Football is finally back!!! All of the speculation and guesstimating is finally over now that the Dallas Cowboys training camp is almost officially underway. They are scheduled to hold their first official practice tomorrow, Saturday, July 27, which means we will finally have some football activities to talk about.
Before the Dallas Cowboys training camp gets into full swing though, I thought I would go ahead and share some of the top storylines I will be personally keeping a close eye on throughout the next several weeks. As you can imagine, this year is no different than in years past. There are a lot of interesting things that should keep us entertained until the 2019 regular-season gets underway.
In order to keep everything as organized as possible, I decided to break down all of the storylines I'll personally be paying attention to into the three phases of the game… offense, defense, and special teams.
With the exception of Jason Witten and Randall Cobb, the Dallas Cowboys starting offense should look much the same as it did in 2018. But, that doesn't mean there aren't some intriguing storylines to follow throughout training camp.
Here's the storylines I'm interested in following:
- First and foremost, I'm really intrigued by what Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore is going to do with the Dallas Cowboys offense. It's expected to be pretty much the same scheme and plays, just presented in a different way. I'm curious to find out if more pre-snap motion and misdirection will equate to better execution?
- Another storyline I'm really looking forward to find out more about is how well Randall Cobb fits in with the Cowboys offense as Cole Beasley's replacement. Beasley after all was Quarterback Dak Prescott's security blanket and go to guy when he needed a third-down conversion. Can Cobb do the same?
- Randall Cobb of course isn't the only WR to keep an eye on. I'm really interested in seeing Michael Gallup raise a level of his game. He looked really good as a rookie, but I'm expecting much more from him in his second-year. There's also some youngsters I'm anxious to get a look at. Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton are two WRs I'm interested in seeing in action. The entire WR position battle in itself will be something to watch.
- Speaking of QB Dak Prescott, I'm hoping he can take the next step in his development after working with Jon Kitna, the new Cowboys quarterback coach. Kitna was brought in to help Prescott's fundamentals and help him get through his progressions quicker. Will the work they've put in help #4 become a more accurate passer?
- The entire Cowboys offensive line is another intriguing storyline to follow. Can Tyron Smith find a way to stay healthy? Will an entire season in the strength and conditioning program help Connor Williams take the next step in his development? Has Travis Frederick fully recovered from the autoimmune disease? Will Zack Martin continue his dominant play? Is La'el Collins' starting job secured or can he be challenged?
- Lastly, I'm interested in seeing what Jason Witten looks like after a year away from the game. Will he be better or worse than he was in 2017? Also, if he ends up flopping, will Blake Jarwin or Dalton Schultz be ready to handle the majority of the snaps at tight end?
I think that just about covers all of the storylines worth following throughout the Dallas Cowboys training camp on the offensive side of the ball. Let's move on to the defense.
Watching nearly every aspect of the defense is probably worth following pretty closely throughout the Dallas Cowboys training camp this year. The starters aren't quite as set on the defensive side of the ball as they are on offense, which could make it just little bit more interesting.
Here's what I'll be following closely:
- The first thing I'm interesting in learning is whether or not Passing Game Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard can have a bigger impact on the defense than he did his first year with the Cowboys in 2018. The defense last season really played with a different intensity than they have in years past and I think Richard had a lot to do with that. I'm hoping they can build on that this year.
- Secondly, I'm really intrigued by the idea of playing Sean Lee as the strong side linebacker. The trio of Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch could end up being the best LB group in the entire NFL. If No. 50 can stay healthy for an entire season, this could be a really formidable group for opposing offenses to have to deal with.
- There should be quite a competition to watch at the Cowboys defensive end position. If/when Randy Gregory is reinstated the battle between him and Robert Quinn to start opposite DeMarcus Lawrence could be one for the ages. There should be quite a battle behind them as well. For once, Dallas has some pretty good depth at the position. Earning a roster spot at DE won't be easy.
- The Cowboys trench warfare is really going to be something to watch. I loved the selection of DT Trysten Hill and I wouldn't be surprised if he's pushing for a starting job at some point in training camp. I'd also keep an eye on Daniel Wise. I had a mid-round grade on him and I believe he could be somebody who kind of comes out of nowhere to earn a roster spot.
- There's not as much intrigue surrounding the cornerback position since the starters seem to be pretty set, but rookie CB Michael Jackson could shake things up. He fits the size/speed criteria Richard prefers in his defensive backs and with Byron Jones likely out for the majority of training camp while he recovers from offseason surgery, Jackson should have a chance to shine.
- I'm also keeping an eye on CB Jourdan Lewis. I think the Cowboys learned last season he should be receiving more playing time. How he's utilized in training camp could help determine how much he plays in 2019.
- Lastly, I'm interested in seeing who emerges amongst the Cowboys safeties to earn the starting job opposite Xavier Woods. If I had to guess right now that player would be George Iloka, but I really like what I've heard/read about the rookie safety out of Texas A&M, Donovan Wilson. Could Dallas end up having two safeties drafted in the sixth-round start for them? Will they look outside the organization for safety help?
There should be a lot of eyes on the defensive side of the ball throughout the Dallas Cowboys training camp this year. With the talent they've accumulated, this unit could be something truly special.
