We're more than a week and a half into training camp at this point and there have been several standout performers. Though there is a long way to go in determining the final 53-man roster, several players have begun to separate themselves from the competition at certain positions. By the time the August 31 deadline to be at 53 rolls around, the Cowboys will have a pretty clear picture of who they want on their roster, though like seasons past, there may be some surprises.
With that, let's dig into your mailbag questions.
Following training camp it seems Austin, JVJ, Guyton, have all looked good, what’s your personal ideal WR core going into the season? 5 or 6 spots? & who makes it?
— mike crum (@cdpiglet) August 4, 2019
The wide receiver battle is an interesting one because there have been some really nice performances from players further down the depth chart. A lot of the conventional thinking believes that only the top three guys -- Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Michael Gallup -- are locks to make the roster. I'd throw in Tavon Austin, though I may be in the minority here.
Austin has an edge because of his explosiveness and his ability to be an asset in the return game. His ability to flip the field on punts is something the Dallas Cowboys don't have anywhere else on the roster currently. Sure, Tony Pollard was a dynamic kick returner in college, but he has little to no experience returning punts, which is a totally different job. The Cowboys coaching staff generally goes with someone they can trust as the punt returner. That's why we saw Cole Beasley back there a lot, though he didn't really offer much in the way of a return threat. Stephen Jones even made a point to include Tavon Austin when talking about the top of the wide receiver group when he talked about the top four guys all being new since just before the 2018 NFL Draft. They clearly like the guy and he's been productive in training camp. And unlike Allen Hurns, Austin's contract doesn't sit heavily on the salary cap.
As far as the rest of the depth chart goes, I figure you've got Jon'vea Johnson, Reggie Davis, Jalen Guyton, Cedric Wilson, and Noah Brown competing for two more spots.
The favorites at this point have to be Jon'vea Johnson and Noah Brown. Jon'vea Johnson has been probably the down roster guy who has impressed the most. He even earned some run with the first team during the annual Blue-White scrimmage held on Sunday. Johnson has the speed to be a downfield threat and seems to have a nice rapport with Dak Prescott, who's been unafraid to target him in practice.
While I think Noah Brown has a shot to be that sixth wide receiver, and I think they carry six wide receivers, he'll need to start practicing at some point to secure his place on the roster. He has a valuable ability to the Dallas Cowboys running game and they like versatile players. They need to plan on using him in the passing game more though if they want him to be as effective in the running game. When Brown has been brought into the game teams have been able to sit on the run. In order to keep defenses off-balance, they need to throw more with Brown in the game in 2019.
Reggie Davis, Cedric Wilson, and Jalen Guyton all bring something to the table that the Cowboys like and I think there's a chance each of these guys could force Brown or even Tavon Austin off the roster.
The battle at the back end of the wide receiver group will continue to be one of the best to watch when the preseason games start.
On this episode of Inside The Cowboys, John Williams, from InsideTheStar.com, is joined by Cowboys Cast host Bobby Belt after his week in Oxnard, California covering Dallas Cowboys Training Camp.
Mike Jackson or olumba?? Sorry if I misspelled names lol
— Raymond (@collazo530king) August 4, 2019
You got the names right my man.
The cornerback group is pretty well settled out with the top four guys, just like at wide receiver. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis will all get playing time for the Dallas Cowboys when the pads come on for real against the New York Giants week one. That fifth cornerback spot is one question and the other question is do they keep six?
At the moment, I'd give the edge at cornerback to Rookie Mike Jackson. There's a lot of training camp and the preseason left to go, but he's stood out in the short time they've been at camp and has had some really solid reps against guys like Randall Cobb in the one on one drills. Those drills are almost impossible for the cornerback to win because they have to play the whole field and can't count on the linebackers or safeties for help.
Jackson brings the requisite size that Kris Richard really likes and he's been talked about as a guy that could help you on the outside and in the slot. I think they've got high hopes for him and he's shown in his short stint with a Dallas Cowboys that he's got a knack for making plays on the football.
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Training camp will continue to give us more information as these position battles continue to unfold. There's a little more than a month left until the beginning of the regular season and some of these position battles will continue to evolve.
Thanks for this week's questions and remember, if you ever have a question you'd like to see featured here, leave it in the comment section or send it to John on Twitter using the hashtag #CowboysNationMailbag.
As always, thanks for your questions.
The Brady Report: Cowboys Defense Run Over In Primetime Loss
Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings was a tough one to take for the Dallas Cowboys. They could easily be sitting here today at 7-2 or 6-3, comfortably ahead of the Eagles for first place in the division and fighting for a first round bye in the postseason.
Instead, they are barely over .500 on the season and face de facto must win games each week from here on out. Obviously they let this one slip away, but there's a whole seven games to go before we know the fate of the 2019 Dallas Cowboys.
Let's discuss what went wrong (and right) last week during the Cowboys 28-24 loss.
- What more can we say about Dak Prescott? The Cowboys franchise quarterback was incredible yet again on Sunday night, having arguably his best game to date even in defeat. Prescott was in complete control of the offense, and showcased his mastery by bailing the Cowboys out with some big third down throws. Prescott finished with 397 yards and 3 touchdowns, and continues to force the hand of the Jones family to break out the checkbook this offseason.
- Much like Dak Prescott, I'm running out of adjectives to describe the play of wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper has been a God-send for this Cowboys offense over the last calendar year, looking like one of the best wide outs in the league week in and week out. Cooper went for 147 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches, and should have been given a chance to win the game on the team's final drive.
