There is certainly no shortage of players to watch this year at the Dallas Cowboys training camp, but some are more intriguing than others. Today, I want to share with you five players in particular I will be keeping a close eye on.
All five of these players really have an undefined role right now, but they could all make a huge impact on the Cowboys 2018 season. I also tried to stray away from picking the obvious players. Everyone will surely be watching the Cowboys 2018 draft class, and rightfully so, but I wanted to shine the light on a few others who I personally find a little more intriguing.
Continue reading below to see the five most intriguing players I will be watching at this year's Dallas Cowboys training camp.
DE, Randy Gregory
The Dallas Cowboys recently reinstated Defensive End is arguably the most intriguing player at this year's training camp. No one really knows what to expect when he is able to finally put the pads back on considering all the time he's been away from the game while serving his suspensions, but his talent is undeniable.
It will be really interesting to find out what kind of shape Gregory is in. Has he been able to put in the time in the weight room during his time away? How is his conditioning? Can he earn a defensive role in 2018, maybe challenge for the starting job? All of these unanswered questions is why I personally believe he might just be the most intriguing Cowboys player to watch throughout training camp and in preseason games.
WR/RB, Tavon Austin
Tavon Austin is another one of the Dallas Cowboys players who I find most intriguing heading into training camp. It's not often the Cowboys trade for a player, but that's exactly what they did to acquire the diminutive weapon.
I for one will be watching how the Cowboys plan to utilize Austin. Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan has already described Austin as a "web-back", but nobody really knows what that is. Austin will probably be utilized as both a running back and wide receiver on offense, but will likely see time as a return specialist as well.
I believe Austin can be a really good weapon if utilized correctly in 2018. But, "if used correctly" is the key here. Linehan hasn't been able to utilize the weapons at his disposal to the best of their abilities in the past in my opinion. Hopefully that changes this year.
TE, Blake Jarwin
You can pretty much pick any Tight End on the Dallas Cowboys roster to watch throughout training camp, but for me I'm going to be paying extra close attention to Blake Jarwin. He has already supposedly caught the attention of the Cowboys coaching staff during earlier offseason practices, so I expect that to carry over into training camp and preseason.
I fully understand it's a huge jump to go from Undrafted Free Agent (UFA) to potential starter, but from everything I hear about Jarwin, he may be able to do just that. Of course, he's going to have to outshine the other TEs on the Cowboys roster. But, that's why I find him to be one of the most intriguing players to watch.
DT, Jihad Ward
Like Tavon Austin, Jihad Ward is another player the Dallas Cowboys decided to trade for earlier this offseason. But unlike Austin, Ward isn't receiving the same kind of fanfare, but probably should be. Ward could end up being the more important of the two acquisitions when all is said and done.
Jihad Ward is another player who has been spoken pretty highly of by the coaching staff and his teammates already since joining the Cowboys. He is likely going to step in as a starting 3-technique for David Irving while he once again misses the first four games of the season while serving his suspension. I'm personally looking forward to seeing how he performs against Zack Martin and the rest of the Cowboys talented OL in training camp.
S, Xavier Woods
Out of all of the players going to training camp with the Dallas Cowboys, I think I'm most excited to see how Xavier Woods looks now that he is expected to be in the running as a potential starting safety. I think his potential is one of the reasons the Cowboys haven't added another veteran safety (Earl Thomas), but that could all change if they don't like what they see from the young defensive back.
Personally, I'm willing to roll the dice on Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath as the starting safeties heading into the 2018 season, with Kavon Frazier substituting in in certain situations. I think Woods for one showed enough promise last season get the benefit of the doubt, especially since he should be even better with a year the system and an offseason in the Cowboys strength and conditioning program.
Which players do you find the most intriguing to watch at the Dallas Cowboys training camp?
Todd Gurley Leaps Ezekiel Elliott on NFL Rushing Leaderboard
After several weeks as the NFL's rushing leader, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has been bumped to second place. With a 208-yard explosion last week against the Broncos, Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams has leaped Zeke on the leaderboard.
