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Cowboys Training Camp: 5 Fringe Players Fans Should Follow

Brian Martin



Cowboys Training Camp: 5 Fringe Players Fans Should Follow
Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys training camp has been officially underway for a few days now, which means we finally have some football related news in our lives. A lot of us have been waiting for this event to see how some of our favorite players have progressed, but we often overlook the fringe players who could have a big role in 2017.

Today, I thought I would avoid some of the players who are grabbing all of the headlines, and instead focus on some of the fringe players fans should be following throughout the Cowboys training camp.

Fringe players don't typically receive a lot of attention, but these are the players that are a step away from becoming starters if someone goes down with an injury. For that reason alone, I thought I would share with you my top five fringe players fans should follow throughout the Dallas Cowboys training camp.

S Kavon Frazier

(James D. Smith via AP)

Kavon Frazier, S

Kavon Frazier's name hasn't been mentioned very much in regards to the safety position, but I wouldn't count him out of having an important role with the Cowboys in 2017. Unfortunately, he seems to be buried on the depth chart right now, which makes him one of the fringe player to even make the roster.

Frazier is at his best when he is around the line of scrimmage as a box safety, so we could hear his name tossed around a little more once pads come on. He is going to have to be much more consistent and assignment sound throughout the Cowboys training camp if he wants to stick around, but I'm predicting he will be much improved in his second year in the NFL.

WR Andy Jones

Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Jones, WR

Andy Jones was a player who received quite a bit and notoriety last year at this time at the Cowboys training camp, but looks to be even further buried on the depth chart then he was a year ago. The word is he has improved in his second year, but he is still going to have a hard time making the final roster.

Unfortunately for Jones, he could be on the outside looking in. This is especially true considering the fact the Cowboys drafted two rookie WRs and Brice Butler has looked pretty good so far in off-season practices. But, if Jones is more consistent this season, he could claim one of the final WR roster spots.

RB Rod Smith

(Paul Spinelli via AP)

Rod Smith, RB

The Dallas Cowboys seem to be set with their top two RBs with Ezekiel Elliott and Darren McFadden, but there doesn't seem to be a clear choice to back up those two so far. Rod Smith doesn't receive the same type of attention his brother Jaylon Smith does, but he could play an important role with the Cowboys  in 2017.

Smith has the versatility to play RB, FB, and can contribute on the majority of special teams units. It's that versatility that could cause the Cowboys to keep him over someone like Alfred Morris. Of course, he is also going to have to prove he can be relied upon as a RB, which is why everyone should follow his progress throughout training camp and preseason.

TE Rico GathersRico Gathers, TE

I know that a lot of you will disagree with me here, but I believe Rico Gathers is one of the fringe players who could be on the outside looking in when the team starts making roster cuts. Gathers has the potential to play tight end in the NFL, but he still has a long ways to go until he can be relied upon.

As of right now, I have Gathers as the fourth best TE on the Cowboys roster. Word is Geoff Swaim and James Hanna are close to getting back on the field. This is great news for the depth of the TE position, but bad news for Gathers. How he performs throughout training camp will determine if he is worthy of a roster spot.

DE Damontre MooreDamontre Moore, DE

I don't know about you, but I'm really excited to see how Damontre Moore performs throughout the Cowboys training camp. He has already made an impression on the Cowboys coaching staff in previous off-season practices, but those were unpadded practices.

Moore could possibly help improve the Cowboys pass rush in 2017, but he is going to have to prove himself once the pads finally come on. I will be really interested in seeing how he performs against Tyron Smith. If he can hold his own against Smith, he could have a big role on defense as a pass rusher this season.

What fringe players will you be watching?

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.

  • Assassin

    Not going to comment on Rico as I’m a Baylor guy and very prejudiced! But I liked Kavon Frazier in his limited role last year. Damontre Moore has a ton of talent. Hopefully his childhood is over. Not sure that Andy Jones will have a chance with Ryan Switzer coming in plus Butler and Williams on deals.

    • Brian Martin

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Gathers. I just don’t think he’s as good as Swaim or Hanna yet. If they both return fully healthy it’s going to be really tough for Gathers to sniff the playing field.

      • Assassin

        wouldnt argue that unless we finally start to see consistent 12 packages

        • Brian Martin

          I think we might see a shift to more of the 11 personnel. I think that’s one of the reasons why the Cowboys drafted Switzer.

Star Blog

Sean’s Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Cowboys D

Sean Martin



Sean's Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Dallas Cowboys Defense 1

It took some time, but the Dallas Cowboys have their first outside free agent of the offseason, signing Linebacker Joe Thomas to provide depth at a position where Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber have already signed elsewhere.

The fifth-year pro has played exclusively with the Green Bay Packers, but the Cowboys do have some familiarity with Thomas as he spent part of 2015 on their practice squad.

Joe Thomas has served as a core special teams contributor and sub-package LB for the Packers out of South Carolina State, and will now look to bring these services to a Cowboys team in need of play making ability on both defense and special teams.

