Early offseason practices in the NFL are about preparing a 90-man roster for the rigor of padded training camps and a preseason that depletes each roster to just 53 men. Understanding where a team's strengths and weaknesses are with OTAs underway is vital to completing the roster. For the Dallas Cowboys, their defensive line projects to be one of Rod Marinelli's deepest and most talented groups yet, but even the Cowboys defensive coordinator is realizing this without starting DT David Irving right now.
Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli on David Irving: "Not in shape. ... He's been in and out [of the offseason conditioning program]." Is that disappointing? "No. The guys here I'm excited about.
David Irving's flashes of raw talent with the Cowboys have been more than enough to convince some fans that it's actually the team's fault for seemingly holding Irving back. With this latest development, it appears that the Cowboys have done everything they could to protect Irving - who's rewarded them with 11.5 sacks in 35 games.
Absent from the Cowboys workouts so far, Irving is reportedly out of football shape. According to Head Coach Jason Garrett, Irving is "getting into shape". Whatever that means. Something about accountability goes here.
Making a name for himself in Dallas ever since being picked up by the Cowboys off the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad, Irving has been in the news for plenty of wrong reasons before too. Remaining with the Cowboys after signing a second-round tender for 2018, the Cowboys have leverage against a projected starter at DT.
Any other team could have picked up Irving at the price of their second round pick, choosing instead to see this offseason's domestic violence charges and now a lack of practice participation reflect directly back on the Dallas Cowboys.
A Cowboys team that has even more questions to answer on the depth chart at defensive tackle. As it stands now, Maliek Collins will come off of a second broken foot in three seasons to start at one of the two DT spots for Dallas. The talented but perhaps misused interior rusher will be joined by the likes of Brian Price, Lewis Neal (who was preparing to spend the offseason learning the fullback position as of a few weeks ago), and Jihad Ward.
When the Cowboys traded for Ward during the 2018 NFL Draft, it is hard to believe they imagined needing him to step into such a large role right away. To David Irving's defense, the 6'7" nightmare for offensive linemen has a long time to work his way back onto the field and dominate in ways that few at the position can.
Irving should have no problem standing out over the field of DTs the Cowboys are currently fielding, undervaluing the position in recent memory. Rod Marinelli may very well have reason to be excited about the guys he has worked with so far, left with no choice but to apply his hard-and-fast coaching style to any defensive linemen fortunate enough to learn under him.
The alarming amount of players doing so right now that the Cowboys will have to consider for spots on the roster thanks to David Irving's continuous unreliability is concerning to say the least.
Also working through their numbers at linebacker to evaluate how first round pick Leighton Vander Esch will be utilized, the new-look Cowboys defense feels uncertain up the middle. Again, it is the end of May and games are not won and lost because of this just yet.
Insert David Irving at the 3T position and suddenly the entire Dallas defense is elevated because of it. Particularly franchise-tagged Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who makes Irving's current status all the more frustrating - benefiting the most from playing alongside a disruptive DT and entering yet another contract season.
As the summer heat beckons the return of another NFL season, the Cowboys are going to have plenty of difficult roster decisions to make before ever reaching a meaningful game. Falling behind this early in the offseason program after three years with the Cowboys is inexcusable for David Irving.
Report: Center Travis Frederick Undergoing Shoulder Evaluation
After missing the team's walkthrough this morning, it is being reported that Dallas Cowboys starting center Travis Frederick is having his shoulder evaluated due to multiple stingers. According to reports, Frederick has been dealing with stingers all training camp, and the Cowboys are unsure what is wrong with his shoulder.
Frederick rarely misses any practice time at all, and has not missed a start since he entered the league in 2013. He's the catalyst of this offensive line, and will be greatly missed if his injury is severe enough to make him miss regular season game time.
Jason Garrett says Travis Frederick is getting his shoulder looked at in Los Angeles. He's been dealing with stingers. No update behind that #cowboyswire
Joe Looney has been tasked with replacing Frederick for the time being, taking first team center reps during today's walk through and practice.
Given how meaningless Saturday's game is, I'd expect Looney to start at center against the Bengals this weekend as well. Hopefully the evaluation reveals that Frederick's issues are not serious and he will be ready for game one, but consistent stingers will always make fans fear for the worst.
