Training Camp is rapidly approaching for the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California. This is where the roster starts to get figured out for the new season. As usual, there’s plenty to talk about in Big D.
Dak Prescott is entering year four with extremely high expectations and hopes of signing a lucrative contract. With two NFC East crowns and an Offensive Rookie of the Year already on his resume, it’s time for the next step in his career, and that’s getting the Cowboys past the second round for the first time since 1995. He’s already off to a great start in OTA’s (Organized Team Activities) under the guidance of Quarterback Coach Jon Kitna, who’s helping Prescott with his mechanics and footwork. Having already set an NFL record for completion percentage for a quarterback in his first three years (66.1), these little details getting improved will take him to the next level.
As we all know, he has plenty of pieces to work with. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb give the Cowboys an extremely formidable three-headed monster at receiver. Now with both outside receiver positions intact, and Cobb taking the reigns from Cole Beasley in the slot, you can expect the aerial assault to improve by leaps and bounds in 2019.
There are some questions at receiver entering training camp. Allen Hurns is coming off a dislocated ankle and a fractured knee suffered during last seasons Wild Card round playoff win against the Seahawks. In a crowded receiver room, he has an uphill battle for snaps this season.
Tavon Austin is often getting rehab instead of producing on the field. And now, with the team drafting Running Back Tony Pollard, who does all the things he can and better, are their enough opportunities for him to even make the final 53 man roster? Unfortunately, I feel his fate might not be too positive but we shall see.
The running back room is lead by Ezekiel Elliott, who you can pretty much pencil in for 1,500 yards every year, he’s the given. However, there’s an interesting battle behind him for the backup role. The previously mentioned Tony Pollard has the inside track with his large bag of skills coming out of Memphis. He tied an NCAA record with seven kick returns for touchdowns. Also, he lined up at receiver as well during his college days. Behind him is Mike Webster out of Ohio State. He’s not as talented or explosive as Pollard, but he averaged nearly six yards per rush in college. He’ll definitely make the final 53, but he has a steep hill to climb to be Elliott’s backup.
Jason Witten is back for year sixteen and you can bet he’ll be the week one starter at tight end. Blake Jarwin, who was set to be the starter before the return of Witten, is firmly locked in the backup role. Dalton Schultz is number three and a solid option in case anything should happen to the two formers. Then, there’s Rico Gathers. A player with unlimited potential but I can see him as a possible cut before the final roster decisions are made, especially with him receiving a one-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
The offensive line is looking to once again establish itself is the NFL’s best. Tyron Smith is one of the best at his position in the sport. Look for another season of making right defensive ends lives miserable every Sunday. Zack Martin is the best guard in the NFL, defensive tackles simply don’t stand a chance. Travis Frederick is back after a year off in 2018 as he battled with Guillan-Barre Syndrome. It’ll take some time for him to show the dominance that made him the leagues best center for three seasons, but he’s definitely on the right track. Full contact at training camp will be the final test for him.
Look for newly appointed Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore to aid in the teams quest for more diversity. The new puppet master is looking to get away from the predictable scheme of Scott Linehan. He’s said he wants to get input from his weapons about the type of plays they see that can maximize the potential on that side of the ball. Now that’s got to be music to the ears of Dak Prescott and the rest of the offense.
Defensively, the Cowboys are coming off a great season in 2018. Finishing 5th against the run, 7th in points, 7th in total yards and 13th against the pass. And with a few pieces added via the draft and free agency, the expectations have gone up heading into the new season.
The defensive line, of course, starts with All-Pro Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. Having totaled more sacks in the last two years than Khalil Mack and Von Miller, you can lock in another double-digit sack season for him. On the other side is Robert Quinn, who was acquired by trade from the Dolphins. A former All-Pro in his own right, he helps solidify the edge and makes this duo one of the best in the NFL.
Kerry Hyder, Randy Gregory, Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Trysten Hill, Tyrone Crawford Joe Jackson, and Christian Covington are all in play across the defensive line for playing time. This will be one of the most intriguing camp battles in late July.
The linebacker core you can argue is the teams top unit. Jaylon Smith is entering his third season on the field after 202 total tackles in his first two, he’s your starter at middle linebacker. Leighton Vander Esch was the steal of last years draft. Racking up 140 tackles and an All-Pro selection as a rookie, he’ll hold down the weakside linebacker spot. Then there’s Sean Lee, while dominant, a constant question mark due to health issues. However, when on the field, you’d be hard pressed to find a better linebacker in the league. Changing clothes so to speak, he’ll switch from weakside linebacker to the strongside.
The secondary is stockpiled with bodies as well. Xavier Woods has his role at free safety on lockdown. Jeff Heath, at the moment, man’s the free safety spot, but look for George Iloka, Kavon Frazier and Donovan Wilson to challenge him in camp.
Byron Jones and Chido Awuzie are your starting corners barring anything drastic. The slot or nickel corner spot, however, is up for grabs. Anthony Brown has the inside track to start but look for Jourdan Lewis and rookie Michael Jackson to push him for playing time.
Now we wait until late July in California when the pads come on for real. There’s plenty of roster spots and playing time up for grabs. Time will tell who will survive and have their star on their helmet in 2019.