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.
Taco Charlton Isn’t Going Anywhere After Strong Preseason Week 3
Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Taco Charlton might be turning things around. The former first round draft pick didn't have a great couple of seasons to start his career off, which forced him to be in a battle to earn a spot on the Cowboys 53-man roster this offseason. Three weeks into the preseason, it looks like he's a lock to make the team. In a "Dress Rehearsal" game that went great for the Cowboys, Charlton's performance was among the best players.
A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how the Cowboys' younger defensive ends could force the team to move on from Taco. From Dorance Armstrong to Jalen Jelks, there's a handful of promising players that were participating in a positional battle that one way or another, included Taco Charlton.
However, the Michigan product showed up to play versus the Los Angeles Rams with two passes batted down. Despite making such plays, we still hadn't seen much from him in the pass rush department.
That changed against the Houston Texans last Saturday when he managed to get two sacks (one strip-sack), two forced fumbles and a recovery. This was undoubtedly Taco's best game in his career. He still has a lot to prove, but it was definitely good to see him have a "breakout" preseason game.
With such performance, it doesn't seem like he'll be going anywhere in 2019. Charlton won't be a starter for this team, but he could become a very important rotational piece for Rod Marinelli's defense. He has a great opportunity to find playing time during the first two weeks of the season before Robert Quinn returns from suspension.
One unfortunate note was that in his best game yet, Taco went out injured twice (ankle). The first time he went back to the field to get some more but had to walk off the field for a second time. Hopefully, he's able to play next Thursday but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't after having a breakout game versus the Texans.
Taco Charlton still has a very long way to justify being a first-round pick, but his play against Houston was a start. It will be very interesting to see how he plays in the 2019 regular season. He'll have to fight for playing time and he'll have to make every snap count to turn his career around.
Cowboys’ Taryn Christion Gets Time at QB; More Coming?
Last night was the first time we've seen Taryn Christion, the Dallas Cowboys' fourth quarterback on the current depth chart, actually playing the position in preseason. Could we see more of Christion at QB in this Thursday's finale, and at what point should Mike White be worried?
Signed just a few days before training camp began, Christion has been tried at running back, receiver, and various special teams units while the Cowboys were in Oxnard. But last week he started getting more time at quarterback, and last night's win over the Houston Texans saw him playing a few drives at QB to close the game out.
Sure, Taryn came in fourth behind White in the rotation. But that Dallas thought to give him reps in that game, the critical dress rehearsal game, is telling.
Jason Garrett doesn't get cute with rotations and playing time. He's old school, and there's meaning in every decision he makes about when and how guys get time in preseason.
Ironically, the decision came following Mike White's best preseason game this year. He went 6-of-9 for 56 yards and a touchdown, plus avoided any sacks or turnovers.
Rather than let White keep building on that, though, Dallas pulled him for Taryn Christion in the 4th quarter. It seemed as if the Cowboys were determined to get him some time at QB.
An even better showcase will come this Thursday night. The Cowboys host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final preseason game; we know Dak Prescott won't be playing, and the team may even protect Cooper Rush with limited time on the field.
Dallas likely intends to give Christion some significant playing time on Thursday. And to help make that easier, they played him last night to get some of those butterflies out of his system.
No, Taryn Christion probably isn't going to make the 53-man roster. Neither is Mike White, for that matter. It feels like the battle for the number-three QB is more about the practice squad now.
But whatever the case, the battle seems to be heating up. Dallas appears more invested in Christion now as a quarterback than at any other point since he arrived; some added intrigue for Thursday's final preseason game.
HOU 0, DAL 34: Defense Dominates in Dress Rehearsal Game
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't have scripted a better result in tonight's dress rehearsal game against the Houston Texans. All three phases of the game made big plays as they dominated 34 to 0.
The night belonged to the defense as they terrorized Houston's starters and reserves along the offensive line with 8 sacks. Taco Charlton, a former first-round pick turned outcast was the star of the night with 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. In my opinion, if there were any doubts about him making the roster he put them to bed tonight.
Kerry Hyder showed once again why he's one of the smartest free-agent signings of 2019. After being a lost man in the 3-4 defensive scheme with his former team the Lions, he's done a really good job applying pressure even though he hadn't recorded any sacks in the first two preseason games. However, tonight he recorded 2 sacks and reminded everyone of the player who had 8 sacks in 2016.
The young guys weren't to be left out in this defensive clinic. Dorance Armstrong, Trysten Hill, Daniel Wise, and Joe Jackson all had half sacks. Rookie Safety Donovan Wilson had one of the plays of the night with a beautiful interception as he tapped both feet before heading out of bounds. Cornerback C.J. Goodwin, who will probably make the roster on his special teams ability, got in on the interception party himself high pointing a contested pass.
Dak Prescott was only 2 for 5 (11 for 14 in the preseason) but managed to escape what looked like a sure sack and roll to his left and threw a rope to Michael Gallup for a touchdown. The two have shown a lot of growth and chemistry during training camp, something that was missing at times in 2018.
Wide Receiver Devin Smith had 6 receptions for 79 yards while Cedrick Wilson snagged 3 passes on 4 targets. Both receivers are fighting for the final roster spots in the receiver group which they'll have to continue to do next week against the Buccaneers.
Tight End Marcus Lucas had a very solid game with 4 catches for 50 yards. He will definitely be a player to watch in the final preseason game before final cuts are made. Cooper Rush went 15 for 25 and further solidified his position as the primary backup to Prescott. Mike White was also solid going 6 for 9 and tossing a touchdown.
Special teams got in on the action themselves when Linebacker Joe Thomas recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Now the Cowboys have only one more preseason game before the 2019 season begins. All that's left now is figuring out the last few roster spots and staying as healthy as possible. September 8th is right around the corner.
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