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Dallas Cowboys: 5 Players To Watch At Rookie Minicamp

Brian Martin

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Dallas Cowboys: 5 Players To Watch At Rookie Minicamp

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.

WR Ryan Switzer 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.

CB Chidobe Awuzie4. 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.

Taco Charlton

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.

Charles Tapper

Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

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.

Rico Gathers

Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News

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?



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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8 Comments
  • Thomas Williams

    and I can not wait….Im looking for Tapper and Rico to dominate ! this year period long with the NEW Rookies…YESSS SIRRRR……COWBOYS 4 LIFE!!!!

    • Brian Martin

      Thomas, I can feel your excitement and I’m right there with you!

  • Travis Diggs

    Mark my words Chidobe Awuzie will be the best of this draft class This kid is special. He’s the player I’m watching

    • Brian Martin

      I really liked his game film. I hope he does turn out to be the best in the 2017 draft class.

  • EverybodyTalks

    Rico has a great underdog story. If the draft is like Christmas, then I really think Tony Romo dropped off a gift, at the Practice Squad, before he left. From the reports, he worked Rico and probably had a lot of fun doing it. When Will McClay said our 1st string defense couldn’t stop him, I wondered if that was another reason for letting go of some of those guys and keeping Gathers…lol.
    Charles Tapper is the mystery gift. He is another one I’m rooting for. I see him as another underdog, overlooked in many earlier articles about the Dallas “D”. I’m just a fan, but my gut says “watch this guy!”
    So, even though I haven’t mentioned any of our new draftees, I’m curious about these two players, Actually, three. Jaylon is my 3rd underdog…nuffsed on that one.

    • Brian Martin

      I’m really hoping Gathers and Tapper can be contributors this season, especially Tapper on defense. I really think his athletic ability can help the pass rush. The same can be said about Jaylon Smith, but both players need to prove that they are healthy enough to be relied upon.

  • John Williams

    There’s about 10 players I’m looking forward to seeing in training camp. I’m impressed that you could keep it to 5.

    1. Jaylon
    2. Rico
    3. Tapper
    4. Woods
    5. Switzer
    6. Taco
    7. Lewis
    8. Awuzie
    9. Brown
    10. Jahad Thomas

    • Brian Martin

      I’m interested in seeing how the entire 2017 rookie class performs, but I tried to narrow down just to my top five. Writing about everybody would’ve made too long of an article to read LOL

Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

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?

El Draft

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.

Decisiones difíciles

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.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Star Blog

Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

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.



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Star Blog

Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?

Brian Martin

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Can Dak Prescott Regain His Mojo Against Atlanta?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

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:

24 starts
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating

Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:

17 starts
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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