As many of you know I had the pleasure of spending a few days at Training Camp in Oxnard, California this week. Training Camp is an exciting time as it signals the beginning of the preseason which means football is just around the corner. In 10 days or so these Dallas Cowboys will be travelling to Canton, Ohio for an exhibition date with The Miami Dolphins. Over this past week’s practices we’ve seen some unfortunate things and some very positive things as well; the truth of the matter is they’re just getting started.
First, let me start this out by saying everyone knows that this offseason was a quiet one for Cowboys fans; however I would think that most would agree that quiet is not necessarily a bad thing for this franchise. Sure there have been stories sprinkled in here and there but all has been seemingly calm on the Cowboy’s waterfront. This past weekend was a chance for The Dallas Cowboys fans and writers alike to get a view on how things were beginning to shake out along this roster. Now with only six practices down, nothing is glued to the wall quite yet. Nonetheless I would like to share with all of you readers the things that I had taken note of during my time in Oxnard.
- Dez Bryant is almost unstoppable, he really exudes confidence and knowledge not only in his route running but in his decision making as well. His rapport that he has built with Quarterback Tony Romo is extremely evident of its importance to the young wide-out. He has what Broaddus has called a “Playmaker” mentality that causes fantastic competition between himself and corners such as Carr, Scandrick and especially Claiborne.
- Eric Rogers, who is right in his own backyard, is making significant strides to raise these Coaches awareness of his presence. He seems to be able to make great catches and gives this team a dynamic they wanted from Andre Homes but Rogers can actually make catches. He’s a tall receiver who plays that way which is what eventually got Holmes off this roster.
- Miles Austin and Terrance Williams had their struggles but still were able to a make a few head turning plays to show their worth. In Williams’ case, transitioning from college to the pros can take a toll on a young receiver. It is considered one of the most difficult positions to transition from in the NFL.
The Thin D-Line:
- Tyrone Crawford’s Achilles injury was very unfortunate and created a pretty nasty hole in the depth of this defensive line. I was actually standing directly behind him when he was attempting to finish his drill with agility. The snap was heard by everyone in the near vicinity and once he grabbed his ankle it became obvious that it was a significant injury. This is devastating for a young player trying to prove his worth and possible ability to become an eventual starter. His versatility will be missed as well as he had the ability to play both end and tackle.
- Jay Ratliff getting injured though it isn’t looked at as serious in nature is still yet another injury that is hurting the ability to know what they have and where. To be honest this team is going to need a bounce-back season from Jay Ratliff because the last thing they want is this team to be inept at the position.
- Ben Bass and Kyle Wilber- Both of these young guys have been taking advantage of their opportunities. Bass has the ability to play both end and tackle and really gave fans hope when he was in the tackle position. Ben Bass was getting into the backfield which is unfortunate for the offensive line; mind you he was out with the twos. Wilber was able to give even Tyron Smith some problems but Smith recovered well.
- George Selvie and Landon Cohen as Broaddus has mentioned really did a nice job for a guys who woke up in completely different zip codes and went to bed in Oxnard, California. They are veterans with some experience, it would be very soothing to the depth chart if one of these guys can get this team through Camp, and maybe find his way on the roster.
- Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, and Orlando Scandrick all have been doing a nice job in their assignments. Now it is very hard to cover a receiver like Dez Bryant, and Bryant wins most of the battles; however the competition is very stiff and exciting to watch. These are the types of competitive players that are infectious and create a championship-caliber team.
- JJ Wilcox was on my Mock Drafts a few months back and boy he has been making me look good lately. He is everything his tape said he would be. He’s even been compared to Bill Bates most recently by Jason Garrett. His ability to fly around the ball and be a sound tackler is spelling a long career for the young Safety. He has things to learn and may not start right off the bat, but he has the intangibles to become a starter fairly quickly. He loves to hit, which is going to serve him well when he joins Rich Bisaccia’s Special Teams Unit.
- B.W. Webb has had his struggles thus far but he has recovered very nicely in the past few days. This entire Secondary should be much improved from last year’s unit that didn’t finish very well. The opportunities are ahead for this Defense to make strides this year.
Changing the Ratio….of Turnovers that is
- The attention to creating turnovers is evident with these players and coaches. This team obviously has spent the entire offseason making this crucial part of the game a major focus point. In these practices the players not only on the Defense but Special Teams as well have been very detail oriented in creating opportunities for the Offense. Turnovers change games and win games and it’s never a bad thing to be putting the ball back in the hands of a three-time Pro-Bowl Quarterback.
- Jason Garrett has an aura about him when he walks around the field; He is very active with all units and seems to have the respect on everyone involved. I think minimizing his “coordinator” role will serve him well going forward. He is often seen as being very demanding while he is out there. Nobody has ever questioned his intelligence and watching his pre-practice speech to the players showed he was motivating and commanding.
- DeMarco Murray fits like a glove for this scheme. He has the vision and one-cut style to create his own lanes and get down the field. Lance Dunbar gives these Cowboys that change-of-pace dynamic they have been yearning for quite some time. He is explosive and can make a defender miss to get him into the open, he also has very good hands when catching out of the backfield. Tanner though he has been running well, hasn’t really shown anything that makes you want to keep him over anyone else. Randle, Dunbar, and obviously Murray are all very good in screen-pass situations. That gives Tony a little more confidence when he has to dump it off.
- Travis Frederick is going to be the Center, he was rusty at Guard but he plays with confidence and aggression at Center. Though I cannot wait to see Leary back on the field, Kowalski and Arkin haven’t looked lost out there. Kowalski is interesting because of his versatility, but then again so is Ryan Cook.
- The Cowboys have looked significantly better at running the ball and I think it has a lot to do with the dare-I-say somewhat reemergence of Doug Free. He is playing like he has something to prove, which he most definitely does. Doug Free has been showing great things when these backs have attempted to run behind him. With Parnell out nursing his hamstring, Free is fighting hard to show he was worth giving a second chance.
Now the Dallas Cowboys have only completed one week of a long Training Camp, but these were some of my observations thus far. The one thing that is alarming is the current state of injuries, but it seems as that most are not serious; however the hamstring thing is a bit worrisome. Hopefully this team can be restored soon with a clean bill of health. This Cowboys squad has been gaining a lot of confidence with these Core Players leading the way. It could be one of the best Rosters in a while, as there is a wealth of talent at several key positions. There is much yet unseen, and with a few more weeks left in Training Camp, keep your eyes peeled for more interesting battles ahead. Roster spots are still available for some of these young guys and the Defensive Line is looking for depth; nonetheless it is only just the beginning of what will be a very interesting Camp and Preseason.