Cowboys G Marcus Martin Needs Surgery; Impact on 53-Man Roster
Marcus Martin, the veteran guard Dallas signed as a free agent last March, suffered a potential season-ending injury in the team's preseason opener last Thursday night. Just how long he'll be out is still be determined, but it still should impact the Cowboys' final 53-man roster this season.
Martin tore ligaments in his right big toe against the 49ers. However, as of yesterday, it was not decided if he would pursue surgery.
The Cowboys don't expect backup OG Marcus Martin to play this season after he tore ligaments in his big toe in the preseason opener, but he's seeking a 2nd opinion before deciding whether to have surgery. Martin signed a 1-year deal with Dallas as a free agent this offseason.
A former third-round pick in 2014, the 24-year-old was brought in as a potential reserve at both guard at center. He was still in competition with Joe Looney and others for a roster spot, though, and his minimal one-year contract suggested nothing was guaranteed.
Even if Martin doesn't have surgery, he is almost sure to miss the start of the season. Dallas would likely place him on injured reserve, but still have the option to recall him after Week 8.
Marcus' absence all but guarantees that Looney will return in 2018. This will be his third year in the system and his ability to play center is critical.
In my 53-man roster projection last week, I had both Looney and Martin making the team. So if I had that right, that means a spot has opened up for probably fifth-year veteran Kadeem Edwards, who was playing with the second unit in the preseason opener.
The notorious Chaz Green, who has played guard at times, could also be the beneficiary of the open roster spot.
Damien Mama, an undrafted free agent in 2017 who Dallas added this offseason, is the only other guard currently on the roster. We should get to see more of him as the preseason continues.
Marcus Martin's availability, or lack thereof, and how it ultimately impacts the roster will be determined in the coming weeks.
LB Jaylon Smith 100% Healthy Entering 2018 Season
If you need any more reason to be excited about the Dallas Cowboys upcoming 2018 season, then look no further than their 2016 second-round draft pick, Jaylon Smith. His comeback story from the devastating knee injury he sustained in his last collegiate game at Notre Dame has been well-documented, but recent news suggests his journey has finally come full circle.
Once considered a top-five pick, Smith saw his draft stock plummet due to concerns he may never be able to step foot on the field ever again. Fortunately, the Dallas Cowboys were willing to gamble he would be able to make a full recovery and once again become the player he was with the Fighting Irish.
The long and grueling rehab process couldn't have been easy to endure. Jaylon Smith was forced to pretty much redshirt his rookie season and played on a pitch count Year 2 while he continued to rehab, waiting for nerve regeneration that may never fully heal.
Luckily for him, he joined a team with a really good support system both on and off the field. A support system that just so happened to include his brother, Running Back Rod Smith. It's that support system that could have made a huge difference in his approach to rehab. An approach that may have finally paid off.
All reports indicate Jaylon Smith is 100% healthy once again, or as close to it as possible. Rod Smith, his brother, said Jaylon is back to being as good as he was at Notre Dame. Jaylon however said he is even better than he was. But, they are not the only ones weighing in on Smith's health.
Scouting Director Will McClay went on 103.3 FM ESPN Radio Monday morning and declared LB Jaylon 100 percent healthy from the injury he suffered in college that kept him out his rookie season in 2016 and had him on a pitch count in 2017.
Will McClay isn't the only one that has noticed a difference in Jaylon Smith. Head Coach Jason Garrett has said Smith has grown leaps and bounds from last year and are treating him like a player with no limitations.
"Again, he worked hard in his rehab. Coming into this off-season he was able to take that brace off. I think that's freed him up a little bit," Garrett said.
"And he just looks much more natural. So again, you'll have to ask him that very question, but from our point of view, he looks like he's moving around really well, changing direction really well, making a lot of plays. I think he's gaining more confidence with each day. We really don't have a plan for him right now. He's full-go and ready to practice every day with no limitation."
All of these accounts certainly make it sound like Jaylon Smith's arrow is trending upwards and that he is as healthy as he has been since joining the Dallas Cowboys.
Luckily, we don't have long to see him in action. I don't know about you, but Thursday night when the Cowboys take on the San Francisco 49ers in the Week 1 of the NFL Preseason can't get here soon enough.
Are you excited to see a 100% healthy Jaylon Smith this season?
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