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Cowboys Training Camp: 5 Players To Watch In 2017

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Training Camp: 5 Players To Watch In 2017

The Dallas Cowboys training camp is officially underway, which means the start of the 2017 season is just around the corner. There are definitely no shortage of storylines or specific players to keep a watchful eye on. Everyone has their own opinions about who they want to follow throughout the Cowboys training camp, but I wanted to share with all of you the top five I will be paying close attention to and why I chose these specific players.

I personally didn't have a hard time narrowing it down to just five, but there are numerous other players I could have listed instead. I decided to specifically target the ones who could play a large/important role for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017. All five of these players listed below could end up being key to success this season or one of the reasons why the team doesn't meet expectations.

Jaylon SmithJaylon Smith, LB

How could you create a list of players to watch throughout the Dallas Cowboys training camp and not list second-your linebacker Jaylon Smith? It doesn't really matter if you're a Dallas Cowboys fan or not, you're rooting for this guy to return from a serious knee injury and compete at a high level.

I fully expect the Dallas Cowboys coaching/training staff to take things slowly with Smith throughout the Cowboys training camp, which will make every single rep he takes in practice even more important. Everybody certainly has high hopes Smith can return to his pre-injury form, but he still has some obstacles to overcome in order to reach that point and training camp is just the next steppingstone.

Chidobe AwuzieChidobe Awuzie, CB

The Dallas Cowboys pretty much completely overhauled the secondary during the off-season and nearly everyone will be watching to see how the new look defensive backs perform. The Cowboys training camp will be the first chance a lot of us will get to see some of these players in person and I personally can't wait to see how Chidobe Awuzie looks when the pads come on.

Awuzie's versatility to play different positions in the secondary is another reason I'll be watching him closely. It could help determine what kind of role he plays on defense in 2017. If he can hold his own against the Cowboys talented WRs, he should be just fine against anybody else he might have to cover when the season gets underway.

DE, Taco CharltonTaco Charlton, DE

The Dallas Cowboys were in desperate need of upgrading their pass rush after the completion of the 2016 season. They tried to address one of their biggest weaknesses in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft with the selection of Taco Charlton.

Charlton certainly looks the part of an NFL defensive end and played at a powerhouse collegiate program at Michigan. He will be given every opportunity to earn a large role in 2017 and hopefully help give opposing QBs nightmares. That is why everyone will watch him closely throughout training camp.

La'el CollinsLa'el Collins, RT

I don't know about you, but I will personally be paying extra close attention to La'el Collins and how he performs now that he switched from left guard to right tackle. I'm really not a big fan of the move because I believe he has All-Pro potential as a left guard, but the coaching staff obviously knows a lot more than I do.

What I will be watching most about Collins and his position change is how he moves out in space. This is one of the reasons I believe he is better on the inside as an OG. I think his skill set is best utilized when he's playing in a phone booth. He can use his strength, speed, and agility to get the better of defensive tackles, much like Zack Martin is able to do. I just don't know how well that will transition out in space.

OG Jonathan Cooper

(James D. Smith via AP)

Joe Looney & Jonathan Cooper, LG

Okay, this is more about the left guard position than the players, but I have a huge concern about the Cowboys current options. I think both Joe Looney and Jonathan Cooper are probably the favorites to win the LG position, but both are probably a downgrade from Ronald Leary.

Cooper hasn't been able to remain healthy or live up to his first-round pedigree since entering the NFL. Looney on the other hand is probably best suited as a backup instead of a starter. I will be paying particularly close attention to how these players perform in training camp and preseason. I honestly believe the Cowboys should look for outside help, which is why I think signing Orlando Franklin should be a priority.

Who will you be watching throughout 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.

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6 Comments
  • StillHateTheGiants

    I like your key players and would also add Chaz Green to the mix. I am also concerned about LG, if he could make that transition AND stay on the field the OL could be solid all the way across.