Elliott was no slouch himself in Week 6, putting up 106 yards on the vaunted Jaguars defense. But Gurley nearly doubled that in Denver, and now leads Zeke by 37 yards.
Here are the current NFL rushing leaders, :
- Todd Gurley, Rams - 623 yards
- Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys - 586 yards
- Melvin Gordon, Chargers - 466 yards
- Kareem Hunt, Chiefs - 456 yards
- James Conner, Steelers - 453 yards
- Saquon Barkley, Giants - yards
- Matt Breida, 49ers - 430 yards
- Isaiah Crowell, Jets - 430 yards
- Sony Michel, Patriots - 400 yards
It's still early in 2018, but it's already starting to look like a two-horse race for the rushing title. And it's no surprise that those two would be Elliott and Gurley.
Last year, Zeke and Todd were the top two in the NFL for yards-per-game. Gurley missed one game that year and finished second in total yards behind Kareem Hunt. Elliott was held back by his suspension.
Week 7 could allow Elliott to retake the lead. He'll see a Washington defense that he ran for 150 yards on last season in a single game. However, they are currently sixth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed.
Gurley gets a slightly softer opponent in the 49ers defense, who are just 13th in run defense. Both games will be on the road.
While these stats certainly aren't as important as wins and losses, they do matter to the players. Rushing titles come back into the conversation when Hall of Fame credentials are being considered.
If things stay at their current pace for Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley, we may be tracking this race all the way through the end of the regular season.
Michael Gallup Showing Signs of a Breakout
We're only six games into the career of Rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup who was selected 81st overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft. It's been a slow start to his career, mostly because of usage. On Sunday, he took a step toward what many thought he could be for the Cowboys when he was drafted; Wide receiver one.
The numbers, one reception on two targets for 27 yards, may not indicate a breakout is coming, but if you look at the two targets he saw and the quality of the corner he faced, they're more impressive.
Look at this catch by #Cowboys rookie WR Michael Gallup https://t.co/lD1xJ2WemD
On the Dallas Cowboys first drive of the day, Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott looked Michael Gallup's way down the left sideline and hit him on a nice back shoulder fade that looked an awful lot like a Dez Bryant-like contested catch. It was a key play on 3rd-and-9 to get the Dallas Cowboys into Jacksonville territory on a drive that led to a Brett Maher field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Later in the game with the Cowboys driving to score a touchdown, Gallup made a tremendous catch when he got perfect depth behind All-Pro Corner Back A.J. Bouye and in front of the safety help. It looked to be an impressive touchdown catch just inside the end zone, but was overturned on replay. On review, Gallup wasn't able to get his second foot down after he made contact with the defender. Though the touchdown didn't stand, it was an impressive effort for Michael Gallup.
Michael Gallup with a near circus catch to ALMOST haul in his first NFL TD. Ruled incomplete. #cowboys #jags @CSUFootball https://t.co/SePSc3n1Yp
Michael Gallup led the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver group in snaps (81% of the offensive snaps) on Sunday, and according to Mike Clay from ESPN, he led the Dallas Cowboys in routes run as well. Both of Gallup's targets came against Bouye, showing an ability to beat one of the best corners in the NFL.
Michael Gallup paced the Cowboys in pass routes (25) for the first time in his career on Sunday.
As Michael Gallup sees more opportunities to play, his opportunities to make plays are going to continue to grow. With news coming down that Tavon Austin is unlikely to play for several weeks because of a groin injury, more snaps are opening up at the wide receiver position. Tavon played 18 snaps before getting injured on Sunday, so there will be increased opportunities for Gallup moving forward.
Gallup's only seen about 3 targets a game, but with the increased snaps he saw in week six and the potential for even more with Austin coming, the opportunities should grow. As he continues to come down with impressive catches like he did on Sunday (even if only one of them counted), it's going to increase Dak Prescott's and the coaching staff's level of trust in the rookie.
