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

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