The Dallas Cowboys officially had their first training camp practice Sunday and the way they decided to start things off made a statement about unity to not only the NFL, but the nation. As a team, they walked arm in arm onto the field with a few special guest intertwined between players to make their statement known.
You may have forgotten, but earlier this month a sniper killed four police officers and a Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer and it shook the entire Dallas community to the core.
Thanks to fellow Staff Writer Sean Martin, you can read some of the past and present Cowboys players reactions to the shootings in Dallas via twitter.
For such a devastating event to take place so close to home really impacted the community and in particular Dallas Cowboys' own, tight end Jason Witten. He was so impacted by this dreadful situation that the wheels started turning, resulting in him trying to come up with some way to honor the people affected by the situation the most, the families of the officers that lost their lives in the line of duty.
Idea for Cowboys' unity statement today with Dallas PD started with Jason Witten and was in collaboration with Charlotte Jones.
Witten's idea quickly escalated and was then followed through in large part to Charlotte Jones-Anderson's hard work and dedication to the organization. A lot of Witten's teammates quickly jumped on board with the idea as well.
Here's an exclamation of what the Cowboys organization and their players are trying to accomplish by coming together with the families of the fallen Dallas police officers, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, and Police Chief David Brown.
More about Cowboys bringing Dallas mayor and police chief and family members of 4 of the 5 fallen officers to camp:
There might not be any better way to get a point across than to have one of the most visible sports franchises in the world come together and make a statement of unity to everyone.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown even spoke with the team and encouraged them to use their status as a professional football player to help find a solution to stop the violence and come together as a community and nation.
@DPDChief encouraged the players to use their voice towards the solution. #ArmInArm #DallasStong #DallasCowboys
America's Team plans to continue to show their support throughout training camp and preseason by wearing an "Arm In Arm" decal on the back of their helmets to signify the statement of unity, just like they did by interlocking their arms when first taking the field on Sunday to kick off training camp.
Here is a look at what the "Arm In Arm" decals look like.
The Cowboys are wearing a helmet sticker to support their "Arm in Arm" initiative for the City of Dallas Police Dept
The hope is that they can continue to wear the decals in the regular season, but they're still waiting to get official permission from the league.
Personally, I could really see the "Arm In Arm" initiative taking off and a lot of other teams around the NFL joining in with the Dallas Cowboys and their statement in support of unity.
In fact, the New Orleans Saints also faced a similar situation with police officers being gunned down in their community like Dallas did, so I could see them as being on board..
It's way past time that people started standing up against the violence that has become a reoccurring theme here recently across our nation and I for one am proud of my Dallas Cowboys for coming up with a way to do just that.
You can bet that the families of the slain Dallas officers appreciate what the Cowboys organization is trying to do, as well as the Dallas PD. It might have just brightened their day just a little bit to be able to take the field with their local sports team, after nearly a month of grieving the loss of their loved ones.
Chief Brown even took to twitter and expressed his appreciation to the Cowboys organization.
@dallascowboys Thank you & Jones' fam for hosting the families of the fallen officers on your 1st day of practice!
We need more sports organizations around our nation doing things like this and maybe, just maybe we can unify as a nation and stop the violence.
Way to go Dallas Cowboys!
It's about time someone takes a stand and do the right thing for a change.
Cowboys 2018 Breakout Candidates: TE Geoff Swaim
For the 2018 Dallas Cowboys, the retirement of Tight End Jason Witten was one of the biggest developments of the offseason. It leaves a gaping hole in their offense, and no major free agent or high draft pick was added as a clear replacement. As such, fourth-year veteran Geoff Swaim may be in line for a breakout season.
A seventh-round pick in 2015, Swaim has stuck in Dallas with strong run-blocking and special teams play. His offensive production has been limited to just nine catches and 94 yards, thanks largely to the stranglehold that Witten kept on the TE position. Geoff has only been targeted 11 times in the passing game over three seasons.
