The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, but there is another important event kicking off today that should have all Dallas Cowboys fans at least a little bit excited, rookie minicamp. This will be our first glimpse of all the incoming rookies (both drafted and undrafted), plus a few veterans who are allowed to participate.
Rookie minicamp runs all through the weekend and closes out Sunday afternoon. This will be the first chance for many of these players to make a good first impression and show the coaching staff exactly what they have to offer to the team.
The Dallas Cowboys have one of the deepest rosters they have had in recent memory, but that doesn't mean there are not a few roster spots open for the taking. Several of these participants will be vying for some of these starting positions, which makes this weekend all the more important for them.
Below are the top five players I will be paying extra close attention to throughout the Dallas Cowboys rookie minicamp.
5. Ryan Switzer, WR
The first player I will personally be paying close attention to is the former North Carolina Tar Heel's wide receiver, Ryan Switzer.
At 5'10", Switzer is one of the smaller receivers on the Cowboys roster and has already been compared to fan favorite, Cole Beasley. Fitting right, since he is another small/shifty (white) WR?
Switzer was somewhat of a head scratching draft pick by the Cowboys, but they clearly have an idea of how to get him involved early in his rookie season in the NFL. He will most likely become the Cowboys main return man on special teams, but it wouldn't completely be out of the question to see him heavily involved on offense as well.
Switzer is an explosive player with the ball in his hands, which made him one of the best return men in the 2017 draft class. I'm sure he will get plenty of work fielding punts and kickoffs this weekend, but I will also be interested in seeing if he lines up strictly in the slot or if he gets work on the outside as well.
4. Chidobe Awuzie, CB
Out of all of the players on this list to watch this weekend at the Cowboys rookie minicamp, Chidobe Awuzie probably has the best chance to earn a starting role on defense in 2017.
Now, Awuzie will miss the first day of minicamp so that he can attend his graduation at Colorado, but that's all the more reason to follow his progress the rest of the weekend.
Awuzie's versatility will allow the Cowboys to utilize his skill set at any position in the secondary, but I expect him to lock down one of the starting cornerback positions in 2017. He has the size and length to play on the outside and is a fearless tackler in the run game.
There is a lot of influx of youth in the Cowboys secondary, which is why I will be paying close attention to how the coaching staff employs Awuzie and the other rookie CBs this weekend. That could possibly indicate who fits where.
I'm really looking forward to seeing how he matches up against Ryan Switzer and hopefully Rico Gathers. That will be something to see.
3. Taco Charlton, DE
More than likely you either loved or hated the Dallas Cowboys selection of Taco Charlton with their first-round draft pick. I personally like Charlton's game film, but I'm anxious to see how the coaching staff plans to use him in 2017.
Charlton's size and length would suggest that he would be a better fit as a left side defensive end, but that's a spot DeMarcus Lawrence currently holds down. Of course, the Cowboys could line him up at several positions, much like he was used during his time at Michigan.
He played up and down the defensive line at Michigan and it's that kind of versatility defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli loves in his players. It doesn't really matter where he lines up, because there are already high expectations for him to come in and help improve the pass rush for the Cowboys defense.
I'm really anxious to see what kind of first impression he can make this weekend and if he will be one of the standouts during the entirety of rookie minicamp. That may be a little difficult to do without pads on, but first impressions can go a long way quieting his doubters.
2. Charles Tapper DE
Charles Tapper's rookie season was wiped out after being diagnosed with a pars defect condition in his back during training camp. Since his first year in the NFL qualified as a "redshirt" season, he is eligible to participate in this weekend's rookie minicamp.
You may have forgotten, but Tapper was the first of the Cowboys fourth-round draft picks, the other being QB Dak Prescott. Tapper may never live up to what Prescott has already achieved the NFL, but he should be able to become a valuable piece on the defensive side of the ball.
I nearly put him as the top player I will be watching this weekend because I thought he would compete for the starting RDE position last season, but I have tempered my expectation due to his back injury.
Tapper might just be the most athletically gifted DE the Cowboys currently have on the roster, but he will have to prove he can be depended on, despite his problematic back. This weekend marks the first chance he has to catch the coaching staff's eye before the rest the team gets together at training camp.
He already has the advantage of knowing the defensive scheme, so he should look like the best player out of all of the participants this weekend at the Cowboys rookie minicamp.
1. Rico Gathers TE
It may not be all that surprising, but tight end Rico Gathers is the player I'm most looking forward to watching this weekend at the Cowboys rookie minicamp.
Gathers spent his rookie season on the Cowboys practice, but word is he quickly became Tony Romo's favorite target and together they gave the starting defense more than they could handle.
