Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith and defensive end Charles Tapper both made their NFL debuts on Sunday night, one year later than either would have liked. Members of the Cowboys 2016 rookie class, Smith and Tapper made impacts that continue the successful legacy of one of the franchise's all-time drafts.
Starting at middle linebacker, Jaylon Smith had seven tackles and was one of the leaders in shutting down the New York Giants' offense. The Cowboys' division rival was held to just 233 total yards and only 35 of those came on the ground. Smith showed his athleticism and reading ability on several stops. He also had a forced fumble that should have been called but the officials blew it.
Charles Tapper did not start but had one of the Cowboys' three sacks on Eli Manning. He nearly had another, getting a hand on Manning but just didn't have the right angle to finish the play. Considering the team leader in sacks last year (Benson Mayowa) only had six for the season, it's hard to not get excited anytime we see a Cowboy get to the quarterback.
Even if Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were the only products of the 2016 draft, it would still go down as a good year. But the Cowboys defense has also benefited; DT Maliek Collins and CB Anthony Brown both started last night's game and made critical plays along the way. Jaylon Smith is now also a starter at middle linebacker, a critical position in any defensive scheme.
Unlike Brown or Collins, who have been unexpectedly good based on where they were rated coming out of college, the only surprise with Jaylon Smith is his health. Smith has had to work back from a horrible knee injury that many felt would be career-ending. That he was able to start on Sunday night and play the majority of snaps is nothing short of a medical marvel. It's a testament to the professionals who helped him, but also Jaylon for the hard work and diligence needed to make it happen.
Some have said that Jaylon Smith was the most talented player in the entire 2016 class, not just for the Cowboys but the entire draft. Consider that; Joey Bosa has been one of the most instantly productive DE prospects to come out in a long time. RB Ezekiel Elliott and CB Jalen Ramsey were both about as highly rated at their positions as you can get. For Smith to even be considered on their level, if not superior, is special.
Charles Tapper also lost his rookie season for health reasons; a spinal defect that was detected after he joined the Cowboys and had to be surgically repaired. It not only stole the 2016 season from him but limited Tapper's work during the last offseason and preseason. It's impressive that he could come out and make an impact so quickly after so much missed time.
A fourth-round pick in 2016, taken at the start of the round 34 picks ahead of Dak Prescott, Tapper was considered a potential steal after being misused at Oklahoma as a 3-4 defensive end. Many felt he could blossom with more freedom to go after the quarterback in the 4-3 scheme, and it only took one game for Charles to show why.
Don't forget, Charles Tapper set a record at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. His 4.59 time in the 40-yard dash was the fastest ever for a player listed at 270 pounds or more. Fourth-round picks aren't spent lightly and Rod Marinelli is assuredly picky about who he adds to his defensive line. If Tapper keeps making plays, it will be yet another testament to this scouting department.
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Indeed, the 2016 draft class is already the crowning jewel of the brain trust headed by Will McClay, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett. It's perhaps the single greatest haul of talent that the Dallas Cowboys ever brought in, even eclipsing the work of Jimmy Johnson in the early 90s.
What's so amazing is how much better it can still get. Charles Tapper could be on his way to joining Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown as key defensive contributors. And if Jaylon Smith reaches his full potential, he may be as much a star on defense as Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott are on the other side of the ball.
It's just one week, of course, but it's a debut that both players and all Cowboys fans and followers have waited over a year for. Despite all of the anticipation, Jaylon Smith and Charles Tapper didn't disappoint.
5 Winners from Dallas Cowboys OTAs and Minicamp
The Dallas Cowboys have completed the offseason part of their practices and are now eyeing the start of training camp in Oxnard, California on July 26th. The offseason stuff doesn't necessarily show what a team thinks about a player near as much as training camp, so I won't look at any losers because these practices have varying personnel at times.
That being said, there certainly were some winners during the offseason.
1. Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
Every day removed from his injury in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl is another day closer to potentially seeing the All-American linebacker that would have been a top-10 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
With the knee injury, there's always been some doubt about Jaylon returning to that level of play, but as offseason practices wore on it was becoming clear that he's much healthier and much more mobile than he was in 2017.
Both of those things are strong signs in the right direction for the third year pro.
After sitting out his rookie season to rehab and then having some good moments and some really bad moments in 2017, it sounds like he's making progress to be a difference maker in 2018.
During OTAs and minicamp sessions that were open to the media, Jaylon was seen running with the first-team defense every time they took the field. Now, some of that is due to the Cowboys limiting the snaps of veteran All-Pro Sean Lee and rookie first round pick Leighton Vander Esch, who came up with a sprained ankle, but the fact that Smith's snaps weren't limited should only be seen as a good sign.
We still have a long way to go until the Dallas Cowboys strap it on for their week one matchup with the Carolina Panthers, but Jaylon Smith is on an excellent trajectory.
Anyone with a Clear, Eye, View can see that.
