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Cowboys Training Camp: Underrated Players Who Could Shine

Brian Martin

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4 Underrated Cowboys Players Who Could Shine at Training Camp
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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

Blake Jarwin

Dallas Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin (Kevin Terrell via AP)

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

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR 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

Darius Jackson

Dallas Cowboys RB 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

Jihad Ward

Dallas Cowboys DT 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

Justin March-Lillard

Dallas Cowboys LB 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?



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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3 Comments
  • Nick Russo

    Very well written and I think you make great points about the players listed. I agree for the most part with your list. I think that by the end of the season we will see jarwin and Schultz as the 2 TEs. I’d love to see Rico turn into a red zone threat for us, but it sounds as if he’s still struggling to make the jump. At RB I was a huge fan of Darius Jackson during training camp and preseason and didn’t think we should have cut him for McFadden. I’m now a huge rod smith fan and while I think Jackson is very talented, I’m not sure where he fits in with smith being established, tavon Austin getting touches out of the backfield and even Bo Scarborough, who is a physical specimen at RB. Reading about how well JML has been doing this offseason gives me a lot of confidence at LB. With Lee, Jaylon, and LVE starting, I love the thought of Damien Wilson, JML, and maybe Covington being depth/ST players. The front office has done a great job over the last few years to create depth at all levels on this team. I think we will see it pay off sooner than many think.

  • Chuck Wright

    Some good players listed. If even half of them provide something to theBoys, team is better.

  • Christopher Speirer

    The underrated player I will keep an eye on is Mike White. Linehan has done an outstanding job coaching up rookies the last two years and deserved a draft pick. White has the size and arm talent to turn heads this preseason. He may not contribute much this season, but Dallas may have a kid who could start for somebody someday in White. He could be an interesting bargaining chip down the road. I really don’t see Blake Jarwin being an every down tight end at any point this season. I think by mid season Shultz plays 1st and 2nd down and Jarwin is the receiving threat on 3rd down. A two headed approach is the most likely option for the team this year. I do agree that he is one player to keep an eye on in training camp though. I’m a huge fan of Noah Brown. I think there is real potential with his size and skill set. I believe he will make the roster as opposed to Lenior, if for no other reason, he would get plucked pretty quickly if he was relegated to the practice squad. Darius Jackson only makes the team if Bo Scarborough struggles with the zone blocking scheme.

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ESPN Proposes Trade Offer To Bring Earl Thomas To Dallas

Kevin Brady

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Are the Dallas Cowboys Done Pursuing FS Earl Thomas?

Of the many stories which have circled throughout the NFL offseason, none has dominated the Dallas Cowboys news cycle quite like trade rumors for Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas.

Thomas, who followed Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett into the Dallas locker room following their 2017 match up, has made it very clear that he is looking for a fresh start. Or, at the very least, a new contract with the Seahawks as he holds out of offseason activities.

The Cowboys seemingly have a hole at safety, though many have grown to believe second year player Xavier Woods will fill that hole admirably. Earl Thomas is the best centerfielder in the entire league, and if anyone is worth a new contract you can argue it would be Thomas.

So what would the Cowboys have to do to bring Earl Thomas to Dallas?

Well, it's very unlikely that any of this will become a reality for the Cowboys at all, but ESPN's Todd Archer recently proposed a trade offer which could net the Cowboys Earl Thomas.

"Trade offer to Seahawks: 2019 third-round pick, 2020 fourth-round pick

Length and value of extension for Thomas: Five years for $62.5 million
Full guarantee at signing: $25 million
Total guarantee: $31 million" - Todd Archer

Personally, I see no issue with the Cowboys giving up those draft picks to bring in a player of Earl Thomas' caliber. Where this becomes a question, however, is if the Cowboys should be willing to sign an aging veteran long term.

Typically, good cap management would suggest that they should not, but Thomas fits the mold of a rare breed in the NFL. Free safeties would can play single high and cover the field sideline to sideline don't come along very often, and when you can add one to your roster, you usually should.

