Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

QUICK OUT: Early Thoughts On Cowboys Training Camp

Okay fans, the season has officially begun.  As of this morning, we are two full days into the 2012 Training Camp for the Dallas Cowboys taking place in Oxnard,CA.  Here are just a few observations so far on the Cowboys:

1.  It’s old news now, but pretty disappointing to see Felix Jones, Brodney Pool, and Andre Holmes fail their conditioning tests.  They aren’t allowed to practice until they pass.  These are all 3 players that have potentially big roles in the Cowboys plans this season – Felix in his contract year as the “change of pace” backup to DeMarco Murray, Pool in the mix as a potential starter at safety, and Andre Holmes who many have mentioned as a strong candidate to replace Laurent Robinson as the #3 receiver.  It isn’t like they didn’t know this was coming or what the test would be – 2 sets of ten 60-yard sprints at 8 seconds or less per sprint.  That should be a piece of cake for an NFL athlete at a skill position like theirs.  What does it say about their off season, their preparation for camp, or their commitment?  Nothing good.  They practiced the test on Tuesday and will officially re-take it today.  Let’s hope they pass it this time as they need the practice time and the team needs them.

2.  The NFL is proving once again there is a conspiracy against our Cowboys.  NFL rules state that a team cannot open their training camp until 15 days before their first preseason game.  Because the Cowboys have the last preseason game of week 1 (on 8/13), they were not allowed to open camp until today.  However, the Giants and the Cowboys both open the season against one another on 9/5.  But, the Giants were allowed to open their camp last Friday giving them 3 extra days of quality time before the season opener versus the Cowboys.  With the new CBA rules limiting anything and everythng teams can do now in training camp, those 3 days are huge.  The Eagles and Redskins get a full 8 days advantage on the Cowboys.  But, the league turned down the Cowboys request for an exception.  Only thing missing is a grassy knoll and Oliver Stone…

3.  Bill Nagy apparently suffered a high ankle sprain on the first day of camp and may miss the rest of preseason.  That is a big blow to a very thin center position.  Nagy was expected to battle Costa and Kowalski (PUP) but the Cowboys are now down to Costa, who was questionable last year and youthful David Arkin and Harland Gunn.  The interior line was clearly an area of concern coming into the season and with Kowalski and Bernadeau already gimpy, adding Nagy to the list is a real problem.  It goes without saying that we need to keep Romo upright this season so he can run the offense.  So far, the plans the Cowboys thought they had have been blown up.

This is just an aside, but are the new CBA rules around training camp and practices – intended to protect players - actually working against them?  While having fewer practices in full pads with full contact reduces the physical burden on players over a long, difficult season, is it ultimately making them more vulnerable to injury?  Teams are allowed only 14 padded practices during the entire regular season, no more than 2 practices per week in full pads, and no longer than 3 hours per practice.  I was always taught you “play like you practice” and that you had a higher chance of being hurt in a game if you were not going full speed.  Historically in the NFL, the most successful teams have been those who were toughest.  Anyone remember “Camp Cupcake” under Wade Phillips?  The players may love the easier practices but I can’t ever recall seeing so many high ankle sprains, muscle pulls, and knee injuries to key players throughout the league as we have the last 2 years.  If you don’t often go full speed simulating “live action”, are you really fully prepared for the speed and intensity of a game?  Think of it this way – if you practice surviving a car crash every day at 10 mph, does it really help you when the car is going 75 mph?  The new rules might help avoid concussions – and that’s a good thing – but I think the rest of the body can potentially get soft to violent contact.  When we have a few more years of data, it would be interesting to compare injury rates in college football (where they don’t have these rules) to the NFL.

4.  Late in Monday’s first practice, Mo Claiborne came up limping with soreness in his groin.  Hopefully, it is nothing more than that and he doesn’t develop the perennial groin pull that plagued his predecessor.  He practiced in full on Tuesday, so looks like he’s fine.  Interesting to see that Claiborne was immediately inserted in the starting defense.  There had been some speculation that he would start off behind Scandrick and would have to earn his spot.  Not so, apparently.

5.  Time to panic yet on the punter?  The Cowboys decided re-signing Mat McBriar was too expensive and the “future” (aka cheaper option), Chris Jones started camp with a bad case of the shanks.  That is one decision I think the Cowboys will regret – particularly on November 11th in Philadelphia where they get to see McBriar in a green Eagles uniform for the first time.  Let me be the first to say it – Jones is no McBriar and we may get to find out just how many losses can be traced back to poor field position as a result of poor punting.  Let’s hope Jones can get it fixed.

6.  Mo Claiborne has gotten most of the attention since the draft but so far Brandon Carr has been the more consistent player and is having an outstanding camp.  Not totally surprising as he is the veteran and it likely takes a little time for Claiborne to catch on to the nuances of certain zone coverages.  Claiborne has been beaten on a lot of routes so far but appears to be learning and improving every day.  No doubt he is a huge talent and will eventually be just fine, but he will have a learning curve too.

7.  Jay Ratliff’s foot injury has flared up again and as of this writing, he is “out indefinitely”.  Ratliff had a painful plantar fascitis injury last year and it was hoped that he was fully recovered.  Not so and this could linger all season.  NOT good news.

8.  Cole Beasley is having an outstanding camp and if he can learn his reads, run the correct routes, and develop a rhythm with Romo, he could be the guy to replace Laurent Robinson.

Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

9.  Dan Bailey has yet to miss a field goal in live drills – that’s a very good sign after living through the painfully inconsistent David Buehler.

Lots more to come as today will be the first day in pads.  Let’s hope that the Cowboys can avoid losing any more players to injury.  This team is talented but some of the backup talent is still pretty raw.  Go Cowboys!

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Tags: Andre Holmes Brodney Pool Chris Jones Cowboys Dallas Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray Felix Jones Giants Laurent Robinson Mat McBriar New York Giants NFL Orlando Scandrick Philadelphia Eagles Terence Newman Washington Redskins

  • MillaRed

    Anyone have any idea of what player was cut to keep 2 kickers on the roster the last year or two?

  • Rich in NWA

    As usual Todd, great post this week. You left me laughing a couple times, like when you hammer the guys for failing the fitness test. I’d like to see you sprint that many times in under 8 seconds. You must think you are super-fast! I have seen your profile picture and can feel reasonable comfortable in saying YOU ARE PROBABLY NOT!
    A conspiracy? Against the Cowboys? Really? The League always does everything in their power to cater to the Cowboys, not conspire against them. How else do you explain the ridiculoulsy easy schedule this year?

  • ctcowboy1968

    1. Professional athletes whose job is to be in shape. Didn’t get it done. Shameful.
    2. The NFL is always conspiring against the Cowboys. Goodell is John Mara’s (Giants owner) puppet. It’s not just less practice. When was the last season home opener. It’s two years in a row of opening road games on the east coast followed by the west coast. Goodell was born and raised in NY.
    All teams should start practice on the same day regardless of TV schedules!
    3. Who has Gurode’s phone #?
    4. Mo behind Scandrick? Never. Behind Jenkins? Maybe. Scandrick is for the slot only.
    5. Cowboys should not have let McBriar leave town.
    6. Rat is getting old. The years of pounding are catching up to him. The coaches had better get comfortable with Brent and Calloway.
    7. Beasley is not Laurent. To short. My money is on Holmes.
    8. Bailey is money. I would state that about Folk several years back. Kickers are weird.

  • Californy

    Nice Article Todd, you have some nice insight into camp.
    1. The Player are just lazy, that shouldnt surprise me at all, Felix is at the end of his contract and still doesnt get it. It hot a shpulder issue that been cleared. Adrea Holmes is a joke, I dont want him at all> he doesnt know how to put hard work into his profession. That why I want a player like TO, so these young player can see how much hard work is put into keeping their job. TO is almost 39 and I bet he works harder than anyone on this team and NFL. I also wanted a center called David Molk, you should see his video on You tube. where he is lifting and wearing a cast. Molk injury is no excuse for him not working out hard.
    2.THe NFL and the Dallas Cowboys start up date. It too bad they need the work. I wish they would have more days in conditioning by running and getting into shape. This team us way to soft and it show. It too bad the NFL rules has water down the talent here in the NFL.
    3.The Center Spot. I consider this a major weakness on the team. I dont understand JJ accessment on this position. There is talent out there as reported by CowgirlCass from SportsDFW site,there Jason Brown Center and Vincent Manuwai Guard. You already know about Gurode Center. The team answer to Center is Nagy who really had no starting position in college, Costa only started 1 season a center in college, Harland Gunn was a Good Guard in college, now he is 2rd string center. Kowalski is hurt. You would of thought by now the Boys would of brough someone in for a look but they havent. It almost the are forcing Costa to suceed by bringing in player with no talent for the position and to push him.
    4. Moriss Claiborne soreness is a good thing he is pushing himself and other are doing the psuhing. There will be a learning curve and we are all seeing it. I doubt he is worth the talent of a top 10 CB, if so how can a undrafted WR in Beasley take him to school. I like Beasley alot, I am hoping he succeed at this level, so far everything looking good in that department.
    5. The Punter situation. It should be no surprise what we are seeing Mc Briar is a All Pro talent all Chris Jones is and Alvarado are NFL back up punters, how else can you explain it when they both came from no one else roster and undrafted too. I consider this a major oversight by the Cowboys. My guess is the boys will eventually have to pay the cost of a new Punter and that cost will be over 300.000 to get a good player. So what do we really save?

  • Californy

    7. Jay Ratliff Situation. Jay is damage good no matter how you look at it. We should not depend on him. I doubt Crawford could put on 20 lbs in a couple of months and become effective. Ratliff came into the league at the same weight as Crawford and eventually ballon to 305, that an increase of 35 lbs but it took him years to play at that weight, now he is back to 285. The extra weight had an impact on his health and feet. he is desperately trying to save his NFL career by getting down in weight but that has all about cut down on him being a effective player in this defense. I dont think Crawford can play 20 lbs highter without something giving maybe stanima, The boys truly miss an opportunity in getting a player who could help us in the middle. I knew about Jay foot condition last year. It too bad the boys didnt protect themselves against this.
    8 Cole Beasley is the beast. I wont make excuses for the man he is getting it done. Beasley all his life has to get by the artificial barrier people have put in front of him. He is truly that player who derves that opportunity but has earn that right.
    9 Dan Bailey is a solid player. We should be fortinate to have him. I bet you he would be a better punter than Chris Johnson if he had to kick. Even Coale had a better average than Chris Jones in College.