But with Witten leaving, as well as veteran backup James Hanna, Swaim is now the elder statesman of the TE group. Even his limited playing time in the NFL thus far puts him way ahead of Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, or rookie Dalton Schultz.
Based on reports from the offseason practices and camps, Geoff is getting the first crack at becoming the new starter. It makes sense given his experience edge, but also his proficiency as a run blocker.
The Cowboys will likely lean on Ezekiel Elliott heavily this year, particularly early in the season. The passing game will need time to find itself with Witten and Dez Bryant gone. They'll want to ease Dak Prescott into heavier workloads as he and his new receiving options get acclimated.
Geoff Swaim will be one of those new options. And even though his reputation is for blocking, don't take that to mean he's not athletic.
We've seen Swaim on the move as a blocker and also in the passing game, and he's certainly got some wheels. That could make him a deceptive weapon on play-action and other passing plays out of running formations.
In some ways, losing Witten and Bryant makes the Cowboys' offense less predictable than in the past. Defenses will be less sure who to focus on, and that also creates opportunities for the new receivers.
Obviously, Swaim's breakout potential is dependent on Prescott looking his way. But unless Dak has undergone a major change in his playing style, a TE working in the short and middle parts of the field is someone he'll rely on plenty.
With training camp and preseason still to come, calling Geoff the starter right now is just an assumption. There is still time for one of the other prospects to impress and climb the ladder.
But right now, there's clearly no better candidate to claim the spot than Swaim. He has the most critical skill as a blocker, and his potential in the passing game is underrated. It's his job to lose.
The guy with only nine career catches could get that in a single game this year. Therefore, Geoff Swaim is clearly one of the major breakout candidates for the 2018 Cowboys.
Cowboys 2018 Breakout Candidates: LB Jaylon Smith
No single player on the Dallas Cowboys roster right now may be more primed for a breakout season than Linebacker Jaylon Smith. His ascension as a player isn't just a big gain for the Cowboys defense, but it may be vital to their success in 2018.
Smith joined the Cowboys as a high second-round pick (34th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft. Potentially a top-five elite talent in that class, Jaylon's stock fell after a severe knee injury in his final college game. It was unknown if he could ever play football again, but Dallas took the risk based on Smith's incredible upside.
After Jaylon sat out his rookie year to fully rehab. In 2017, he was able to play all 16 games and started in six. That alone was a huge win for Smith and the Cowboys.
Jaylon's performance last year wasn't great, but understandably so after all the missed time. He also had to regain confidence in his knee, which is critical for a linebacker with all of the directional changes during plays.
Still, Smith got better as the season went. And even amidst the struggles, there were flashes of his instincts and potential.
This offseason, reports of Jaylon's improving health are fueling increased optimism. He is now playing without a knee brace and that means more confidence. If Smith fully trusts his body now, it will make him far more dangerous on the field.
With Anthony Hitchens leaving in free agency, Dallas needs Jaylon to be a bigger factor this year. If he doesn't take the next step, it could leave the Cowboys vulnerable at linebacker in 2018.
True, Dallas drafted Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of last April's draft. But it's always dangerous to ask a rookie to do heavy lifting, and especially one who is seen as a raw talent like Vander Esch.
Ideally, anything Dallas gets from Leighton this year will be gravy. Their goal is to rely on veteran Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, with Damien Wilson also available as a solid fallback option.
But when you mention Sean Lee, you have to mention health concerns. After two encouragingly healthy seasons in 2015 and 2016, Lee was back to having some issues last year and missed five games.
That is all the more reason why Dallas needs Jaylon to be ready for more this year. If Lee misses time again, Smith is the best suited to take over the roles that Sean leaves behind.
Thankfully, all signs point to big things for Jaylon Smith in 2018. His body appears healed and there's no questioning his work ethic and desire. If the mental aspect of football has also developed, he could be everything the Cowboys hoped when they drafted them.
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
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