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?
Jason Garrett Reminds Everyone That Kellen Moore Calls the Plays
There's a lot of blame game being played around the Dallas Cowboys right now after a demoralizing home loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Even the head coach seems to be getting in on the act as Jason Garrett went out of character and got unusually specific in explaining Kellen Moore's responsibility for play-calling.
Garrett is not known for calling people out. In fact, many fans have criticized him for not being more critical of his players. He tends to speak in vague, nebulous terms when it comes to discussing the Cowboys' weaknesses or failings after a loss.
But in a radio appearance this morning, Garrett didn't mince words on who was deciding the plays during the Cowboys' final drive.
Jason Garrett on @1053thefan on the two run plays late: "Kellen's calling the game. In that situation it's 2nd and 2. He felt like he had a good opportunity against a favorable box to run the ball in those situations. On each of those plays we had options beyond just the run.
Jason did try to excuse his offensive coordinator's decisions with some context, but he also made sure to clarify who was responsible for those calls. It was not very Garrett-like, and it may speak to his own growing frustration and concern over his future.
Garrett is on the final year of his contract and the Cowboys' front office has made it clear that any extension depends on the results of the 2019 season. With Dallas now dropping to 5-4 and only leading the division by a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Philadelphia Eagles, the future is increasingly unclear.
Jason Garrett famously uses "we" and "us" terms when talking about the negatives, not wanting to assign blame to any particular player or person when things aren't going well. That he strayed from this well-established behavior today may be an anomaly, but it shouldn't be ignored.
With a tough second-half stretch coming in this 2019 schedule, Garrett may be starting to feel like a dead man walking. We'll see in the coming weeks if this leads to anymore shifts in his usual demeanor with the media.
Dallas Cowboys Good, Bad, and Ugly from Week 10 Against Vikings
Well Cowboys Nation, the Dallas Cowboys let yet another winnable game slip to their grasp Sunday night after the devastating 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. By my count, that's three out of four games the Cowboys probably should have won this season. But, probably… maybe… and should have don't mean diddly squat in the NFL.
I'm not going to beat around the bush today because I would likely end up going into a long winded rant about what took place last night. So, let's go ahead and jump right into this week's edition of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. As always, please feel free to use the comment section to voice your opinions and thoughts on the subject.
Unlike in weeks past, I had absolutely no problem deciding what to go with this week for this category from the Dallas Cowboys Week 10 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. I don't think anyone would argue that the good had to be Quarterback Dak Prescott's play and the Cowboys overall passing game. This unit was the sole reason they had a chance to win at the end.
Prescott was simply phenomenal Sunday night. He threw for 397 yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception. He was on point last night and was dropping dimes all over the place. It's one of the reasons why both Amari Cooper (147 yards, 1 TD) and Randall Cobb (106, 1 TD) both went over the 100 yard mark in receiving, and Michael Gallup wasn't too far behind (76 yards, 1 TD). All in all it's an MVP caliber performance from No. 4, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to seal the victory.
I thought and thought about what I wanted to go with in this category and I'll have to admit, I had a hard time deciding. There were individual players who deserved a nomination here, but in the end I think the bad for the Dallas Cowboys was them getting off to yet another slow start against the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, it's been a trend for them this season.
It all started when Jason Garrett decided to send out Kicker Brett Maher to attempt an ill-advised 57 yard field goal. Maher is capable of making such kicks, but there's a time and place to use that kind of weapon. Last night on the opening drive of the game was not one of those times. After the missed FG, the Vikings had excellent field position and scored a quick TD. Not long after they scored another TD to go up 14-0 after another stalled drive by the Cowboys offense. It's a hole they were never quite able to dig themselves out of.
Deciding what to go with here in this category was pretty easy after narrowing down what I wanted to put in the bad category. I think the ugly for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings was their defensive play. In all honesty, it was absolutely sickening to watch the Vikings have their way with the Cowboys defense. Dallas has far too much talent on that side of the ball to be manhandled like they were.
The tackling was atrocious and so was the execution. I'm pretty sure the game plan was to neutralize Dalvin Cook the way they did Saquon Barkley in Week 9, but the league's leading rusher (Cook) would have none of that. He pretty much did what he wanted. He ran through arm tackles and had room to run, whether it was as a rusher or receiver. It looked a lot like what Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones did to the Cowboys in Week 5. It was completely inexcusable and unacceptable!
What is your good, bad, and ugly from the Dallas Cowboys Week 10 matchup?
Randall Cobb has Breakout Game in Tough Loss vs Vikings
When NFL free agency began this past March the Dallas Cowboys spent the month making several additions to their roster. Veterans George Iloka (only one not currently on the roster), Kerry Hyder, Christian Covington, and Robert Quinn were added to help on the defensive side of the ball.
Offensively, there was a huge hole to fill when Wide Receiver Cole Beasley signed a four-year 29 million dollar deal to play for the Buffalo Bills. The Cowboys would then sign Randall Cobb about a week later to a one-year deal. The seasoned pro was brought in as an upgrade over Beasley in the slot to compliment Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Also, with his unique ability to play on the outside as well, it would allow Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore to present different looks for opposing defenses.
In his first seven games of the season, Cobb struggled to find his place within this offense. He produced 25 receptions for 274 yards, with his lone touchdown coming in the season opener vs the New York Giants. He had four or fewer receptions five times and his most productive game only produced 69 yards. However, last night against the Minnesota Vikings was a glimpse of how productive Cobb can be in this system.
Cobb finished with six receptions for 106 yards Sunday night. This was his first 100-yard game since Week 1 in 2018. Four of his catches went for 20 yards or more, five went for first downs and he scored his second touchdown of the season. Dak Prescott showed supreme confidence in looking for Cobb on crucial third-down situations.
That's exactly what Cobb can do for this offense. He provides another reliable threat in the Cowboys aerial assault. When Cobb plays at a high level it will only free up Cooper and Gallup to wreak havoc on the outside.
Last night's game was a perfect example of this. Cooper had 11 receptions for 147 yards and Gallup added four catches for 76 yards, each scoring touchdowns. It doesn't allow a defense to lock in on one receiver and take them completely out of the game.
Cobb playing well also has an impact on the running game. The better he plays the more defenses will have to focus on stopping himself, Cooper, and Gallup. What does that do? The Cowboys won't face as many eight or nine-man fronts which will give All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott the opportunity to wear down opposing defenses by playing ball control, which is the Cowboys bread and butter.
Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come from Cobb as the playoff push heats up. If he can continue to build chemistry with Prescott it will only improve one of the NFL's best passing offenses while simultaneously increasing Elliott's ability to be effective by taking extra defenders away from the box. Will Cobb make this a regular occurrence for the rest of the season? Only time will tell.
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