I realize the Dallas Cowboys are currently involved in their last mini-camp, but it really means next to nothing to me. The real action is still nearly a month away when the Cowboys training camp gets underway. That is when we will see how the coaching staff decides to put this team together for the 2018 season.
A lot of people want to focus on the "big name" players and how they are progressing, but I like to see how the underrated one's play. We usually classify these players as "camp standouts", but sometimes they are actually able to carry that momentum into the season, which is what happened last year with running back Rod Smith.
These are the kind of players I want to talk about. Who is going to be this year's Rod Smith? If he wouldn't have played well in the Cowboys training camp last year, he never would have received the opportunity to prove himself in an actual NFL game. Below is a list of underrated players I think could shine in training camp this year like Smith.
Tight End, Blake Jarwin
All eyes will be on the tight end position throughout the Dallas Cowboys training camp and rightfully so. Someone is going to have to replace Jason Witten's production now, but there really isn't anyone who is standing out from the rest so far. But, Blake Jarwin has supposedly looked pretty good already in these early offseason practices.
Blake Jarwin is still flying under the radar and is kind of an afterthought behind Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers, and Dalton Schultz, but I don't think that will last long. Jarwin has a little bit of game experience since he was called up from the practice squad last season, but making the jump from backup to starter would be quite a feat to accomplish.
I believe Jarwin has a chance to become the "complete" TE the Dallas Cowboys are looking for. He has all of the intangibles you look for in a starting TE. He is more than capable of being a reliable in-line blocker and has the athletic ability to be a threat in the passing game. I think he could possibly start to separate himself from the other TEs on the roster once training camp gets underway.
Wide Receivers, Lance Lenoir & Noah Brown
The majority of the talk surrounding the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver position usually focuses on the new additions to the group (Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Michael Gallup, and Cedrick Wilson). It's only natural to be curious about how these new WRs will fit in Dallas, but it also means current players tend to get overlooked. I believe that is exactly what is happening with Lance Lenoir and Noah Brown.
Lance Lenoir isn't quite as known as Noah Brown, but I put them together because they could be competing for the last WR spot on the 53-man roster. Both are entering their second-year in the NFL, but only Brown has played in a meaningful game. He was mostly utilized as an extra blocker and performed really well in that role.
From what I've been hearing, both players have taken advantage of the offseason and are ready to take the next step in their development. Each has a different skill set they would bring to the offense, but only one likely makes the final roster. Don't be shocked if you hear their names mentioned quite a bit once a Cowboys training camp gets underway.
Running Back, Darius Jackson
As things stand right now, it looks as if Rod Smith will be Ezekiel Elliott's primary backup when the 2018 season gets underway, but recently reacquired RB Darius Jackson could challenge for that honor. Smith has the advantage of being with the Cowboys for several years now and actually performing really well in a game, but Jackson is a freakishly athletic player.
Darius Jackson really hasn't been able to show what he can do in a meaningful game. He showed flashes as a rookie with the Cowboys, which kept him on the active roster for most of the season before eventually being cut. He was then picked up off waivers by the Cleveland Browns, but an unfortunate injury never allowed him to show what he can do. Now back in Dallas, he may get that chance.
We all know Zeke is going to handle the majority of the workload, so any scraps left over will be few and far between. The Cowboys will without a doubt give the backup RBs plenty of opportunities in training camp and preseason in order to keep Zeke fresh, but who takes advantage of the opportunity has yet to be determined. I think we could see a real battle between Rod Smith and Darius Jackson, but I believe it's Jackson who could really shine in training camp.
Defensive Tackles, Datone Jones & Jihad Ward
The Dallas Cowboys are currently more deep along the defensive line then I can personally remember. They are completely stacked at defensive tackle and defensive end, which is going to make it a little difficult to stand out once these practices get a little more serious when the pads come on. But, I think Datone Jones and Jihad Ward can do just that.
Ward has already caught the eye of the coaching staff in organized team activities (OTA's) while he has been filling in for David Irving at the three-technique. His arrow was already trending upwards, but a lot of Cowboys fans don't really know who he is. All they know is that he is who the Cowboys acquired in the Ryan Switzer trade with the Oakland Raiders.