Being able to play cover 1 with Thomas manning the middle of the field would allow any defense to operate at their best ability, as it has in Seattle over the years. The Cowboys seem to have been adding the cornerbacks necessary to build their own "Legion of Boom," and Earl Thomas could be the final missing piece.

So what do you think about the proposed trade offer from Todd Archer? How would you feel about signing a player long-term when they will be in their 30's for much of their contract? Let us know how you feel in the comment section.



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Who Will Start Opposite DeMarcus Lawrence at DE in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: DE #90 DeMarcus Lawrence 1

The Dallas Cowboys have more depth at the defensive end position than any time in recent memory. That's a good thing by the way. The only thing we really know about the Cowboys DEs right now is that DeMarcus Lawrence will start on the left side, but who starts opposite him in 2018 is completely up in the air.

The Dallas Cowboys have no shortage of candidates this season to start opposite Lawrence on the right side. It's a good problem to have, but someone's going to have to separate themselves from the pack if they want to earn that honor.

This of course will be an important position battle to watch once training camp gets underway. D-Law will without a doubt receive a lot of extra attention this season and for good reason. Someone needs to be able to take advantage of that on the opposite side, but who will it be?

I've decided to list the candidates in descending order to share with you who I would choose to start opposite DeMarcus Lawrence this season. Please for free to use the comment section at the end of the article to share any thoughts and opinions you may have on this topic.

Dorance Armstrong Jr.

Dorance Armstrong Jr.

Dallas Cowboys DE Dorance Lawrence Jr.

Out of all of the Dallas Cowboys defensive ends, Dorance Armstrong Jr. is the most similar to DeMarcus Lawrence when it comes to size and athletic ability. If you were to look up their measurable's and combine results, you would find out that they are nearly identical.

Now, Armstrong may look the part and have the same kind of athletic ability as Lawrence, but I think we can all agree it would be a huge leap for him to start as a rookie. I think the best we can hope from him his first year in the NFL is to become a good rotational DE and a top special-teams performer.

Randy Gregory

Randy Gregory

Dallas Cowboys DE Randy Gregory

Randy Gregory might be the most physically gifted defensive end on the entire Dallas Cowboys roster. If not for his off the field problems, he probably would've been drafted in the top 10 and already established himself as one of the best pure pass rushers in the NFL. But, we all know that's not the case.

If/when Gregory gets reinstated to the league, he could play a big role for the Cowboys defense. I don't personally think he will be ready to start since he's been away from the game so long, but he could be a really good pass rush specialist. I think it would be too much to expect for him to start opposite DeMarcus Lawrence this season.

Charles Tapper

Charles Tapper

Dallas Cowboys DE Charles Tapper

I don't know about you, but I really want to see what Charles Tapper can do when given an opportunity. He has the skill set to become a starting defensive end in the NFL, but just can't stay healthy enough to prove it.

Tapper unfortunately is fighting an uphill battle to make the final 53-man roster. The Cowboys depth at the DE position could make him the odd man out when all is said and done. But, if he can stay healthy throughout training camp and preseason, he has a chance to create a role for himself, although probably not as a starter.

Taco Charlton

Taco Charlton

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

I think we can all agree that Taco Charlton didn't really live up to his first-round draft status last year, but he did continue to progress as a player as the season went on. He has all of the physical tools you look for in a starting defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, but physical gifts will only get you so far.

If Charlton can pick up where he left off last year, he could be in the running to compete for the starting gig opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. It's not completely unthinkable that such a thing can happen, but he's really going to have to set himself apart from the other DEs. I think that might just be a little too much to ask of him right now, but at least he's continuing to show that he's developing.

