Training camp has begun and preseason is just around the corner. After weeks of position battles during OTAs and minicamp, things are about to get real once the players put their pads on and begin showing what they're capable of in order to make the roster come cut down day.
Although it isn't exactly a "position battle," the race for the 53rd spot on the roster is always one of the most fun and intriguing stories for each team in the preseason.
The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of legitimate candidates for said spot, and the race for the final place on the roster will continue into the season with David Irving returning until the fifth week of the campaign.
Here are my top candidates for this year's 53rd spot on the roster!
DE Charles Tapper
The Dallas Cowboys' depth at defensive end is definitely an upgrade from last year's. The team added Kony Ealy in free agency and drafted Dorance Armstron in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. But the biggest news at the position is the reinstatement of Randy Gregory.
With Gregory coming back, Tapper's task to make the team did nothing but get harder. Health problems have kept the 25 year-old off the field. With just two career games under his belt, I wonder what his odds are in such a loaded defensive end room.
For him to keep his job, the Cowboys would likely need to carry seven defensive ends to start the season.
RB Darius Jackson
Behind Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith will likely be the #2 guy at running back. It seems like Tavon Austin, despite being listed as a running back, will have a different role and will be involved as a pass-catcher and not as a runner.
So who will be behind Smith? The two names that jump out of the page are Bo Scarbrough and Darius Jackson. Just like many in Cowboys Nation, I loved the idea of having Darius in the roster in 2016. However, I'm leaning towards Scarbrough this time.
Even if Bo is on the roster, could one of the fan's favorites pet cats do enough in the preseason to justify carrying a fourth (not including Tavon Austin) running back on the roster? With one of the nation's top running backs starting, it's tough to imagine so.
TE Rico Gathers
The season is getting closer and closer and we still have no clue who will try to fill the shoes of the great Jason Witten. We know there are some candidates that will make the fight for the starting role interesting though.
Rico Gathers would make for one hell of a story, but the hype around him in 2018 isn't close to what it was a couple of years ago. Nothing has changed to make us believe that this time around, Rico will be what the Cowboys thought they could develop with his skill set.
There are many young candidates for the position. Geoff Swaim has the most experience, making him a virtual lock for the roster. The coaching staff clearly likes Blake Jarwin, they proved it by promoting him from the practice squad to the team to keep him safe from the Philadelphia Eagles. Also a potential starter down the road is fourth round rookie Dalton Schultz.
I don't think Rico Gathers is ahead any of these guys. But, if he manages to impress the staff in training camp, he might earn the roster spot. Otherwise, he'll likely be playing elsewhere.
CB Kam Kelly
An undrafted free agent, I like Kam Kelly's chances of making the cut. You see, the team might be set at cornerback with starters Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones and Jourdan Lewis. I expect Anthony Brown and Marquez White to be the team's backups but I won't be surprised if the team decides to carry a sixth cornerback in Kam Kelly.
Kelly is a big guy, and he looks like the CB that Kris Richard wants on his team. The main reason why I think he has a real chance to make the roster is the fact that he'd be able to play safety if needed. This will help the undrafted rookie since the team is very thin at safety.
WR Cedrick Wilson
Finally, my favorite on this list. Sixth-round draft pick Cedrick Wilson was definitely a steal by the Cowboys' front office. He might be the Cowboy with the most to gain in training camp. The Boise State product has experience playing as an "X" receiver, where he lined up last year in college.
Wilson could provide the team with an additional threat on the passing game. He's good at stretching the field and will make a good job as a vertical threat. We all know that despite the young talent the Cowboys have at wide receiver, it's one of the most uncertain positions heading into the season.
Out of everyone on this list, I like Wilson's chances the best. Although he is a sixth-round draft pick, don't be surprised if he ends up with an important role at some point in the season.
Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off arguably their best and most complete offensive performance of the season after playing the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but there is still quite a bit of improvement that can be made. The need to get more playmakers involved is apparent, which is why I think it's time to utilize Fullback Jamize Olawale's unique skill set.
I know many of you will argue that getting Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup going is a higher priority, and you wouldn't be wrong, but Jamize Olawale's playmaking ability could be a huge asset for Quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense. I know it sounds a little strange, but hang in there with me for little bit.
As things stand right now, Olawale has only played 38 offensive snaps (10%) in 2018. That's the exact amount of offensive plays Wide Receiver Terrance Williams has played this year and he's missed the majority of the season. It's not exactly the kind of production I was expecting when the Cowboys decided to bring him aboard via trade with the Oakland Raiders earlier this offseason.
I don't know about you, but I was expecting Olawale to be more involved in the offensive game plan. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and isn't too shabby as a runner either. But, we haven't seen him utilized in either fashion this season and I think that's an injustice that needs to be corrected.
Now, I fully understand there are other offensive weapons ahead of him in the pecking order who need to see more targets, but I also really think he can make a difference maker, especially in the passing game. That is where his strengths lie, not as a lead blocking fullback.
Olawale was a bit of a Swiss Army knife during his time with the Oakland Raiders. He played a little running back, fullback, tight end, and even a little slot receiver. I really thought the Cowboys would take advantage of his versatility in the passing game, but as of yet they have failed to do so.
I'd like to see the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan utilize Jamize Olawale's unique playmaking ability a little bit more on offense. I think they should try to utilize him like the San Francisco 49ers use their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. He's much more involved and has played a total of 263 offensive snaps (63.68%) this year.
Juszczyk is a better lead blocking FB then Olawale, but that's not where he makes the most difference in the 49ers offense. He does it as a receiver and has already caught 17 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. That's some pretty solid production from a position that is being phased out in the NFL.
