Lucky for me, the Dallas Cowboys hold their training camp in my back yard. It’s actually a three hour drive, but that’s not that long a distance in Southern California.
I attended most of the first two days of camp with my nephew as most of the other Cowboys fans did, with no special access. Oh, the True Blue membership got me ahead of the crowd when we showed up on time and stayed on site at the Residence Inn River Ridge where the team stayed. But that didn’t seem to get me any closer to the players or coaches. No matter.
It was good to see CowboysNation come out in droves, as we do every summer the Cowboys come to Oxnard. Always amazing to me, because I’m in California, how many of us there are. To borrow a line from the movie, ‘Sixth Sense’, I see Cowboys fans… All the time.
Hardcore fans and fringe fans alike are there to get close to the Cowboys players, maybe get a signature or photo of their favorite player, Dez, Witten, Ware, or maybe even Romo this year – or, as usually turns out, any player. You just hope the one that does sign your hat or football or jersey, makes the final 53 as you shuffle through your program guide to identify the number on the players jersey.
With the fringe fans satisfied with that, they and the more hardcore fans then watch practice for signs. Signs that progress is being made or if the atrocious Offensive Line has any plans of improving, especially with the addition of Center, Travis Frederick (or, Fitzgerald, as I seem to keep calling him).
Signs and questions. Questions like, how’s Miles Austin’s hamstrings, Sean Lee’s toe, Dez Bryant’s attention span, D Ware’s shoulder, Jay Ratliff’s knees or DeMarco Murray’s over all health. And what about Head Coach, Jason Garrett’s new ‘walk around’ status or Callahan’s play calling. What about the scheme and coaching changes on defense? Monte Kiffin?
You see, Cowboy’s fans didn’t just come to Oxnard, CA to look for autographs. They also came looking for answers, looking for signs that a team so loaded with talent can do better than 8 -8. Cowboys fans came to see if the running game will have more burst and the passing game better execution. They, we, came to see the Cowboys defense, specifically, can they stay healthy.
And, judging by the comments of the fans around me at camp, and yells from the sidelines as the Cowboys practiced, everyone came to see if Miles Austin and his delicate hammys is special, or just a guy.
Well, if the first couple days of camp is any indication, the health of the Dallas Cowboys players continues to be an issue. A devastating achilles injury ended DE Tyrone Crawford’s year before it began. Crawford is a solid, up and coming DE that was going to develop into starting DE, Anthony Spencer’s replacement. Speaking of Spencer, he just had surgery for a bad bone bruise and will likely miss the pre-season. Those two and the fact that it looks like DT Jay Ratliff, is coming into this year the way he did last year – banged up and injury prone – makes me immediately concerned that our defense is going to be a question mark going into this year. It looks like, by early observation, that the Cowboys Linebackers and DeMarcus Ware are going to shoulder the load this year. Defense? No answers, yet.
The offense, specifically, QB Tony Romo, got off to their typically slow, ugly, start, IMO. By day 3, though I wasn’t there to see it, it seems that they started to gel. Minor injuries abound on the Offensive Line, but nothing too serious yet. There was a question about Romo’s conditioning coming into camp, but a week running in the mountains seems to have taken care of that. WR Dez Bryant and RB DeMarco looked great, and were bright spots for me the first 2 days. Answers? I’m optimistic and no longer care about Miles Austin.
The thing I think I liked best this camp so far, is the coaching. Jason Garrett fits the ‘walk around’ head coach mold and I think the change may save his head coaching career, at least where the Cowboys are concerned. Offensive Coordinator, Bill Callahan, had what seemed to be a good command of the offense in the first week of practice. Defensive Coordinator, Monte Kiffin, looks to have the healthy players doing what they need to do and as long as ‘Mike’ linebacker, Sean Lee, has a good grasp of Monte’s scheme, i’m fine with this new change. For me, most questions have been answered here.
Of course, that’s just the first week.