The Dallas Cowboys will be on the field today for their first official practice of this year’s training camp. To set the stage for 2018 in Oxnard, Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett fielded questions for over 45 minutes at the Cowboys opening press conference yesterday.
While this is truly just the start of being able to discuss what stands out from the team each day, here are some initial highlights of the Cowboys first press conference.
Though the three Cowboys representatives on the podium yesterday were far from new faces, the team will feature plenty of these on the field this season.
Six new positional coaches and a new ST Coordinator in Keith O’Quinn will work under Jason Garrett, who calls himself a “work in progress” along with the rest of his team.
Entering his eighth full season, many members of the media feel that Garrett’s Cowboys must progress into the playoffs for him to continue as the head coach in Dallas, but Jerry Jones firmly assured this isn’t the case.
Is this a playoff-or-bust year for Jason Garrett? Jerry Jones: “No.
Doubling down on this confidence in Garrett by calling him a, “better coach than he was a year ago”, Jones is “excited” for Jason to lead this team once again. Hopefully part of that excitement stems from the amount of young players that are not already embedded on Garrett’s message, giving him a clean start with so many key starters.
Of course, this exact same thinking applies even more so to the Cowboys new assistants, making up a coaching staff that is Jerry’s, “number one reason for excitement this year”.
Missing Pieces on Defense, But Still Deep
It wouldn’t be a welcome to Dallas Cowboys training camp without talking about the players that aren’t here in Oxnard. David Irving is the only notable name on this list (and for good reason), although Garrett did inform the media that Randy Gregory didn’t participate in the team’s conditioning test yesterday.
Garrett does not expect Gregory — who the Cowboys say is preparing to play at a current weight of 242 pounds — to do much early in camp. Just having him with the team is a morale boost for the Cowboys. Part of Gregory’s extensive reinstatement effort were letters to Commissioner Goodell by Sean Lee, Jeff Heath, and Tyrone Crawford.
Jerry Jones says the team is proud that Randy Gregory is here at camp now that his suspension has been lifted. #cowboyswire
A steady program that gets Gregory back on the field when the games matter is best for all parties involved here.
This includes a very patient Jerry Jones, who already deemed the Cowboys front seven on defense as “exciting” on “the first day of training camp”. Mentioning both Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence, it’s hard to argue with this being the case for a Dallas team at full strength.
A front seven that welcomes back Irving and Sean Lee along with Jaylon Smith and first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch is as promising a group as Rod Marinelli has had in four years as the Cowboys defensive coordinator.
No Progress on Earl Thomas
The Seattle Seahawks hold their training camp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, located in Renton, Washington. This puts a Seattle team without Earl Thomas (holding out) some 1,140 miles from the Cowboys contingency in Oxnard, and this is still the closest the two sides have been to a blockbuster trade involving the All-Pro safety since the NFL Draft.
If given the choice again, I firmly believe the Cowboys would still pick Connor Williams over Earl Thomas, which is exactly what they did when choosing to stick with the 50th overall pick. The rookie out of Texas will get the first crack at a starting left guard job abandoned by Jonathan Cooper in free agency.
As mentioned, there will annually be an obsession with players that aren’t with the Cowboys around this time, and Thomas’ constant pleas to leave the Seahawks and join the Cowboys is more than enough fuel to keep this fire burning well after training camp.
If the Cowboys leave Oxnard with any added buzz at the safety position though, it’s far more likely it comes from Xavier Woods. Giving Thomas’ former secondary coach Kris Richard a chance to work with Woods and the rest of the Cowboys safeties would be the smart approach.
Even Stephen Jones, who did not speak much during this press conference, said that “we all know Xavier Woods did a lot of impressive things last year”. I’d love to follow up with Stephen and ask who’s included in “we” here.
Calls for the Cowboys to do whatever it takes to land Thomas are going nowhere, but so too is the needle on any drastic changes anywhere on this Cowboys roster. They feel great about the state of this young roster, and as previously mentioned the coaching staff too.
That leaves little margin for the Cowboys to match the Seahawks level of desperation in shipping away Thomas for more young pieces of their own, with the safety’s holdout being noteworthy only for the team responsible for keeping Dallas out of the playoffs a year ago.
Sources: Cowboys are running blood tests on S Kavon Frazier for a potential disorder that impacts clotting. Those tests will help determine if the condition can be managed by medication.
To a fault, the Cowboys have been overconfident in their own players before, and the need for experience at safety was only heightened hours after this press conference with the news that Kavon Frazier was placed on the NFI list while being examined for a blood clotting disorder.
Earl Thomas is far from the type of player they’ll need to target if back in the market for a safety soon, and its hard for anyone close to Kris Richard to not propel the same optimism he has for every member of the Cowboys secondary already suiting up today.
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Lastly, if I may for a moment — this will be my fourth training camp covering the Cowboys here at Inside The Star. Simply writing that out leaves me speechless, although that won’t be the case on these pages over the coming weeks and straight into the 2018 season.
To all of you that make it possible for me to do what I love, a sincere thank you is in order simply for triumphing through another offseason. We can celebrate the return of football together, which I am honored to do annually with the responsibility given to me by our amazing staff.
The Cowboys begin their first practice at 6 PM CT tonight, with a Jason Garrett press conference scheduled for 2 PM.