Now, just imagine the Cowboys offense getting similar production from Olawale and how that would help open up things for everybody else. It's not out of the realm of possibility because the 49ers offense and the Cowboys isn't all that dissimilar.
Unfortunately, I think Jamize Olawale is pretty much an afterthought in the Cowboys offense right now. It's truly unfortunate because I think he can be a difference maker if given the opportunity. And with a division foe like the Washington Redskins next on the schedule, what better time to unleash a new and unseen element of the offense?
Do you think Jamize Olawale needs to be more involved offensively?
Cole Beasley Key to Cowboys Passing Game Productivity?
What most of us already knew was confirmed last Sunday afternoon against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wide Receiver Cole Beasley is the Dallas Cowboys best receiver and is the key to the passing game productivity. He is not only the most productive, but the most consistent.
Cole Beasley isn't the tallest or the fastest and definitely doesn't look like a prototypical NFL receiver, but he showed last week against the Jaguars why opposing defenses have to account for him on every single play. He torched Jacksonville's top-ranked passing defense for 101 yards on nine catches and added two touchdowns, and it's that production that could help open up the entire passing game for the Cowboys.
It's painfully obvious Cole Beasley has been Dak Prescott's favorite target in the passing game since he took over the starting duties in 2016. Once opposing defenses figured that out they started to make things extremely difficult by bracketing Beasley in coverage and the passing game hasn't been the same since. But, that could be changing if the Jaguars game was an indication of what we might see moving forward.
Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan did a much better job of moving Beasley around to create favorable matchups against the Jaguars. I think we will see much more of that moving forward, but that likely means opposing defenses will once again try to take away Prescott's favorite target. That actually could end up helping the Cowboys passing game though.
If opposing defenses indeed try to contain Cole Beasley like they've done in the past, it should help provide more opportunities for Dallas' other pass catchers. Spreading the ball around to several different receivers would not only help Prescott and the passing game, but also open up the entire offense.
We haven't really seen much of Allen Hurns or Michael Gallup this season, but both are more than capable of being more productive if they are seeing single coverage more often. That's what's likely to happen if defenses bracket Beasley in coverage once again. Both WRs need to be more involved anyway and Beasley's recent spike in production could help do just that.
Now, if defenses decide to try and cover Beasley one-on-one like the Jaguars did quite a bit of last Sunday, the Cowboys would be wise to take advantage of that mismatch. He simply can't be covered by a single defensive back because of his precise route running ability. He is that good.
Regardless of how opposing defenses try to handle/contain Cole Beasley, he is without a doubt key to the Dallas Cowboys passing game productivity. Just the threat of him on the field changes a defenses approach, which is why he is Dallas' #1 WR in my book. He absolutely has to be more involved moving forward, even if it is as a decoy.
Do you think Cole Beasley is the key to the Cowboys passing game productivity?
How ‘Bout them Cowboys?! Dallas Set to Lasso Redskins in Week 7
Well, what do you think now of America’s Team? Anyone who foresaw Dallas’s evisceration of the league’s No. 1 defense hailing from Jacksonville is a downright soothsayer. In case you were in a coma this past weekend, the Cowboys obliterated the Jaguars’ vaunted defense to the tune of a 40-7 massacre in which Dak Prescott tossed for 183 yards, two passing touchdowns and ran one into the end zone for good measure. When the dust settled Prescott had chewed up 82 yards on the ground and Ezekiel Elliott surpassed the century mark in rushing with 106 yards and a touchdown of his own.
It was a glorious day to be a Cowboys fan and it’s safe to say that America’s Team is back!
Or are they?
Dallas is in a three-way logjam for the top spot in the NFC East with the Redskins and Eagles, but the way they made mincemeat of the Jacksonville defense gives us all hope that more good things are in the cards soon.
Seventh-year WR Cole Beasley blew the doors off of the Jags secondary by catching nine passes on 11 targets for a pair of touchdown receptions and 101 yards. It was a season-high for Beasley and the fact that Prescott has no real top-tier targets after the departures of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten makes it even more special.
This is a team that was not supposed to be able to move the ball through the air and, to be fair, hasn’t done much of it this season as evidenced by their 29th ranked passing game. But a little creative game planning by Head Coach Jason Garrett and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan paid dividends and the lingering specter of their heartbreaking overtime loss to the Texans in Week 5 was exorcised by the dominating victory.
What has gotten lost in the euphoria of Dallas’s week 6 win is their defense, as the Cowboys had three sacks, seven quarterback hits, and an interception by Jeff heath.
Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles was under siege and did not respond well to the pressure after establishing career highs in passing yards over the last two weeks leading up to this contest. But his opportunity to become the fifth NFL QB with three consecutive games of 375 passing yards or more evaporated in the heat of a blistering Dallas defense. Bortles ended the day with 149 yards, a TD and a pick.
As the Cowboys move on to Washington, we see that their success at home is only equaled by their struggles on the road. Dallas is now 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the highway. Buoyed off their stunning blitzkrieg of the Jags, we see that one of the most respected and trusted online sportsbooks in the industry, BetOnline has the Cowboys as 1 ½ point underdogs which is most likely a few points below what they would have been had they not won so convincingly last week.
Those who like to back up their football prognostications with cold, hard cash understand that Dallas is not only losing on the road but losing money for their backers in those contests. In those three losing games, Dallas is 0-2-1 against the spread but this week could be different. Against their divisional foes this week, Dallas is 4-0 straight up and 3-1 ATS versus Washington over the last two seasons.
The way this Cowboys defense is playing and the sudden explosion of Cole Beasley as a focal point of the passing attack, we could very easily see their first road win of the year.
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