As the Dallas Cowboys enter training camp, over the next few weeks, I’ll discuss some intriguing battles that will have an affect on the 53-man roster.
It’s official. Football is back. Actual football players are doing actual football things in an effort to shape the 53-man roster for the 2017 season.
For the Dallas Cowboys, this could not come at a better time. This offseason has been unnecessarily eventful, mostly for all the wrong reasons. Damien Wilson, Nolan Carroll, Ezekiel Elliott, David Irving and now former Cowboy Lucky Whitehead have been in the news for anything but football.
With everyone back and ready to focus on football, head coach Jason Garrett made sure the message was clear. According to several players, there was a very heated meeting with the intent on rectifying things immediately.
If cutting Whitehead on day one is any indication, another player on the transgression list may have opened a window of opportunity as well.
Last season, Damien Wilson appeared to have the light bulb come on, so to speak. Heading into this year, he was likely going to be a starter.
Now? He might not even make the roster. That story leads off our Camp Confidential series as the linebacker position definitely has the biggest question marks.
We know that we can expect a high level of play from Sean Lee. Going into his seventh season, anything less than another Pro-Bowl effort would be a shock. Thankfully, for the Cowboys, they have one player in this group they can count on.
After that, it’s any one’s guess as to what to expect.
Obviously, the Cowboys are hoping and praying that Jaylon Smith can be 75% of the player they expect him to be. Whether or not that is a realistic expectation though remains to be seen. If day one was any indication, the signs are positive, however.
Anthony Hitchens is coming off a productive season as the starter but it seems like the Cowboys are looking for an upgrade.
Two other guys, Mark Nzeocha (knee) and newly signed Justin Durant (elbow/conditioning) are not 100%. Then there is the ultimate Swiss-Army knife in Kyle Wilber. It’s never clear how he will be utilized, but you can guarantee he’ll be in the mix in some capacity.
All of this means there could be an opportunity for a lesser know player to get a real shot.
One player to watch is undrafted rookie Kennan Gilchrist from Appalachian State.
At 6’0″ and 235 pounds he may be slightly undersized but he’s got physical ability. At his pro day, Gilchrist impressed with a 4.57-40 yard dash and 26 reps on the bench press.
He was productive on the field as well, registering 89 tackles, 11 for loss and three sacks in his final year. Appalachian State is no slouch of a school either, going 21-5 in their last two seasons with two Bowl victories.
The Cowboys have had success in the past with a linebacker from this school as well. Former star Dexter Coakley played for the Mountaineers.
All in all, Gilchrist will likely have to have a great camp to make the team but the opportunity is there. All of this definitely makes the linebacker position intriguing to watch throughout training camp.