2. Anthony Brown, Cornerback
One of the bigger surprises during the offseason practices so far has to be Anthony Brown, and not Jourdan Lewis, running with the first team nickel defense.
Jourdan Lewis proved he was a really good corner in his rookie year, both in the slot and on the outside, while Anthony Brown struggled at times. Knowing that new Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard prefers his corners to be tall, long, and strong has led to some speculation that Lewis may not be a fit in Richard's scheme.
That's certainly a possibility. The more realistic possibility is that Brown, with more seniority, was getting the opportunities first as is often the case with Jason Garrett coached teams during the offseason.
While Brown is a pretty good slot cornerback in his own right, this might only be temporary.
3. Michael Gallup, Wide Receiver
As I read reports from OTAs and minicamp practices, one thing that stood out is that Michael Gallup was winning and winning a lot.
When asked in a mailbag who had been building the best rapport with Quarterback Dak Prescott, Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com had this to say:
"Bryan: That’s a great question. The guys that come to mind for this [sic] me are Michael Gallup and Blake Jarwin. Those guys have found ways to generate space and have been reliable catching the ball when it’s thrown in their direction."
Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com
Just a few days earlier Broaddus stated that Cole Beasley and Gallup were the only ones getting open with any consistency.
Now, it's still early and it's padless practice, but that's an encouraging sign for the third round pick out of Colorado State.
Typically it takes a year for wide receivers to adjust to the NFL game, especially with how much press coverage is played by NFL defensive backs. One of the byproducts of Kris Richard's existence as the defensive backs coach is that they're playing more press coverage. He's teaching his DB's to be more aggressive and more physical at the line of scrimmage.
For Gallup and the rest of the wide receiver group, that can only help them as they get ready to face opposing defenses. One way to disrupt timing-based routes or an offense that relies on separation and yards after the catch is to disrupt the receiver at the snap. Every practice, these guys are working to beat the press.
As a rookie wide receiver, this can only benefit Gallup -- in particular -- as that will be a big transition from college where defenses are playing off the line of scrimmage against the countless number of spread offenses that exist.
The fact that he's already winning reps during practices against some pretty good corners is a great sign for the Dallas Cowboys.
He may not be a starter in this offense right away, but I doubt it takes long before he's cemented himself in three and four wide receiver personnel groupings.
4. Chaz Green, Guard
I'm sure you aren't a fan of seeing Chaz Green's name anywhere near a "winners" list. As bad as the Atlanta Falcons game was for him, we can't ignore the fact that Green got a lot of first team repetitions during OTAs and minicamp while Zack Martin negotiated his contract extension.
Either that means the Dallas Cowboys haven't given up on their third round pick from 2015 or they're trying to get as many practice snaps out of him as possible to be able to make a clearer decision regarding his future with the team.
Getting to play with the ones is encouraging, but he still has a lot to prove during training camp to keep a spot on the roster. Green's going to get a long leash as a former premium draft pick. We'll see if he takes advantage of it.
5. Jihad Ward, Defensive Tackle
Maliek Collins hurt his foot -- again -- and David Irving was dealing with off the field stuff -- again -- leaving Jihad Ward with a lot of opportunities to play against the first team offensive line as the three-technique defensive tackle.
On June 4th, I asked Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com who his biggest surprises on offense and defense were during OTAs:
Cedrick Wilson and Jihad Ward https://t.co/kgcgJkTj3U
If Broaddus is encouraged by Ward's progress, I am too.
He's going to have a lot of opportunity to get a strangle hold on the 3T defensive tackle spot with Maliek Collins not set to be back until late in training camp, and David Irving suspended the first four games of the 2018 season.
The Dallas Cowboys liked Ward coming out of college and had him just behind Maliek Collins on their 2016 NFL Draft Big Board.
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There's still a lot of practice reps that have yet to take place, but the Dallas Cowboys have gotten some encouraging contributions from these players. As we look to training camp, who will you be watching to see if the stand-out and can make the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster?
Cowboys Roster: Who Are the “Best” Players on the Bubble?
It may still seem very far away, but the days of NFL clubs holding 90 players on their roster are numbered. By September 1st, each team will cut down to 53 players, thinning the roster following training camp. For the Dallas Cowboys, this is surely going to leave some talented players off the 2018 squad, as the team is once again entering Oxnard with a deep group.
We all have our "pet cats" that we'll root for to make the roster however possible. Be it a wide receiver like Noah Brown, now stuck behind a wave of new pass catchers, or a cornerback like Marquez White, the roster crunch for the Cowboys will come at a cost to some.
Forecasting exactly where the team will "go long" and where they'll be short on numbers is hard to predict without the team back on the field, but here is my initial look at some players that Cowboys Nation may have to move on from.
Cornerback Marquez White
Previously in this offseason, I wrote about how Cornerback Anthony Brown may be one of the Cowboys better all-around players to miss this year's cut. With a strong showing in front of new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard at OTAs and mini camp, Brown feels well on his way to earning a spot with the Cowboys, leaving Marquez White in a precarious situation.