Gathers will have to prove he has developed to the point he is worthy of claiming a roster spot, but a year on the practice squad was probably invaluable. Like Charles Tapper, he has the advantage of a year in the Cowboys playbook and should look like a man among boys this weekend, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
With Jason Witten's career likely winding down, all eyes will be on Rico Gathers to see if he is the future starting TE for the Dallas Cowboys. This weekend could be an indication of what we can expect from Gathers in 2017 and for years to come.
Which players will you be focusing on at the Cowboys rookie minicamp?
Cowboys Defense is Ready to Win Now, Time for Offense to Prove the Same
The Dallas Cowboys lead the NFC East at 1-1, and have a favorable schedule ahead of them. With such an inexperienced roster, early season growing pains were expected, and likely should be still as the team comes off their first win to play in Seattle on Sunday.
Through a season opening clunker in Carolina and hard-earned divisional win against the Giants, the Cowboys have exceeded already high expectations on defense.
With the currently 0-2 Seahawks, Lions, and Texans awaiting Dallas, the time is now for Scott Linehan's offense to hit their stride. It will take more than a five week assessment to determine if the Cowboys are truly playoff contenders for 2018, but it could take even less than that for Cowboys Nation to realize this team is fighting an uphill battle at QB and WR.
Following Dak Prescott's 64-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin against the Giants, the Cowboys punted on four of their remaining seven drives. The Cowboys did a better job mixing up their early down play calling to remain ahead of the chains for most of the night, but even still their execution was lacking. Finishing three of ten on third downs, the Cowboys didn't sustain the type of originality on offense that earned them an early cushion.
Thankfully, the Cowboys turning back the clock to 2016 on a clinching touchdown drive of 14 plays would be all the defense needed. Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott would both convert a pair of first downs on the ground. The Cowboys took a 20-3 lead, and more importantly the game clock down to 5:45 with an eight minute and 23 second march.
As such, the Cowboys offense is an enigma. With the return of Brice Butler, the team is currently carrying seven wide receivers and four tight ends.
On defense, the Cowboys are expecting reinforcements in Xavier Woods, Randy Gregory, and David Irving to further bolster this aggressive, blitzing unit in the coming weeks. For the offense, Dallas must make the most out of the unknown depth they have, without any drastic change in style around the corner.
The Cowboys record under Prescott proves they're at their best when Dak is efficient. The ceiling for a new-look Cowboys offense built for Dak is not as high for this reason. Through just two weeks, it's clear that the Cowboys offense will be as good as the sum of its parts - instead of relying on any individual talents.
Cowboys' record when Dak Prescott ... Doesn't throw an interception: 20-4 Records at least a 100.0 passer rating: 15-1 Commits no turnovers: 18-1
After a strong preseason from rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup, the third-round pick has played less than half his team's offensive snaps through two games. Cole Beasley has seemed to regain his connection with Prescott, snagging a team high nine catches so far. Terrance Williams has been a non-factor, and the same is surprisingly said about FA acquisition Allen Hurns.
Regardless of what the Cowboys do over the coming weeks, a few narratives and lingering questions about the team feel evident. With the defense set to tee off against the Seahawks sub par OL this week, Rod Marinelli's unit will still likely not receive the credit it deserves heading into week four.
With the task at hand being maintaining their standing atop the division, the Cowboys must also be out to prove they can sustain success without a consistent passing game.
All of this to effectively say, the Cowboys are going to Seattle expecting to control the game on defense. To finish off Russell Wilson in his home opener (already at 0-2), it will take a sharper performance for a full four quarters on offense too.
A win at the Seahawks might not mean as much as it has in past seasons, but in improving the Cowboys record to 2-1 on the way back to AT&T Stadium, it could be all the confidence they need to understand the NFC East is theirs for the taking while continuing to truly find their identity.
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Cowboys Defense So Far So Good as Seahawks Up Next
Dallas may only be 1-1 on the season, but the Cowboys are officially tied for first-place in the NFC East, and fresh off a workmanlike victory over divisional rivals, the New York Giants. It was a game they should have won, and did win, but the takeaways so early in the season are that, although the offense has not clicked on all cylinders, the defense is getting high praise.
The Cowboys sacked New York’s Eli Manning six times and limited the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Saquon Barkley, to a mere 28 yards rushing. It was also a night in which Dak Prescott not only out-gained Barkley by 17 yards on the ground, but torched the Giants’ secondary on a 64-yard touchdown strike to Tavon Austin which proved New York’s Safety Landon Collins wrong when leading up to this game he remarked that the key to a Giants’ victory would be getting Prescott to throw. When Prescott was made aware of the comment in a midweek interview he replied, "…challenge accepted," and the third-year veteran made good on his word leading to the 20-13 victory.
