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?
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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