Thursday, 3:45 PM… The Dallas Cowboys officially start the 2014 season as day one of training camp opens. On Sunday, we looked at five things that Cowboys fans can be optimistic about heading into camp. Today, as part of the Cowboys Camp Confidential series, we’ll take a look at five players to keep an eye on throughout camp and the regular season. To be clear, these five players are not going to be the five best players on the team. What these five players represent are keys as to how training camp and the season itself shapes up.
Although the offense is in very good shape, it is on that side of the ball where we will find the first player to watch. As much of a beating as Morris Claiborne gets for being a flop so far based on where he was drafted and the expectations everyone had for him, he’s not the only underachiever chosen in a high draft slot. Gavin Escobar should be thankful that Claiborne gets so much publicity for his failures, else that hot light that shines brightly on everything Dallas Cowboys might find its way to him.
With the 47th overall selection in the 2013 NFL draft, Dallas chose Escobar to emulate some of the dynamic offenses that feature two extremely hard to guard tight ends. What the Cowboys got was nine catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Not exactly a high return on investment. When you factor in some other players that went after him, (Le’Veon Bell – 860 yards rushing, 8 TD’s, Eddie Lacy – 1,178 yards rushing 11 TD’s and Keenan Allen – 1,046 yards receiving, 8 TD’s) you wonder if the pick could have been used more fruitfully.
Since there were no injuries to place blame on, this either came down to coaching or individual player talent and aptitude. Do the Cowboys have another Martellus Bennett on their hands or was it Bill Callahan and Wes Phillips‘ problem for not developing him? We’ll find out one way or another this season as new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and new tight ends coach Mike Pope both have been on record stating they want to utilize the 6’6″ 250 lb. beast more in the passing game, possibly as a slot receiver. As ESPN’s Todd Archer pointed out, this will be huge as he states:
The Cowboys were unable to unlock the 12 personnel group the way they wanted with Bennett in part because of their lack of creativity and Bennett’s poor play. They need to understand what Escobar is and use his traits to the fullest.
For this offense to be truly unstoppable and also to provide some insurance just in case Terrance Williams does not continue to progress, Linehan and Pope must not lack creativity and Escobar must not be another Bennett clone.