    • Brian Martin

      I honestly thought that Chaz Green would end up being a swing tackle. I’m actually little surprise that he’s getting a shot at LG.

    • John Williams

      I agree. Green seems to be holding his own so far in camp at LG and made improvements from Minicamp, according to Bryan Broaddus. There is definitely more incentive for Green to win the job. He has the higher investment being a third round pick. If he can stay healthy, I have a feeling he wins the job.

      • Brian Martin

        Hopefully, Green can stay healthy for an entire season. I think the starting five of Smith, Green, Frederick, Martin, and Collins is the best unit the Cowboys can put on the field. Although, I still prefer Green as the RT and Collins as the LG, but I’m willing to trust in the coaching staff.

  • John Williams

    I’ll add some honorable mentions to your list.

    Rico Gathers, Damontre Moore, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, Ryan Switzer, Charles Tapper.

    So much intrigue this year with a ton of guys who have a lot of potential to help the team in their first year with the team.

    • Brian Martin

      John, you’re right. There are so many intriguing players to watch throughout training camp and preseason it makes it a little difficult to narrow it down. Things are just getting started, but it’s already been really interesting.

Dallas Cowboys

Earl Thomas: Age is Just a Number Part II

John Williams

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Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de Earl Thomas, la NFL Sigue Equivocándose
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Yesterday, I wrote a piece attempting to assuage the fears that many in Cowboys Nation have about handing a contract extension out to Earl Thomas, who is 29 years old as we enter the 2018 NFL season.

In the comment section, a reader posed a very good question that is the basis for the rest of this article:

Earl Thomas Comparisons at age 29 and Beyond

It's a great question that certainly required some research, but Cowboys fans all across the world should be encouraged by my findings.

Just to refresh, here are the players we looked at as favorable comparisons to Earl Thomas at this point in his career. I searched Pro Football Reference for safeties who had at least three All-Pro First Team selections and at least six Pro Bowl appearances.

Considering an Earl Thomas Extension, Age is just a Number

The average age of the players listed at the time when they reached their third All-Pro was 31 years old. I'm removing Deion Sanders and Roger Wehrli from the equation as most of their work was done at cornerback.

Let's look at a chart that outlines what these guys careers looked like at age 29 and beyond to get a better picture. Remember, Earl Thomas already has three All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowls. Many of these guys didn't reach those kind of accolades until their 30s.

Earl Thomas Comparisons at age 29 and Beyond 1

Click image to view at full size.

The first thing I noticed as I looked into this question is that only two players had three or more All-Pro First Team selections prior to age 29, like Earl Thomas has. Those players were Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott. Every other player on this list didn't hit their third All-Pro selection until age 29 or later.

Only one player reached his sixth Pro Bowl prior to his age 29 season, that player is Ronnie Lott, who many NFL Analysts consider to be the greatest safety of all-time. Most of the players didn't achieve their third All-Pro selection until their age 29 season or later. Earl Thomas reached his third All-Pro selection at age 25.

Here's a hot take for you: Earl Thomas, when it's all said and done could be considered the greatest safety of all-time.  I'll just leave that there to marinate and if a trade does happen, we'll come back to that.

Back to the chart.

Another thing I want to point out is that none of these players were 100% healthy. Such is the life in the NFL, especially as you get older, but they were available for at least 14 games a majority of their seasons aged 29 or later. Health is an unpredictable animal in the NFL, but the safety position allows for much more longevity than many other positions. And as the chart depicts, it's a position that ages well.

So, as you can see in the chart, players who were highly productive prior to their age 29 season were also highly productive for several seasons after. These players went onto average almost seven more years in the league from their age 29 seasons.

Most players continued to average a healthy amount of interceptions. The player that saw the biggest decline from the early part of his career to the post-29 part of his career was Brian Dawkins. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos safety went from three interceptions per season prior to 29 to 1.9 interceptions per season 29 and after.