Special teams storylines aren't typically followed as closely as they are on the offensive or defensive side of the ball for teams around the NFL. That doesn't mean they're not just as important though. It's just that they are normally made up of depth players or specialist instead of starters who generally play a lot of snaps.
Regardless, here's what I'm going to be following:
- The first thing I'm really interested in finding out is whether or not the Dallas Cowboys will bring in some serious competition for Punter Chris Jones or Kicker Brett Maher. Jones had a down year last season and Maher was pretty good from long distances, but struggled with mid-distance kicks. Dallas does have P/K Kasey Redfern currently on the roster, but he may be nothing more than a camp leg.
- The only other special teams storyline I'll be keeping a close eye on is who emerges as the primary kick and punt returner. Rookie RB/WR Tony Pollard was one of the best in the nation during his time at Memphis returning kicks and will hopefully bring that talent with him to Dallas. Tavon Austin is likely the favorite to return punts, but I'm not completely positive he's a roster lock. It will be interesting to see who receives snaps there in training camp.
What storylines will you be following throughout the Dallas Cowboys training camp?
Report: Amari Cooper Likely out for the Rest of the Preseason
Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper is likely out for the remainder of the preseason according to ESPN's Todd Archer. He is currently dealing with a form of plantar fasciitis that has kept him out of practice since August 6th.
The three-time pro bowler changed life in Dallas last season as the team went 7-2 in it's final nine games after he was acquired to win the NFC East. Cooper isn't worried about any long term effects, though, as this is something he's familiar with.
"I'm not worried about it at all, because I know if it does linger, it doesn't matter," Cooper said. "I had 1,000 yards when I played on plantar fasciitis before."
The Cowboys host the Houston Texans this Saturday in what is known as the "dress rehearsal" game before the regular season. Starters normally play about a half of football to get the juices flowing for when games really count in September. Ideally, the plan would be for Cooper and Dak Prescott to get a rhythm of sorts before the season starts but that will have to wait until the team prepares to take on the New York Giants on September 8th.
However, the good thing here is this issue doesn't seem to be serious and Cooper will be ready for the start of the 2019 season.
Report: Cowboys Agree To Contract Extension With LB Jaylon Smith
The Cowboys are neck-deep in contract negotiations with some of their team's most important players, but it appears they have gotten one key guy signed this afternoon.
ESPN's Todd Archer is reporting that the Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with middle linebacker Jaylon Smith, though the exact terms of the contract have yet to be announced.
The Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to sources. Smith was set to be a restricted free agent after this season but the Cowboys and his representatives started talks in the spring and they ramped up once camp began. Smith, a...
Of course, the Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith early in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft despite the horrific leg injury he suffered in Notre Dame's college bowl game. Some didn't think Smith would ever recover to be the same player he once was, but in 2018 Smith emerged as an excellent middle linebacker once again. Smith finished the 2018 season with 121 combined tackles and 4 sacks, and has looked just as imposing thus far in the preseason.
Smith regained his athleticism and sideline to sideline speed, while retaining his impressive hit power and sound tackling to become one of the league's best. Combining Smith with Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys have put together arguably the best linebacker group in the NFL.
And now, there's no end in sight for the dynamic duo.
Report: 2 Dallas Cowboys to be Activated off of P.U.P. List
Per a report from ESPN's Todd Archer, the Dallas Cowboys will soon activate Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence off of the Physically Unable to Perform (P.U.P.) List.
"The Cowboys are planning to activate defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday, according to a source. They will work through individual drills in their first steps on the field before going through full practices. Lawrence had shoulder surgery not long after signing a five-year, $101 million contract in April. Crawford has been working his way through a hip issue that kept him out of the offseason program. Safety Byron Jones (hip) and receiver Noah Brown (knee) remain on PUP."
Todd Archer - ESPN.com
This report comes after DeMarcus Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery in April and signed his five-year deal making him the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, at least for now. It looks as if Lawrence will be ready for a week one return.
It's long been believed that Lawrence would be available for week one of the regular season and hasn't suffered any setbacks to this point that should lead you to believe otherwise. With Robert Quinn suspended for the first two games of the regular season and Randy Gregory's status still up in the air (he still hasn't applied for reinstatement), getting Lawrence and Crawford back for the first two weeks of the season becomes instrumental.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has looked really good through the first two games of the preseason, but as good as they've been, they'll need Lawrence and Crawford once the regular season starts. Lawrence will slot back in as the left defensive end and Tyrone Crawford will split snaps at right defensive end with Dorance Armstrong and 3-technique defensive tackle with Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, and Kerry Hyder.
While the additions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford will help the defense tremendously, there still isn't a timeline on the return of Pro Bowl Cornerback Byron Jones. Jones has been out since having hip surgery this offseason.
With as good as the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked this offseason, there's reason to believe that they can be even better once each of these guys are back in the lineup full-time. For a defense that was one of the 10 best defenses in the NFL in 2019, they'll need Lawrence, Crawford, and Jones to make the jump into the elite stratosphere of NFL defenses.
With the Dallas Cowboys' eyes set on capturing that sixth Lombardi Trophy, getting Lawrence and Crawford back in time to be ready for the regular season is vital to starting the 2019 season off right.
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