Using film from this past season, here is Joe Thomas' full scouting report.

LB Joe Thomas: Strengths

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Joe Thomas lined up at all three LB positions for the Packers, taking the majority of his snaps on defense at MIKE or WILL. The WILL position is where Thomas should fit best in Dallas.

Not overly physical with a shorter but square frame, Thomas is a rangy player with light feet and fluid movement ability. Shifting laterally along the line of scrimmage to "pick through trash" is not a problem for Thomas, nor is flipping his hips and running to the football.

It may take Thomas more effort than it should to get in position on most plays, with false steps and late reads being an issue, but once he establishes his sight on the point of attack this is a downhill missile of a player.

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Joe Thomas uses his length well to disengage from blocks and finish off plays, doing a nice job of not allowing blockers into his chest consistently.

With Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith expected to be the Cowboys' primary starters at WILL and MIKE respectively, Thomas could supplement these two physical, well-rounded players extremely well given his athleticism.

LB Joe Thomas: Weaknesses

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There is a reason a player with the raw traits of Joe Thomas goes un-drafted, and in this case it is because of awareness and anticipation issues in Thomas' game.

Far too often on tape, Thomas is forcing himself to recover from false steps against the blockers in front of him. I would have loved to see a player with this movement ability get more clean opportunities to finish at the football, but it was simply not there for Thomas.

When Thomas wasn't late to the ball against the run, he was getting caught flat-footed in space trying to compensate for this reactionary ability. This led to Thomas' fair share of missed tackles, where the LB failed to break down correctly.

Overall, Thomas did a decent job of avoiding blocks and disengaging, and does play with better-than-expected stopping power. The strength and technique to shed blocks was rarely seen though, relying on his quickness to outrun opponents to the spot.

LB Joe Thomas: Summary

Sean's Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Dallas Cowboys Defense

This is a player that should help the Dallas Cowboys in two phases of their game this season.

Signed for both 2018 and 2019, the Cowboys have clearly seen enough from their former practice squad linebacker in Green Bay to bring back an athletic ST ace with upside on defense.

Joe Thomas shouldn't be taking Lee or Smith off the field regularly this season, but at his best he will factor into Rod Marinelli's defense on passing downs.

Thomas gives a unit predicated on flowing to the ball even more speed on the field, and is an ideal depth signing with the versatility to cover punts and kickoffs.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Cowboys D" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Star Blog

Could a Special Coach Help Dez Bryant’s Route-Running?

Brian Martin



Could Special Coach Help Dez Bryant's Route Running?

Dez Bryant's career with the Dallas Cowboys may be in limbo, but that's not stopping him from trying to improve his game and on-field performance.

Bryant will reportedly train with personal wide receivers coach David Robinson, who specializes in route-running, according to reporter Jane Slater of NFL Network. This should come as good news to a lot of Cowboys fans, because Dez Bryant has often been criticized throughout his professional career for his route-running.

If anything, this news should indicate that Dez Bryant is more determined than ever to rebound from his disappointing 2017 season and prove his critics wrong that he is no longer one of the top receivers in the league. I for one am not going to bet against him.

Bryant's work ethic and passion for the game have never been questioned. His desire to be the best is evident anytime you turn on his film, whether it is in a game situation or on the practice field. He takes the "practice like you play" mantra to heart.

Everybody should be encouraged that at this point in his career, Dez Bryant is still looking at ways to improve his game and seek help. Hopefully, working with a well-known receivers coach like David Robinson can take Bryant's game to the next level.

Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)

You may not know who David Robinson is (I certainly didn't), but he is well respected around the league and has helped other receivers under his tutelage. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordan Reed, and even Cowboys former WR Brice Butler have all benefited from Robinson's coaching.

Dez Bryant has always been regarded as one of those types of receivers who is always open regardless how tight the coverage is around him. His ability to go up and snag the ball out of the air is arguably his best trait, but he could become more dangerous if he can create separation on his own with better route-running.

Unfortunately, Bryant is entering the stage in his career where age becomes a factor and some regression is to be expected. This is why improved route-running could improve any deficiencies Bryant maybe dealing with.

But, what exactly will David Robinson be working on with Dez Bryant?

Robinson told Jane Slater that in his workouts with Dez Bryant, he will concentrate on the expansion of Bryant's route tree, shaking defenders at the line of scrimmage, and improving footwork technique to compensate for any natural loss of speed due to age.

I don't know about you, but I'm actually looking forward to seeing how Bryant responds to Robinson's coaching, hopefully still as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

We all know that Bryant's status with the Cowboys is unknown, at least to those of us on the outside looking in, but I don't see him going anywhere in 2018. There just aren't any vet WRs or rookies who I can see replacing his production. Of course, I could be wrong.

One thing is for sure though, Dez Bryant isn't going to sit on his hands while he waits to find out what his future holds.

Do you think improved route-running will help Dez Bryant's game?

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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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