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Cowboys Training Camp: 3 Under The Radar Players To Watch

Brian Martin



Cowboys Training Camp: 3 Under The Radar Players To  Watch
Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys don't report to training camp for a few more weeks, which means we still have time to discuss and identify players that we will all personally be keeping track of. Most of us already have our "pet cats" identified or the position battles we will be closely watching, but I decided to go a different direction and identify some of the under the radar players fans should watch at the Cowboys training camp.

To clarify, I classify these under the radar players as those who are still a long shot to make the final 53-man roster for the Dallas Cowboys, but still could surprise us in practices. You know, those players that seem to come out of nowhere and start catching the eye of the coaching staff and those lucky few that are able to attend these practices in person.

I narrowed it down to just three players that I think Cowboys' fans should watch once training camp gets underway. All of these players may still be under the radar, but I still think they have a chance to earn a roster spot when all is said and done.

#86 Connor Hamlett, TE

TE Connor HamlettI'm of the opinion that the Dallas Cowboys tight end position is a mess right now. Jason Witten is the only sure thing and both Geoff Swaim and James Hanna have yet to see any off-season work while they continue to rehab from their injuries.

Cowboys' fans have a lot of hope that Rico Gathers can step in and contribute in 2017, but I'm a realist and don't see him far enough along in his development to be reliable. That leaves some roster spots possibly open for a worthy candidate, and I think that's where Connor Hamlett fits in.

Hamlett has the size for an NFL TE (6'7", 259) and already has a little bit of experience in the league. He started two games for the Cleveland Browns in 2016 before being waived to make room for Jamie Collins. He had just one catch with the Browns that went for 17 yards, but it did result in a touchdown.

Hamlett has supposedly looked better than Rico Gathers so far in off-season practices. But, he will really have to outshine someone the Cowboys have invested so much time developing if he wants to earn a roster spot. It's not out of the question, which is why he is one of the the under the radar candidates I think fans should watch during the Cowboys training camp.

#47 John Lotulelei

LB John LotuleleiNearly all Dallas Cowboys fans will be watching the linebacker position in training camp, but that mostly has to do with Jaylon Smith's return to the field. How Smith is able to handle training camp will go a long ways in determining what the team has depth wise at the LB position, but someone else is going to have to step up regardless.

The Cowboys linebacker position is even cloudier when you take into account that Damien Wilson is looking at a suspension and possibly jail time after his recent arrest, so depth is definitely a concern. But, one under the radar player that could prove valuable is John Lotulelei.

John Lotulelei has already caught the eye of the Cowboys coaching staff in OTA's, but if he wants a shot to make the final 53-man roster, he is going to have to show up when the pads come on. This will be his fourth team since entering the league in 2013, but he has a chance to stick if he can continue to impress because of the lack of depth.

#65 Nate Theaker

OL Nate TheakerAs things stand right now, it looks as if the Dallas Cowboys just have one open roster spot along the offensive line. It looks as if La'el Collins is going to be the starting right tackle in 2017 and replace the retired Doug Free. But, the left guard position is up for grabs.

I think the Cowboys coaching staff is going to do their due diligence in order to find just the right starting left guard. There are some veterans in line who are already the favorites, but I think Nate Theaker could sneak into the conversation if he performs well during the Cowboys training camp.

Theaker has a size of an offensive guard in the NFL (6'5", 315), but it's a big step up in competition from what he's used to facing at Wayne State. He has a chance to show the coaches what he can do, but is still longshot to make the team. That is why he is one of my under the radar players to watch throughout training camp.

Who are you anxious to watch at the Cowboys training camp?

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

  • Don

    Brian I pretty much agree on most all that but see a larger need at the TE spot. Witten needs a complimentary partner and one that can take the reins and grow in to that guy when he retires. I like Swaim over Hanna but we’ve seen them both injury prone and and at some point you have to cut ties and move on. I haven’t seen reason to keep Rico yet but obviously they see something that tweaks their interest. If Hamlet presses hard enough he could very well push someone out and at worse end up on the practice squad. I know Rico came from a basketball back ground but he’s been here long enough to grasp what they want in my book and should be further along..

