It went very, very fast. It feels that is you would have blinked, you might have missed it. Just like that, the Dallas Cowboys California based training camp is over, with the Cowboys arriving back in the DFW area Wednesday evening. They’ve played the first two preseason games in Oakland and San Diego respectively and now will play their final two in Cowboys Stadium in a span of five days starting this Saturday against the St. Louis Rams.
We have all been reading about the team and watching camp highlights on television on the different stations we have access to. We have also been able view half of the team’s slate of preseason games. With that being said, let’s review who the Cowboys feel good and bad about at the midpoint of this preseason.
1) Dez Bryant — He has continued to look great in the limited action he received in these first two games. His one grab for 24 yards against Oakland, and two catches for 15 yards in San Diego all looked good. He put his “freak” ability on full display at the 1:15 mark in the first quarter when he made a one handed snag in the back of the end zone. This play demonstrated all the good things we have been hearing out of camp this summer, and what we hope to see during the season. While the Cowboys are holding him out to rest his knee the remainder of the preseason, I fully expect him to be ready for the opener in two weeks against the Giants. If he can play as strong in the fourth quarter as he does in the first, this could be his breakout season.
2) Brandon Carr – The New York Jets have Darrelle Revis and “Revis Island”, maybe the Cowboys can have Carr’s Corner (or some other great name yet to be determined) for Mr. Carr. He looked great on the field Saturday night against the Chargers. He had two interceptions in the second quarter (12:00 and 3:12 minute marks respectively) that gave the Cowboys the takeaways this defense needs, and did not get last year. If he can continue to show this when the regular season starts in two weeks, Rob Ryan may finally be able to justify all the hype that Cowboys fans have been waiting to see.
3) Jamize Olawale – The former wide receiver/tight end that has been converted to a running back/fullback in Dallas continues to impress. He shows the versatility that the Cowboys love to have on their team. While it’s too early to say if he can push his way onto the 53 man roster on cut down day on August 31, he may play well enough to not make it to the practice squad either. He has shown the ability to push the pile and be the big, strong back the Cowboys have not had since Marion Barber’s early seasons with the team.
4) Kevin Ogletree – While only making one catch for 12 yards in the game at Oakland, he looked much more impressive against San Diego. Against the Chargers he finished with four catches for 60 yards, and now seems to be in the lead for the much talked about 3rd wide receiver position. He will need to keep a hold on this spot, because the Cowboys won’t hold onto him if he is the 4th or 5th best receiver on the team. The next two games will be very important for him to continue to distinguish himself. If he fails, I fully expect for the Cowboys to watch the waiver wire come August 31st to see if they can find the next Laurent Robinson.
5) Mario Butler – With his strong performances against the Raiders and Chargers, he’s locked into the 5th cornerback position. He also has the versatility to play some safety and special teams, so he has improved his value in the Cowboys eyes. While his speed isn’t what you would like, his awareness has allowed him to make plays nonetheless.
1) Stephen McGee/Rudy Carpenter – The Cowboys will gain an important roster spot this season by not having a third quarterback on the team. Stephen McGee, while possessing good athletic ability, just is not an NFL caliber quarterback at this point in time. The sad thing for him is that with him being on the active game day roster so many times for the Cowboys the past few seasons, he has no practice squad eligibility left. Rudy Carpenter should make the Cowboy’s practice squad, where he can continue to develop into possibly being a decent quarterback in the future.
2) Felix Jones – There has been some talk by some writers and radio personalities regarding a possibility Jones won’t make the team. I don’t believe that for a second, but I’m saddened by what has happened to Felix. With Jones being a 1st round pick of the Cowboys in 2008, he has shown glimpses, but has never put it all together to be the back Cowboy fans had hoped. He put on some weight a few seasons ago to help his durability issues, but this weight has taken away the burst and elusiveness he once shown. Hopefully he can drop this weight, get himself into shape and make a contribution for the Cowboys in 2012. I hope I’m wrong, but I believe this may be his last year with the team unless he can make a significant turnaround.
3) Raymond Radway – He played very well in the 2011 preseason, and if it were not for a freak injury at the end of preseason game four in Miami, he would of made the team. He wasn’t even thrown to in the game in Oakland, and had four targets in San Diego without a catch. This is very disappointing, and he really needs to show some things in the final two preseason games to have a chance at making this team. The Cowboys may be able to sneak him onto the practice squad, but it only takes one of the league’s 31 teams to remember 2011 and add him to their roster.
4) Injuries to offensive playmakers – Although the injuries on the defensive side of the ball are a concern, good depth have helped these problems. The injuries to the offensive side are a big concern. When healthy, the playmaking group of Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, and Miles Austin is one of the best in the league. The question however, is how many games will this group play together? Jason Witten has his spleen issue, and there is a huge risk of rushing him back too early to action. If he gets hit the wrong way before being fully healed and ruptures his spleen, he will then miss a majority of the season. Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray have a history of missing time throughout their college and pro careers respectively. The hamstrings of Miles Austin are a major concern. After being plagued by hamstring issues the entire 2011 season, the last thing Cowboy fans wanted to hear associated with Miles was hamstring problems. Well, guess what, that is what we are hearing again. The Cowboys have been wise to hold him out since these first issues were diagnosed, but the fear is this could be a problem again this year.
With the last two preseason games to be played in a span of five days, things will shake out fast. The Cowboy’s September 5th NFL season opener is less than two weeks away. I look forward to seeing the final composition of the roster, and what kind of success the Cowboys can have in 2012.
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