When it comes to the safety position, the elite seem to be able to get the most of their bodies and their abilities and can prolong their prime. The position relies as much on intelligence and awareness as it does quickness and athleticism. Earl Thomas has the mental capacity to play the game for many more years and there's been zero evidence to suggest that he is experiencing any physical decline.

At the rate of his career that he's on, Earl Thomas is destined for the Hall of Fame. He's one of the faces of the Legion of Boom defense that propelled the Seattle Seahawks into the elite category of teams in the early part of this decade.

If and when an Earl Thomas trade does occur, don't sweat an extension for Thomas.

Thomas' credentials put him in an elite group of players who played the game for a very long time and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys aren't that far off from having a Super Bowl contending defense built in the image of the Seattle Seahawks. Going to get the All-Pro, future Hall of Fame safety is the final piece to the to the Dallas Cowboys completing construction on "Doomsday III." 

Everything else is there for the Dallas Cowboys, now all they have to do is: Go. Get. Earl!



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Dallas Cowboys

Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPN

John Williams

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A Fully Focused Ezekiel Elliott can Carry the Cowboys into 2018 Playoffs 2
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN has long been considered "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," and for a long time that title was justified. If you wanted your national sports news, where did you turn to but the cable sports channel to watch that day's episode of SportsCenter. But over the last few years, it's become more and more clear that it's "The Worldwide Leader" in name only.

The ratings are dropping and the network has had to make a lot of business decisions as it relates to much of their on-air talent over the last several years. With their latest under 25 starting 22 -- ahem, troll job -- they seem to have finally come to terms that they are basically First Take.

Noah Brown put it best in his reaction to the ESPN "Insider" voting that led to Saquon Barkley being named to the starting 22 ahead of Ezekiel Elliott. Brown, Elliott's teammate when both were at Ohio State University, came to his defense upon seeing the list.

Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPNAnd here is the ESPN list:

SportsCenter on Twitter

43 of our NFL Insiders voted. Here's their best starting roster under the age of 25.

I'm sure there could be debates about different positions on the squad. Personally, quarterback is one where an argument could be made for Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott over DeShaun Watson, but that's for another time.

But to have a rookie, who has never played a down in the NFL ahead of the NFL's league leader in rushing for 2016, Ezekiel Elliott, is laughable.

Ridiculous.

Shameful even.

The fact that they had 43, again I use the quotations, "Insiders" vote on this and Ezekiel Elliott wasn't listed as one of the two running backs just shows you how far they've come as a network.

Let's remember that Ezekiel Elliott has averaged a touchdown a game -- receiving and rushing -- in his 25-game career. No running back has more rushing yards than Elliott does over the last two years, including 2017 league rushing leader, Kareem Hunt. No running back has more rushing touchdowns than Elliott's 22 rushing TDs.

Ezekiel Elliott's yards per carry is a healthy 4.63. Todd Gurley sits at 3.93. No player with more than 1,800 rushing yards over the last two years has a better yards per attempt than Ezekiel Elliott.

I get that you'd vote Todd Gurley in there, but to not have Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the game's best running back on your Under 25 starting 22 just makes you look like Skip Bayless or Stephen A. Smith. Not a sports journalism entity worthy of people throwing money at for "Insider" access.

I won't say that I never or will never watch ESPN, because where else am I gonna go for Monday Night Football, Todd Archer, or the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships? When I'm at my father-in-law's, I'll watch SportsCenter first thing in the morning, because it will be on and you don't change another man's television.

"The Worldwide Leader," however, loses credibility when they promote a list like this that has such a glaring omission.

Perhaps, maybe the goal wasn't to put out an accurate list. Maybe the goal was to get us talking about their list, just like when NFL Network releases their Top 100 players list. Like they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

This troll job from ESPN has certainly gotten them some publicity, or should I say, notoriety.



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Player News

Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp

Sean Martin

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Will the Dallas Cowboys "Get Lucky" at Defensive End?

The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.

From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.

Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.

They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.

Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

https://t.co/za0u3lWgaY

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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