Tyrone Crawford

Tyrone Crawford

Dallas Cowboys DE/DT Tyrone Crawford

Despite a lot of fans dislike for Tyrone Crawford, he has been one of the better defensive end/tackles the Dallas Cowboys have had these past several seasons. His ability to play all along the defensive line has been pretty valuable, even though he hasn't really lived up to his contract.

If I were to guess right now, I would pencil in Tyrone Crawford as the starter playing opposite DeMarcus Lawrence when the 2018 season gets underway. He has the coaching staffs trust and that can't be overlooked. He is better playing against the run then he has as a pass rusher, but he's no slouch either.

Kony Ealy

Kony Ealy

Dallas Cowboys DE Kony Ealy (AP Photo/Michael Noble Jr, File.)

Although there hasn't been a lot of talk about Kony Ealy so far since he's joined the Cowboys, he could be the defensive end to start opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. The Dallas Cowboys have tried to acquire him more than once, so you know there is an interest/infatuation with the player.

Ealy has bounced around a few teams in his young career, but all it takes is finding the right fit to finally live up to your potential and flourish. I think he could be the perfect fit in Rod Marinelli's 4-3 defensive scheme. I believe he might be the only player who could steal the starting gig away from Tyrone Crawford right now.

Who do you think starts opposite DeMarcus Lawrence in 2018?



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Does DT David Irving Have a Future With the Cowboys?

Brian Martin

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Does DT David Irving Have a Future With Cowboys?
Albert Pena/CSM/REX/Shutter

The 2018 season was supposed to be a big one for Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle David Irving. It was supposed to be the year he would finally put everything together both on and off the field. Unfortunately, that's not what will happen and he will once again miss the first four games of the season due to a suspension.

Just like in 2017, David Irving will miss the first four games of the 2018 season this year because he violated the substance abuse policy once again. It's definitely not the way he probably would've liked to start off the season, especially since it's a contract year. But, it is what it is now.

It wasn't all that long ago that David Irving was performing like one of the best defensive tackles in the entire NFL. He absolutely dominated last season and ranked right up there at the top in quarterback sacks amongst the defensive tackles. He finished with seven QB sacks in just eight games. That's nearly a sack a game.

There is no denying how talented David Irving is and how he can impact a game when he's on the field. Unfortunately, it's the off the field stuff that has probably kept him from receiving a long-term contract from the Dallas Cowboys so far. This latest incident might have shut that door completely.

David Irving

Dallas Cowboys DT David Irving

Quite a few Dallas Cowboys fans, including myself, thought the organization made a mistake by placing just a second-round tender on David Irving this offseason. A lot of us believed some other team would jump at the chance of surrendering a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to secure his services. Surprisingly enough though, that didn't happen.

The Cowboys gamble paid off and David Irving will once again be a member of the team this season. But, beyond that his chances of sticking around doesn't look too good.

David Irving has become his own worst enemy. On the field he is one of the best pass rushing defensive tackles in the entire NFL. His name could be mentioned in the same breath as the Los Angeles Rams Pro-Bowl DT Aaron Donald, who should break the bank as soon as he receives his next contract.

I don't think it's a stretch to put Irving in the same company as Aaron Donald. He's that good when he's on the field and might just be a little bit more versatile. The sad thing is he can't be trusted, which will hurt negotiations when looking to sign a long-term contract after the 2018 season.

Teams know Irving can't really be relied upon to play an entire season. The Cowboys after all have given him every chance to prove himself, but time and time again he has let them down. This latest suspension might be the last straw.

It's one thing to keep a talented player around when they aren't costing a lot of money. But, it's another when you're investing big money in someone you can't fully trust. After all, actions speak louder than words. That could be why the Cowboys risked placing the second-round tender on Irving in the first place.

I personally have a hard time seeing David Irving sticking around after the 2018 season. I'm not against it, but there are more proven players who need to be locked up long-term and they don't come with the same kind of risk. Irving's future with the Cowboys doesn't look too good in my opinion.

Would you be on board with the Cowboys signing David Irving long-term?



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