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.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
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.
WR Randall Cobb Named Cowboys “Surprise Standout” for Offseason
NFL teams have wrapped up their offseason activities with the close of OTAs, especially where the players are concerned, and await the start of training camps next month. In reviewing the last few months, ESPN had their local reporters each pick a surprise standout from their team's practices. Todd Archer, who covers the Dallas Cowboys full time, selected veteran receiver Randall Cobb.
Cobb is in his first season with Dallas after signing as a free agent last March. He's spent the last eight years with the Green Bay Packers and was a Pro Bowler in 2014, but has struggled with injuries the last few seasons.
Here were Archer's observations on how Randall is doing so far with the Cowboys:
Normally a player with Cobb's résumé -- 470 catches for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns during his career -- would not be considered for a category like this. But injuries limited him to only nine games and 38 catches for Green Bay in 2018, and it was hard to know what the Cowboys were getting in the veteran receiver.
If the offseason work is any indication, they have found a replacement for Cole Beasley. Cobb's versatility can expand the offense for others, such as Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cobb looked quick in and out of his breaks and fast enough to make plays down the field. Will he put up the 1,287 yards he had in 2014? No, but he gives Dak Prescott a security blanket in the slot who can turn a small gain into a big one.
The notion of Cobb replacing Beasley is a big one. While we'd like to think that Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will provide plenty of firepower for the Cowboys offense, Dak Prescott has enjoyed a reliable threat from the slot position since he arrived.
Randall Cobb, when healthy, can do more than just make clutch catches. He has good run-after-catch skills and perhaps bring more big play potential than Beasley did.
If Cooper and Gallup do emerge as a dangerous starting duo on the outside, Cobb should have even more opportunities to punish defenses than Beasley did.
If nothing else, it's very encouraging to hear that one of the Cowboys' few 2019 free agent moves is already reaping benefits. Cobb still needs to bring it over a full season to really justify the move, but these early reports are cause for excitement.
BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension
Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.
Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.
The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.
While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.
The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.
Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.
Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started
Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.
The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.
All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.
Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.
How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.
When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.
Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.
There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.
The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Be Traded Before Week 1
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Former Redskins RB Rob Kelley Could Be Shrewd Signing for Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
5 Takeaways from Dallas Cowboys OTA’s
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Kasey Redfern, a Name Dallas Cowboys Fans Might Want to get to Know
Star Blog2 weeks ago
3 Reasons 2019 Will be Dak Prescott’s Best Season Yet
Star Blog2 weeks ago
How Concerned Should We Be About Ezekiel Elliott’s Situation?
Dallas Cowboys7 days ago
Could Amari Cooper Threaten Cowboys Receiving Records in 2019?
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Will DE Taco Charlton “Break Out” In 2019?