- Alright, that's enough praise in defeat. Let's talk about the negatives. The defensive tackles were flat-out awful. No matter who it was - Antwaun Woods, Maliek Collins, Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder - anyone who was asked to defend the run at the 1 or 3 technique position had some very low moments against the Vikings. Minnesota bullied the Cowboys upfront on both the sides of the ball, en route to over 150 yards on the ground for this Vikings offense. Dalvin Cook and the Vikings offensive line won this game, and the Cowboys interior defensive line needs to be better if they hope to actually compete against good teams.
- The defensive tackles were bad against the run Sunday night, but let's not let the linebackers off the hook. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are each immensely talented, but neither has been as consistent as a run defender as they need to be going forward. Smith looked flat-out dis-engaged at times during this one, and both linebackers were run over by interior offensive linemen getting to the second level. I've often praised Smith for his versatility and what it does to unleash this defense, but he was plain bad last week.
- Of course, we can't let the coaching staff off the hook for this loss either. Head coach Jason Garrett made several questionable fourth down calls down the stretch of the game, and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was determined to pound the ball on first down despite achieving next to no success. On the defensive end, Kris Richard's defensive backs were toasted. Chidobe Awuzie continues to look like a liability opposite Byron Jones, and the safety spot next to Xavier Woods has been a massive hole all season. And, while both Jones and Woods have been mostly good this year, neither was particularly impressive either during this loss. It was a total and complete defensive failure. This team needs to get better fast, and it all starts at the top with the coaching staff.
Loss to Minnesota Could be the Final Nail in Jason Garrett’s Coffin
The 2019 NFL season kind of seemed like a do or die situation for the Dallas Cowboys current Head Coach Jason Garrett. He is currently in the last year of his contract and his future with the Cowboys organization could be hanging in the balance, especially after the devastating loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
If Jason Garrett isn't extended beyond this season, this loss to Minnesota could possibly be where his career with the Dallas Cowboys started to circle the drain. There are still several games left on the Cowboys schedule this season, but this one loss could be the one that ends up knocking them out of the playoffs. If that's true, it's hard to believe JG will be retained.
Jerry Jones, and son Stephen, have both fully supported Jason Garrett since he became the Cowboys full-time head coach back in 2011 after serving as the interim HC for Wade Phillips in 2010. That's nearly a decade of the Jones' sticking by JG through all of the thick and thin over years. That unwavering support however could be coming to an end though.
The proof is in the pudding as they say. As a head coach Jason Garrett is slightly above average according to his all-time win/loss record. His regular-season record as the HC with the Cowboys is 82-62 (.569) and he's 2-3 (.400) in the postseason. Add all of that up and he's 84-65 (.564) in his career… slightly above average.
If I know anything about the Jones', I know getting the Dallas Cowboys back to the promised land as one of the best teams in the NFL is at the top of their list. That's why we've seen them over the years take chances on players other teams wouldn't in order to put together the most competitive roster they possibly could. Now that attention might need to be shifted from the players to the head coach.
Much like the Jones', I've supported and stood by Jason Garrett over the years. That support is dwindling though after each and every loss this season, at least on my part. Personally, I'm ready to find some new blood and move on. What the Jones' end up doing though is completely up in the air.
I want to believe the Dallas Cowboys are ready to move on from JG, but I'm not completely convinced. The fact that his current contract is about to expire after the season suggests they're at least considering parting ways, but that's all it does. I think how the rest of season turns out after the devastating loss to the Vikings will end up determining his fate.
If JG somehow sneaks the Cowboys into the playoffs it could save his job. That unfortunately is no easy thing to do with the teams they have left to play this season. Because of that, the Week 10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings could end up being the final nail in Jason Garrett's coffin.
What do you think? Is it time to part ways with Jason Garrett?
Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s Status Still Unknown for Cowboys Game
The Dallas Cowboys are headed to Detroit this Sunday for a Week 11 meeting with the Lions. As Dallas tries to get back to winning games, they may get a boost from the absence of Lions' Quarterback Matthew Stafford. After missing last week's game with a back injury, Stafford's status for this week remains unclear.
Stafford was a limited participant in practices all of Week 10 for Detroit and went into their game with the Chicago Bears as a game-time decision. He was ultimately ruled out due to fractures in his back; the first start Stafford's missed for the Lions since the 2010 season.
Jeff Driskel got the start as the Lions fell in Chicago. He is 1-5 as an NFL starter overall, going 1-4 in games for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018.
The Lions are now 3-5-1 on the year and at the bottom of the NFC North. They are also far behind in the Wild Card race, which leads to speculation that they could shut Stafford down for the season to preserve his long-term health. Based on Matthew's contract, the earliest Detroit can easily get out from his contract is after the 2020 season.
For his part, Matthew Stafford has said he has no plans on staying out this season as long he's medically cleared to play. He certainly would love to be active this Sunday against the Cowboys, the team of his youth, after playing his high school football in Dallas.
Even if Stafford plays, Dallas has done solidly overall against opposing quarterbacks in 2019. They are sixth in passing yards allowed per game and 14th in opponent passer rating.
Detroit is fourth in passing offense right now in the NFL but that was based on eight games with Stafford at QB. Jeff Driskel will not perform at that same level, and the Lions' rushing attack has been very weak since Kerryon Johnson went on injured reserve.
We'll see in the coming days if Matthew Stafford is at practice for Detroit and to what extent. But even if he does practice some, as he did last week, it could once again be a last-minute decision for the Lions if Stafford actually plays on Sunday.
With the Cowboys desperate for a win, they'll take all the help they can get.
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