    • Brian Martin

      Don, I couldn’t agree more with just about everything you said, especially about Gathers. I honestly think that they should give him a look at offensive tackle. His size and frame seems much more suited to play OT in the NFL. He’s very similar in size to Tyron Smith. Swaim and Hanna are the ultimate wildcards right now. If they return 100%, I think the TE position is okay. But, I don’t see anyone on the Cowboys current roster who is capable of taking over for Jason Witten when he finally calls it quits.

      • Don

        OL somewhere doesn’t sound out of the realm with his size. I’m just wondering if he’s having problems retaining what he’s learned studying plays. He has the size but doesn’t run good routes or show to have good ball handling ability but does block semi good.Now I base that off last year since I’ve not been able to see what he’s done in OTAs just from what I’ve read.

        • Brian Martin

          From what I hear he’s still making mental mistakes and still has quite a ways to go to improve as a route runner. That really shouldn’t be a problem after an entire year in the system. I have a hard time ever seeing being a reliable contributor.

  • Travis Diggs

    I got a player for yall who’s hasnt got a lot of attention since his release, Gary Barnidge. A TE who was solid in Cleveland who could come in a start immediately. He recently said he waiting on a call from Baltimore but are offense is way better and I’m definently concerned about depth behind J Witt

    • Brian Martin

      Travis, I would love to see the Cowboys bring in Barnidge. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think they like their TE situation, but there are definitely concerns.

Star Blog

Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Brian Martin



Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.

I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.

Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.

Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.

Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.

Shea McClellin

New England Patriots LB Shea McClellin

After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.

Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.

This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.

If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.

With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.

He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.

Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?

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Star Blog

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys

Jess Haynie



Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys

Now that he's signed with the Washington Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick joins a lackluster list of former Cowboys players and coaches who have gone from Dallas to its historic rival. The history of these moves is ugly for Washington, going back over 40 years, and can't have their fans too excited anytime they sign an ex-Cowboy.

The most recent example was just last year with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After a strong season as a 15-game starter in Dallas, McClain got a four-year, $21 million deal to join the Redskins. He missed four games with injuries and was only credited with two starts; hardly what the team wanted given the money they paid.

Before him it was Jason Hatcher, whose 11-sack season for the Cowboys in 2013 got him a four-year, $27.5 million deal from Washington. Hatcher would battle knee injuries for two season, getting only 7.5 sacks from 2014-2015. His early retirement in 2016 brought an abrupt end to a disappointing tenure.

Continuing the legacy of defensive linemen was Stephen Bowen, who Washington paid a shocking amount of money ($27.5 million over five years) to in 2011 to pick up in free agency. Bowen had a great first year for the Redskins with six sacks and 16 starts, but injuries would soon cost him 14 games from 2013-2014. He was eventually released after only one standout season in four with the team.

Going back even further, DT Brandon Noble joined Washington in 2003 after being a full-time starter for Dallas for over two seasons. He would miss all of 2003 with a knee injury, have an unimpressive year in 2004, and then missed all of 2005 with more health issues. He retired after being released by the Redskins in 2006.

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys 1

Hall of Fame CB Deion Sanders

Orlando Scandrick won't be the first cornerback to go from Dallas to Washington, or the best. At age 32, Deion Sanders was released in 2000 by the Cowboys and then got a huge seven-year, $56 million deal from the Redskins. This came less than a year after Daniel Snyder bought the franchise and was desperate to get them relevant again.

The Sanders move backfired horribly. Even after a solid season by his lofty standards, Primetime was disgruntled with both the coaching staff and his increasing struggles as an aging player. He suddenly retired after just one season of the seven-year contract.

Washington also tried to tap into the Cowboys' glory days when they signed receiver Alvin Harper in 1997. Harper had left Dallas in 1995 and spent two years with Tampa Bay, but had not carried over the same success he enjoyed playing in the Dallas offense.

The Redskins hoped that reuniting him with Norv Turner, who had been Harper's offensive coordinator and was now their head coach, would help Alvin get back to form. But between ongoing injuries and the absence of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith as teammates, Alvin Harper was never the same guy as when he won two Super Bowls in Dallas.

The failed poaching attempts go back many more decades, another one being running back Calvin Hill. The fourth-leading rusher in Cowboys history and a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas, Hill joined Washington in 1976. He served as a backup only, averaging only 3.8 yards-per-carry as he played behind the likes of Mike Thomas and John Riggins.

