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Cowboys Training Camp: 5 Fringe Players Fans Should Follow

Brian Martin

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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.

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4 Comments
  • 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.

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How Should The Cowboys, And The NFL, Value RBs?

Kevin Brady

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Will Cowboys' Offense Improve With Ezekiel Elliott's Return?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There is no one, stand-alone "best" strategy for winning in the NFL. There are, of course, common themes and ideals which run true year in and year out among the top teams.

Strategy in the NFL is dynamic, or at least it should be. Running in place for too long under the same leadership often breeds mediocrity, and refusing to move with current trends can put you at a severe disadvantage.

Succumbing to those trends without fully analyzing the confounding factors your situation presents, however, can also ruin a team building exercise.

With that being said, should teams pay elite running backs top dollar? Or are those running backs expendable, replaceable, and often forgettable within the NFL machine?

To be honest these aren't very fair ways to pose legitimately interesting questions. You can acknowledge that a running back is important to your offense while also acknowledging that you don't want to break the bank for a position with such injury risk and high turnover year-to-year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently facing this dilemma, as their star running back Le'Veon Bell asks to be paid like an elite "weapon," not as a normal running back. And when you examine how the Steelers deploy Bell within their offense, he clearly has a point.

Bell is not your traditional "running back." He lines up on the boundary, in the slot, and is a passing threat out of the backfield as well. On top of all of this versatility, Bell is an excellent pass protector, something which is often lost among other "versatile" backs.

Bell can quite literally do it all for an offense, but the idea of paying that position elite-level money makes teams cringe. As The Athletic's Marcus Mosher pointed out on Twitter, teams like the New England Patriots have been able to replicate Bell's production by using multiple speciality backs rather than one workhorse.

In theory, this takes away the injury risk component to a certain extent. Rather than giving one player 350-400 touches per season, you spread those touches out and allow for players to do what they do best.

Lately, the NFL has seemed to agree that this is the most efficient way to play offense. But when you have a player like Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, in what way is taking the ball out of their hands "efficient" at all? In addition, how is using three players to mimic the skill set of one efficient?

Yes, the NFL is a passing league, but when you have a playmaker who is of the caliber of a Bell or an Elliott, it is up to the offense to deploy in him ways that maximize his value. Teams should be using the Bells and Elliotts of the world as pass catching threats and as weapons all over the field. Force the entire defense to account for your running back rather than just jamming him between the tackles like it's 1975.

The movement towards "running back by committee" rather than the traditional one-back system can also be credited to the lack of workhorse-worthy backs entering the league.

Ezekiel Elliotts don't grow on trees, they are rare and special players. And when you have one, especially when you spend a premium pick on him, you should get the most out of him that you can. Playing winning offense in the NFL is about more than just "do you run or do you pass," and it often hinges on creating splash plays of 15-20 yards.

If you can get those plays through the use of an elite running back, that player becomes intrinsically valuable to your team. No matter what "position" he is labeled as. Of course you want to be able create mismatches in the passing game all over the field, so when you are able to do this with a running back, shouldn't that be deemed as highly valuable?

We can't say just yet if the Cowboys should re-sign Ezekiel Elliott once he enters free agency. After all, five seasons (and a franchise tag year) where he touches the ball more than most players in the league will almost certainly bring about some wear and tear.

But with the way the Cowboys have chosen to play offense, and the way in which they've built their roster, a workhorse back like Elliott is necessary for success.

Once again, at least it is for now.



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Star Blog

Is DE Kony Ealy At Risk Of Not Making Cowboys Final Roster?

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: As Late FA Signing, New DE Kony Ealy Brings Value at DE

As training camp approaches and we draw closer to the 2018 NFL season, fans are beginning to get excited for new faces, old stars, and new beginnings for the Dallas Cowboys.

One player which has been a bit forgotten about over the last few months, and even overlooked when he was first signed back in April, is defensive end Kony Ealy. Of course, some of this overlooking is justified, as Ealy's career has been filled with more valleys than peaks thus far.

With a fresh start in Dallas, though, some expect Kony Ealy to rekindle his career, and look like the player he was during the Panthers' Super Bowl 50 loss just a few seasons ago. The problem is, that game looks like the outlier and not the norm over his professional career.

Originally drafted by the Carolina Panthers, Ealy has had a shaky start to his career. Now joining his third team in the same number of seasons, it's certainly fair to say he hasn't lived up to his second round draft selection.

At 6'4" and 275 pounds, however, Ealy fits the mold of a 4-3 defensive end in the Cowboys' scheme. While he isn't the explosive pass rusher that other players on the roster are (and can be), he could provide solid rotational depth across the defensive line.

With fellow former second round pick Randy Gregory gaining reinstatement to the NFL this week, Ealy could struggle to salvage any real playing time with the Cowboys at all. Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, and Taco Charlton all feel like locks to make the team.

Then there is 2018 day three pick Dorance Armstrong and former fourth round pick Charles Tapper providing competition as well.

Tapper and Armstrong are unproven, but have the athletic profiles to become solid edge rushers at the professional level. For both, especially Tapper, health is of the upmost concern going forward. If Tapper can remain healthy, he has a real shot of making the team and having his impact felt as early as 2018.

That "if" has been a serious one thus far, however.

When the Cowboys first signed Kony Ealy back in April, I really believed he could provide solid and cheap depth along their defensive line. Now in July, I still have those beliefs, but it's become fair to question if he will even find himself on the final 53-man roster based on the competition around him.



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Star Blog

Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin’s Footsteps?

Brian Martin

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Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin's Footsteps?

Connor Williams has yet to play a single snap the NFL, but there are already some pretty high expectations for the rookie Guard. That's because he will be sandwiched between two Pro Bowl players in Center Travis Frederick and Left Tackle Tyron Smith. But, it's the Dallas Cowboys third Pro Bowl offensive lineman Williams should try to emulate and follow in the footsteps of.

Yes, I'm talking about Zack Martin.

Zack Martin's career couldn't have gotten off to a better start coming out of Notre Dame. He hit the ground running as a rookie with the Cowboys and put together a dominating performance his first year in the NFL, earning his first Pro Bowl bid as well as being named to the All-Pro team. He continued to play at a high level ever since and has not only turned into the best player at his position, but continued his Pro Bowl streak every season since entering the league.

To ask, or even expect Connor Williams to have the same kind of immediate success as Zack Martin is probably a little unfair, if not impossible. The kind of success Martin has had already in his career is almost unheard of. But, that's not to say Williams isn't going to try to follow in Martin's footsteps and to become the best player he can.

Zack Martin

Dallas Cowboys OG Zack Martin

The footsteps I think Connor Williams should try to follow as it pertains to Zack Martin is how well he made the transition from a collegiate Offensive Tackle to an NFL Guard. I think that should be Williams' main focus right now with training camp coming up.

Williams will be inserted into the starting lineup as the Cowboys new Left Guard. It will be a new position for him after playing mainly Tackle at the University of Texas, that will require an entirely new mindset and technique. But, it's in transition I believe he can make rather smoothly.

Connor Williams should benefit from Zack Martin's similar transition from college OT to an NFL OG. I wouldn't be surprised if we see the rookie shadowing Martin throughout training camp to soak up as much knowledge as possible. It's probably the best way for him to jumpstart his career.

Now, I fully expect to see some growing pains from Williams throughout the 2018 season. It's to be expected from any rookie, especially one transitioning to a new position. But, I do believe he will not only be an upgrade at LG for the Cowboys, but will make the entire OL even better.

I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see what kind of player Connor Williams ends up being this season.

Do you think Connor Williams can follow in Zack Martin's footsteps?



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