It's safe to say that more big time catches are coming for Michael Gallup and a breakout is coming sooner than later.
Takeaway Tuesday: Cole Beasley is Your Interim WR1
Watching the Dallas Cowboys beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 40-7 was undoubtedly fun for Cowboys Nation. There were not many positive expectations for the Cowboys heading into this game but both the defense and offense put on impressive performances at home in an attempt to remain serious contenders within the NFC East.
We learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday as they beat one of the top defenses in the NFL. Let's talk about in this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!
Cole Beasley Is Your Interim WR1
The Cowboys have yet to find their #1 wide receiver, but Cole Beasley is making a serious statement looking like the most reliable target in Dallas. Being 5'8 and a slot receiver doesn't really help Beasley's case to be the #1 guy, but he's making plays.
Last Sunday, he was the only wide receiver on the team with more than one catch. The other player with more than one reception was Geoff Swaim, who only got his hands on the ball twice. Beasley finished the day with nine receptions for 101 yards and two touchdown catches. The Cowboys need other WRs to step up but in the meantime, let Beasley put the sauce on opposing defenses. Hopefully he continues to hurt defenses like he did versus the Jaguars' feared secondary.
The team still needs a guy who can be a consistent threat on the outside, though. Third-round rookie Michael Gallup could develop into that, but he isn't there yet. We'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, it's all Beasley.
Bright Future for the Defensive Line
Blake Bortles was sacked three times by the so-called "Hot Boyz" last weekend. To be quite honest, the future for this defensive line looks brightest than it ever has. The return of Maliek Collins and David Irving to the field were desperately needed for this defense to take the next step. Collins and Irving were somewhat limited, but their snap counts will surely increase as the season continues.
A lot of little details went into this sack from Maliek Collins. From his alignment pre-snap to his timing on the spin, it was a beautiful display of rushing the passer by @SavageSevv. https://t.co/CYcfLH6AfB
Randy Gregory also got limited snaps versus the Jaguars, but he was able to make an impact either way. He finished the day with one sack, two hits and one QB hurry. I can't wait until these guys' snaps increase. This should be a very scary unit for opposing quarterbacks.
Dak Prescott's Stats Don't Reflect His Performance
The Jaguars are the best defense this team has faced and yet it's been the offense's best performance. Dak Prescott's passing stats may not look great, but his play was. Even though he failed to cross the 200 yard mark on the air, he rushed for 82 yards and kept Jacksonville's defense honest. Dak has faced a lot of criticism this year and will likely continue to do so.
Even still, we've seen him ball out on various occasions now. Dak can play. He may not be an elite passer, in fact he's far from being that, but he can make this offense work if they play to his strengths.
We've heard players talk about "turning the corner" in Dallas. Cowboys Nation should hope that is the case. What's more frustrating than watching an offense being unable to move the chains and score touchdowns, is knowing they could do it with a better execution and play-calling. Thanks to players like Dak, Ezekiel Elliott and Cole Beasley, there's a silver lining for the Cowboys' offense.
Inconsistency is the Problem for Cowboys
Simply put, this is not the team we had witnessed in the first five weeks of the season. Even in the two prior wins this year, the Dallas Cowboys had not looked dominant at all. Specifically the offense. They hadn't faced a defense as tough as the Jaguars', but they were able to drop 40 on them. Now granted, they did it with the help of the defense, but still. We hadn't seen this version of the Cowboys.
Even with a 40-7 win over the Jaguars, it is tough to imagine Dallas will keep this up as the season continues. Hopefully, they do and I'm wrong about this. They need to be more consistent if they want to end up surprising the NFC East and walk away with the division title.
Although they got the big win, they still left points on the field and fail to execute for touchdowns in the second half. Even when the defense forced turnovers. In close games, this cost you wins in the NFL. The Cowboys can't afford to lose many more games, even in a weak division.
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