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys 2

Norv Turner also couldn't bring his Cowboys success to Washington. (Brian Bahr/Allsport)

The bad history doesn't stop with players. The aforementioned Norv Turner, who was one of the hottest assistant coaches in history after the Cowboys first two Super Bowl wins in the 90s, was hired as the Redskins' head coach in 1994.

Turner's run started with a whimper, drafting quarterback Heath Shuler third overall in that first year. Shuler would go down as one of the biggest QB busts in NFL history

Norv's Redskins never seemed to recover from that blunder. He only had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance from 1994-1999, and was fired midway through the 2000 season.

Far more recently, Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan left the team in 2015 and took the same job in Washington. He didn't get to bring the offensive line or DeMarco Murray with him, though. As such, the Redskins have remained one of the league's worst rushing teams for the last three seasons. They fell to a new low of 28th in the NFL in 2017.

~ ~ ~

Of course, none of this means that Orlando Scandrick won't have success in Washington. But with the Redskins generally the most mismanaged team in the NFC East, all of the Dallas players and coaches who've gone there have not walked into good situations. For all that Cowboys fans love to complain about Jerry Jones, he handles the owner and GM roles better than any pair Washington's had in almost 30 years.

Given the nature of the rivalries, we naturally can't wish success for Scandrick or anyone else who leaves Dallas for a division opponent. With the track record we just discussed for Washington, it's not something I'll be losing any sleep over.

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Star Blog

Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?

Brian Martin



Cowboys Have Their Version of Tryann Mathieu in Xavier Woods?

It's not uncommon for Dallas Cowboys fans to zero in on certain free agents in hopes that they will bring their talents to America's Team. In fact, just about any "big name" player to hit the open market is often linked to the Cowboys in some way or another. That was the case when the Arizona Cardinals decided to move on from Tyrann Mathieu.

Once Tyrann Mathieu became available, Cowboys fans immediately wanted to see him with a star on his helmet. But, despite the fans petitioning, the Cowboys brass seemed to show almost zero interest in the former Cardinal.

The decision to not pursue Tyrann Mathieu certainly didn't sit well with a lot of Cowboys Nation, but I think it was the right decision.

Despite Mathieu's perceived talents and youth (he's just 25), the Cowboys weren't interested in paying the price to bring him to Dallas, especially since they already have a similar player on their roster.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys DB Xavier Woods

It may sound crazy, but I think the real reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't show much interest in Tyrann Mathieu is because of Xavier Woods.

I honestly believe Xavier Woods and Tyrann Mathieu have a similar skill set. Both players are little undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL, but each of them have the versatility to play several different roles in the secondary.

Mathieu may have been listed as a safety on the Arizona Cardinals roster, and now the Houston Texans, but the truth is he played mostly out of the nickel/slot in his professional and collegiate career. That is where he is at his best, and the same can be said about Xavier Woods.

As a rookie, Xavier Woods showed his versatility with the Dallas Cowboys by playing a variety of different roles in the secondary. His versatility was one of the reasons the Cowboys decided to trade up in last year's draft to acquire his services.

His name might not carry the same kind of weight as Tyrann Mathieu right now around the league or amongst NFL fans, but I don't think Xavier Woods is that much of a drop off talent wise.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys DB Xavier Woods (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Personally, I believe Mathieu is starting to decline a little as a player. I think injuries are starting to take a toll on his play, although it may be minimal. I actually prefer Xavier Woods' upside, especially when you take into account the difference in salaries between the two.

Surprisingly enough, Xavier Woods might just have been more productive in 2017 then Mathieu. Woods started just four games and finished the season with 42 tackles, three passes defensed, and one interception. Mathieu on the other hand started all 16 games and accumulated 78 tackles, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.

As you can see, Xavier Woods was almost just as productive as Mathieu in nearly a third of the playing time. What's even more impressive about this is that Woods accomplish this as a rookie.

Of course, all of this is speculation, but I for one am not all that upset the Dallas Cowboys missed out on Tyrann Mathieu. I'm willing to bet on Xavier Woods being able to do everything Mathieu can and at a fraction of the cost.

Were the Cowboys right not to pursue Tyrann Mathieu?

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