Datone Jones is another underrated DT who the Cowboys signed late in the 2017 season. He ended up playing in the final four games and proved more than capable of being a disruptive force at the one-technique. It is a position the Cowboys could use an upgrade and Jones could be that player despite being a little undersized.
Linebacker, Justin March-Lillard
There may not be a more underrated linebacker on the Dallas Cowboys roster than Justin March-Lillard. I don't expect him to compete to be the starter in 2018 or anything like that, but I think we will hear his name mentioned quite a bit throughout the Cowboys training camp.
March-Lillard will probably get a lot of opportunities to prove what he can do once training camp gets underway. The Cowboys coaching staff will without a doubt put Sean Lee on some kind of practice pitch count in order to keep him as healthy as possible, which is good news for roster bubble LBs like March-Lillard.
All eyes will undoubtedly be on Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch because of their immense upside, but March-Lillard is someone who could make a lot of plays in training camp and preseason because of his ability to play sideline to sideline. I'm expecting him to make a name for himself. Just remember that you heard it here first.
What underrated players do you think shine at the Cowboys training camp?
Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off arguably their best and most complete offensive performance of the season after playing the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but there is still quite a bit of improvement that can be made. The need to get more playmakers involved is apparent, which is why I think it's time to utilize Fullback Jamize Olawale's unique skill set.
I know many of you will argue that getting Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup going is a higher priority, and you wouldn't be wrong, but Jamize Olawale's playmaking ability could be a huge asset for Quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense. I know it sounds a little strange, but hang in there with me for little bit.
As things stand right now, Olawale has only played 38 offensive snaps (10%) in 2018. That's the exact amount of offensive plays Wide Receiver Terrance Williams has played this year and he's missed the majority of the season. It's not exactly the kind of production I was expecting when the Cowboys decided to bring him aboard via trade with the Oakland Raiders earlier this offseason.
I don't know about you, but I was expecting Olawale to be more involved in the offensive game plan. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and isn't too shabby as a runner either. But, we haven't seen him utilized in either fashion this season and I think that's an injustice that needs to be corrected.
Now, I fully understand there are other offensive weapons ahead of him in the pecking order who need to see more targets, but I also really think he can make a difference maker, especially in the passing game. That is where his strengths lie, not as a lead blocking fullback.
Olawale was a bit of a Swiss Army knife during his time with the Oakland Raiders. He played a little running back, fullback, tight end, and even a little slot receiver. I really thought the Cowboys would take advantage of his versatility in the passing game, but as of yet they have failed to do so.
I'd like to see the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan utilize Jamize Olawale's unique playmaking ability a little bit more on offense. I think they should try to utilize him like the San Francisco 49ers use their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. He's much more involved and has played a total of 263 offensive snaps (63.68%) this year.
Juszczyk is a better lead blocking FB then Olawale, but that's not where he makes the most difference in the 49ers offense. He does it as a receiver and has already caught 17 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. That's some pretty solid production from a position that is being phased out in the NFL.
Now, just imagine the Cowboys offense getting similar production from Olawale and how that would help open up things for everybody else. It's not out of the realm of possibility because the 49ers offense and the Cowboys isn't all that dissimilar.
Unfortunately, I think Jamize Olawale is pretty much an afterthought in the Cowboys offense right now. It's truly unfortunate because I think he can be a difference maker if given the opportunity. And with a division foe like the Washington Redskins next on the schedule, what better time to unleash a new and unseen element of the offense?
Do you think Jamize Olawale needs to be more involved offensively?
Cole Beasley Key to Cowboys Passing Game Productivity?
What most of us already knew was confirmed last Sunday afternoon against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wide Receiver Cole Beasley is the Dallas Cowboys best receiver and is the key to the passing game productivity. He is not only the most productive, but the most consistent.
Cole Beasley isn't the tallest or the fastest and definitely doesn't look like a prototypical NFL receiver, but he showed last week against the Jaguars why opposing defenses have to account for him on every single play. He torched Jacksonville's top-ranked passing defense for 101 yards on nine catches and added two touchdowns, and it's that production that could help open up the entire passing game for the Cowboys.
It's painfully obvious Cole Beasley has been Dak Prescott's favorite target in the passing game since he took over the starting duties in 2016. Once opposing defenses figured that out they started to make things extremely difficult by bracketing Beasley in coverage and the passing game hasn't been the same since. But, that could be changing if the Jaguars game was an indication of what we might see moving forward.
Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan did a much better job of moving Beasley around to create favorable matchups against the Jaguars. I think we will see much more of that moving forward, but that likely means opposing defenses will once again try to take away Prescott's favorite target. That actually could end up helping the Cowboys passing game though.
If opposing defenses indeed try to contain Cole Beasley like they've done in the past, it should help provide more opportunities for Dallas' other pass catchers. Spreading the ball around to several different receivers would not only help Prescott and the passing game, but also open up the entire offense.
We haven't really seen much of Allen Hurns or Michael Gallup this season, but both are more than capable of being more productive if they are seeing single coverage more often. That's what's likely to happen if defenses bracket Beasley in coverage once again. Both WRs need to be more involved anyway and Beasley's recent spike in production could help do just that.
Now, if defenses decide to try and cover Beasley one-on-one like the Jaguars did quite a bit of last Sunday, the Cowboys would be wise to take advantage of that mismatch. He simply can't be covered by a single defensive back because of his precise route running ability. He is that good.
Regardless of how opposing defenses try to handle/contain Cole Beasley, he is without a doubt key to the Dallas Cowboys passing game productivity. Just the threat of him on the field changes a defenses approach, which is why he is Dallas' #1 WR in my book. He absolutely has to be more involved moving forward, even if it is as a decoy.
Do you think Cole Beasley is the key to the Cowboys passing game productivity?
How ‘Bout them Cowboys?! Dallas Set to Lasso Redskins in Week 7
Well, what do you think now of America’s Team? Anyone who foresaw Dallas’s evisceration of the league’s No. 1 defense hailing from Jacksonville is a downright soothsayer. In case you were in a coma this past weekend, the Cowboys obliterated the Jaguars’ vaunted defense to the tune of a 40-7 massacre in which Dak Prescott tossed for 183 yards, two passing touchdowns and ran one into the end zone for good measure. When the dust settled Prescott had chewed up 82 yards on the ground and Ezekiel Elliott surpassed the century mark in rushing with 106 yards and a touchdown of his own.
It was a glorious day to be a Cowboys fan and it’s safe to say that America’s Team is back!
Or are they?
Dallas is in a three-way logjam for the top spot in the NFC East with the Redskins and Eagles, but the way they made mincemeat of the Jacksonville defense gives us all hope that more good things are in the cards soon.
Seventh-year WR Cole Beasley blew the doors off of the Jags secondary by catching nine passes on 11 targets for a pair of touchdown receptions and 101 yards. It was a season-high for Beasley and the fact that Prescott has no real top-tier targets after the departures of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten makes it even more special.
This is a team that was not supposed to be able to move the ball through the air and, to be fair, hasn’t done much of it this season as evidenced by their 29th ranked passing game. But a little creative game planning by Head Coach Jason Garrett and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan paid dividends and the lingering specter of their heartbreaking overtime loss to the Texans in Week 5 was exorcised by the dominating victory.
What has gotten lost in the euphoria of Dallas’s week 6 win is their defense, as the Cowboys had three sacks, seven quarterback hits, and an interception by Jeff heath.
Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles was under siege and did not respond well to the pressure after establishing career highs in passing yards over the last two weeks leading up to this contest. But his opportunity to become the fifth NFL QB with three consecutive games of 375 passing yards or more evaporated in the heat of a blistering Dallas defense. Bortles ended the day with 149 yards, a TD and a pick.
As the Cowboys move on to Washington, we see that their success at home is only equaled by their struggles on the road. Dallas is now 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the highway. Buoyed off their stunning blitzkrieg of the Jags, we see that one of the most respected and trusted online sportsbooks in the industry, BetOnline has the Cowboys as 1 ½ point underdogs which is most likely a few points below what they would have been had they not won so convincingly last week.
Those who like to back up their football prognostications with cold, hard cash understand that Dallas is not only losing on the road but losing money for their backers in those contests. In those three losing games, Dallas is 0-2-1 against the spread but this week could be different. Against their divisional foes this week, Dallas is 4-0 straight up and 3-1 ATS versus Washington over the last two seasons.
The way this Cowboys defense is playing and the sudden explosion of Cole Beasley as a focal point of the passing attack, we could very easily see their first road win of the year.
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