in Week 17, Cooper went out of the game with a knee injury. It thankfully wasn’t serious and he is expected to be ready for 2018. However, it was a reminder of the injury-plagued past that has caused the former first-round pick so much trouble.

Jonathan Cooper

Dallas Cowboys Guard Jonathan Cooper

Taken seventh overall in 2013 by the Arizona Cardinals, Jonathan Cooper was one of the true blue-chip guard prospects in recent draft history. He seemed like a can’t-miss pick, and interior linemen don’t often go that high in the draft. The Cowboys have even said they coveted Cooper in that class.

But constant battles with injuries caused Cooper to be traded, released, and discarded by the Cardinals, New England Patriots, and Cleveland Browns over his first four seasons. While 2017 was looking like a turning point for him, Jonathan’s injury in the season finale was a sobering reminder of why he’s become a bargain-bin player.

Still, at just 28-years-old, Cooper has good years left and will now have another offseason for continuity and chemistry development with the Cowboys.

Dallas should have to pay more than a few million to keep Cooper on the roster.

If Dallas is leery (no pun intended) of Cooper, they will have options. La’el Collins could move back to the guard position, allowing the Cowboys to go find either the best guard or tackle who would fit with their existing group.

Given so many other considerations this offseason, Dallas will likely try to simplify things by giving Jonathan Cooper another chance. His history is a red flag, but sometimes you have to take those gambles and save salary cap space to handle other needs.

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Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Headlines - Forget the Triplets: Cowboys Need The Underrated to Shine in 2016
Ashley Landis / The Dallas Morning News

For better or worse, the Cowboys don’t even need to play football to be all over national TV. I guess it’s just part of being the one and only America’s Team. For the second consecutive week, Fox Sports had a Dallas Cowboys’ player on set for Fox’s “Undisputed.”

Just a week ago, Brice Butler made waves with some controversial comments that failed to make him look like a “great teammate.”

This time, Fox’s guest was Cowboys’ Cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Unlike Butler, I really think we should give Scandrick credit for being a very good teammate, and acting like one on his TV appearance.

Throughout the segment, it feels as if Orlando is being tricked into saying something against his teammates. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe start bashing on Dez Bryant‘s performance and the fact that he should be replaced.

Of course, this is the kind of stuff fans in Cowboys Nation are thinking about. Heck, I really wouldn’t even mind if Dez isn’t wearing a star next season. However, I really disliked Butler’s comments when asked if he would’ve done a better job if given the same opportunities as Dez.

Scandrick’s responses were awesome though. When asked if he would defend Dez, he didn’t even hesitate.

“I don’t think he’s lost any confidence. He’s one of the most confident players I’ve ever been around. I think it can all be fixed. I think he just needs to get back to work and get back to the basics.” – Orlando Scandrick on Dez Bryant.

Scandrick also answered questions about what went wrong with the Cowboys this season by pointing out the fact they lost one of their best players because of a suspension, and some injuries. But he also said what’s been in our minds for a long time. When asked what was the biggest reason they struggled, he said some painful, yet truthful words: “We played some bad football against some very good teams.”

Later, he was asked about how Sean Lee’s absence affected the defense, he insisted they didn’t step up. At the end of the day, the NFL is a league in which you can’t be that dependent on a single player.

Sean Lee is an awesome player, but I think we’d all like to see this defense be a little less dependent on him.

Scandrick even had to defend Dak Prescott.

Dak was highly criticized after a sophomore season in which he struggled, alongside the entire team. But in the words of Orlando, we should “give him time.” Dak had a lot on his plate, but he made a lot of progress for the Cowboys.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Orlando Scandrick’s time in Dallas may be coming to an end, especially with young guys like Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis taking over. He’s signed through 2019, so who knows; maybe we see him wearing the star for a bit longer.

“It’s always a possibility.” – Orlando Scandrick on potentially not returning to Dallas next season.

Even still, it’s nice to see him support his football team and his friends on a show which featured a non-starting Cowboys’ wide receiver taking shots against his team. Orlando Scandrick deserves an applause.

Tell me what you think about “Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Pursue Veteran Backup at Quarterback?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Cooper Rush
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys only have two quarterbacks under contract right now, starter Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush. With only three years of combined experience between them, one could argue that a veteran presence would be useful. Should Dallas make a veteran QB a free-agent priority in the 2018 offseason?

Of course, there’s plenty of other QB experience on the Cowboys staff. Head Coach Jason Garrett played professionally from 1989-2004, and started his coaching career with quarterbacks.

Scott Linehan has been coaching offense with an emphasis on the passing game for 30 years.

Kellen Moore, who is taking over for the departed Wade Wilson as quarterbacks coach, has played very recently and will bring a fresh perspective.

However, losing Wilson’s experience from the room, and the lack of any veteran player at QB, shouldn’t be dismissed.

Dak Prescott has said veteran Mark Sanchez — who was with Dallas in 2016 — was a major help during his whirlwind rookie season. Tony Romo enjoyed veteran advice from guys like Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton throughout his playing career.

This isn’t to say Dallas would want to bring in a veteran to knock Cooper Rush down the depth chart. After a surprising preseason, Rush took the backup job from Kellen Moore and certainly has intriguing upside.

If the Cowboys were to add a veteran, that player would have to come in with the understanding he’s competing with Cooper and may not be guaranteed a job.

The good news is that it’ll be a buyer’s market for veteran quarterbacks this offseason.

Guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Matt Moore could all be available. Even a player with more pedigree, such as Sam Bradford, may have trouble finding starting work with many jobs taken among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Dallas could even consider bringing back Mark Sanchez, given his previous relationship with Dak Prescott. He only had a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears.

Given Prescott’s seeming durability, Dallas will likely only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2018 and for years to come. Because of that, they may be content to focus on Dak and Cooper Rush, and just get through the offseason with training camp bodies.

However, the case can certainly be made for adding another veteran player with the desire to teach to help these young quarterbacks develop. Prescott was not the same guy in 2017 that we saw as a rookie, and perhaps the absence of guys like Sanchez and Tony on the sideline had something to do with that.

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