White spent his rookie season in Dallas on the practice squad, a sixth round pick out of Florida State. Sliding in the draft because of his rawness as a prospect, White has the ideal size and length to play anywhere in Richard's defense if given the chance.
Getting this chance may come difficult to White though, as Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie are slotted to start on the boundary for the Cowboys at cornerback. Not as well suited to compete in the slot against both Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and Duke Thomas, White's time with the Cowboys could be limited.
Moving on from White would be an important vote of confidence in the rest of the secondary for the Cowboys. Teams around the league would waste no time recalling their initial draft grades on White to potentially add the CB to their roster.
Defensive End Charles Tapper
The Cowboys have very much so built their roster with a "what have you done for me lately?" type approach, and for Charles Tapper this answer is disappointing. Constantly dealing with injuries since entering the league in 2016, Tapper has appeared in two games and recorded one sack.
Tapper couldn't escape this year's offseason program without another setback, suffering a concussion that kept him out of workouts. Even without assuming that the Cowboys add a reinstated Randy Gregory to their roster, the team is prepared with more proven options at right defensive end.
Rookie Dorance Armstrong, FA signing Kony Ealy, and last year's first-round pick Taco Charlton are all capable of playing this spot. Doing so with more availability than Tapper may be all this group needs to earn their spot over the third-year draft pick out of Oklahoma.
Guard Marcus Martin
Yesterday here at Inside The Star, I wrote about how the Cowboys potentially keeping more offensive linemen compared to recent years could be bad news for the team's tight ends. Logically, this also means that some of the Cowboys embarrassment of riches on the OL will be looking for a new job.
With starting experience as a member of the 49ers, Marcus Martin was brought in as insurance for the departed Jonathan Cooper, prior to the Cowboys drafting Connor Williams. With Williams expected to start immediately at left guard, Martin has a long way to go in holding his spot over the likes of Kadeem Edwards and Damien Mama.
The Cowboys value Edward's swing ability, although Martin is capable of lining up at center along with guard. At any interior position, he may have more experience and skill than Mama, but if the Cowboys feel certain about their five starters they can afford to keep a cheaper player like Mama compared to Martin.
A free agent signing like Martin not making the Cowboys roster would only solidify the team's status as the best OL in the game, with Offensive Tackle Cam Fleming being their other veteran FA signing.
Running Back Bo Scarbrough
Bo Scarbrough and the Dallas Cowboys is a fun concept, but it may be just that as the roster trims in Dallas. The star running back out of Alabama fell all the way to the Cowboys final pick in the seventh round at this year's draft, joining Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and now Darius Jackson in a loaded backfield.
Scarbrough stands out as a back with true power and finishing ability, but he'll have to do so on special teams to justify a roster spot. Simply playing as a short yardage back won't be enough for Scarbrough to survive in a RB room full of complete play makers, yet still reliant on a true workhorse back.
Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson
When the Cowboys drafted both Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson, they created a logjam at wide receiver. Through competition, the team is hoping their best five/six receivers for Dak Prescott to throw to will reshape this offense.
The latest signing as an outside receiver with over-the-top speed, Deonte Thompson was brought in by the Cowboys in free agency via the Buffalo Bills.
Thompson's ability to impact a game with this speed is enough for him to secure a spot in Scott Linehan's offense. Without a strong showing in camp and the preseason though, its realistic to see Thompson losing out on this spot. The Cowboys have already seen what players like Noah Brown and Lance Lenoir can do, which fills up their depth chart at WR when adding Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley.
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By taking a look at where the Cowboys have depth to spare -- prior to any actual roster battles taking place next month -- it's easier to understand the types of decisions that lie ahead for this team.
All of the players listed above will have their opportunity to prove me wrong and earn their spot with the team, capable of helping in a big way. Regardless of how this list was constructed, going from 90 players down to 53 will be as difficult as ever for Dallas in 2018.
Report: QB Dak Prescott Signs Multi-Year Deal With Campbell’s Chunky Soup
Being the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback comes with its challenges, but it certainly comes with its perks as well. One of those perks is the opportunity for endorsement deals, and income outside of his football salary.
Dak Prescott is embracing those perks now, reportedly signing a multi-year deal with Campbell's Chunky Soup through 2020. Prescott will continue to endorse Chunky MAXX, Campbell's protein soup line.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has re-signed a new multi-year deal with Campbell's Chunky Soup through 2020. This is the first QB multi-year deal for Chunky Soup since Donovan McNabb in 2001. He'll continue to promote Chunky MAXX, the protein-packed line of soups, this year, per Edelman
Campbell's Soup has had some legendary football related commercials throughout the years, none more memorable than those with former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and his mother.
In fact, Dak Prescott is the first NFL quarterback to sign a multi-year deal with Campbell's Chunky Soup since those McNabb commercials.
Hopefully, Dak Prescott can continue to "prove it" on the field and still be the Cowboys starting quarterback throughout this entire Campbell's deal.
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