However, Prescott ended the night with just 160 yards passing yet the ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 showed no signs of rearing its head as Prescott moved seamlessly in the pocket and ran the ball well.
As we move ahead to the Cowboys meeting in Seattle, we take a quick check over to one of the most reputable online sportsbooks in the industry - Intertops according to the reviews - where we can monitor the line on this pivotal NFC clash as the week progresses.
Seattle boasts a talented quarterback of their own in Russell Wilson but one who will find the sledding tough if the Dallas defense continues to shut down All-World wide outs like Odell Beckham Jr. and contain future rushing stars like Saquon Barkley. Outside of Wilson, Seattle is not loaded offensively, with their biggest target, Doug Baldwin, ailing with a knee injury and a backfield which consists of two young rushers in second-year man Chris Carson and a first-round rookie in Rashaad Penny who dealt with nagging injuries throughout the preseason and looked unsettled in Seattle’s 27-24 loss to the Broncos.
The Cowboys defense has already proven its worth in Carolina with Cam Newton under center and again last week against New York. The unit is surrendering an average of 14 ½ points per game and is incorporating more blitz packages than we’ve come to expect.
The difference this year is that the players they have on defense are capable of getting to the quarterback quick enough so that the coverage linebackers and secondary aren’t alone on an island for too long. The one concern is the status of Linebacker Sean Lee, who checked out of the game in the fourth quarter Sunday night and brought to mind his hamstring issues of a year ago, but apparently it was in fact cramping, and not straining, of the hammy which allowed Lee to return.
The bottom line in terms of the Cowboys' upcoming matchup on Sunday afternoon is that they will get the Seahawks coming off a short week, as Seattle played on Monday night and should be relatively healthy for the contest.
Dak Prescott may not have the formidable offensive line that he has had in the past, nor a top-tier arsenal of receivers, but he does have the elusive Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and is capable of extricating himself from pressure situations when no target is available.
If the Dallas defense continues to play at the current level, it will not only be limiting the opposition on the scoreboard but putting its offense in good field position throughout. So check out Intertops, one of the most trusted and reputable online sportsbooks, to see where this line goes because a Dallas win and an ATS cover are just days away.
Taco Tuesday: Cowboys DE Taco Charlton Starting to Dominate?
There has been quite a bit of talk about what a bad decision it was for the Dallas Cowboys to draft Taco Charlton with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Nearly everybody wanted someone different, not a player that needed time to develop.
Well, fast forward a year later and it looks as if the Cowboys made the right decision.
Don't look now, but Defensive End Taco Charlton is starting to live up to that first-round pedigree. In the first two weeks of the 2018 season, Charlton has already looked like a much improved player from what we saw a season ago. Imagine that, a little bit of time to develop and he's turning into a solid player.
I know I may be getting a little bit ahead of myself, especially suggesting that he is starting to dominate, but I can't help myself. I'm that excited about how much he has improved in one offseason. I may be alone here, but I have high hopes he could turn into something special.
In 2017, Taco Charlton failed to start a single game for the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie. That's not really what you want from your first-round draft pick. To makes matters worse, in 16 games he only registered 25 total tackles, four QB sacks, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble. As you can imagine, it didn't sit well with most Cowboys fans.
Luckily, it looks as if Charlton's offseason in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program has paid off. Already in 2018 he has accumulated six total tackles, one QB sack, one pass defensed, and recovered a fumble. If he keeps this pace up, we could be looking at #97 reaching double-digit sacks this year.
Now, I wouldn't call what Taco Charlton has accomplished so far this season dominating, but he is proving to be a starting quality DE along the Cowboys defensive line. It's a unit that has looked really good in the first two weeks of the season and is expected to be even better once Randy Gregory and David Irving are able to return to the field.
In the meantime, the Dallas Cowboys are happy to get plays like this from Taco Charlton.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
This is a play Charlton is expected to make. He was left unblocked, but we've seen players left unblocked before not make the play. So, it may not be as impressive as some QB sacks. But, I'll take the routine tackle any day over someone trying to make a splash play and failing.
If you're looking for an impressive play from Taco Charlton, take a look at what he was able to do against Odell Beckham Jr. in the passing game.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
In case you're wondering, that's Taco Charlton in OBJ's hip pocket 15 yards down the field in pass coverage. It looks as if that's where Eli Manning was wanting to go with the ball, but tight coverage by the Cowboys, and Charlton, across the board ended up resulting in a QB sack.
If you don't find that impressive, I don't know what will. A 275 pound DE covering arguably the best and highest paid wide receiver down the field is almost unheard of. I would count that as impressive.
What do you think of Taco Charlton's play so far in 2018?
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