With the Dallas Cowboys’ training camp set to start next week, let’s get an early primer of what to watch for.
We are about 10 days out from the start of the Dallas Cowboys training camp for the 2018 NFL season. There have been many questions this offseason about the Cowboys, but what are the things to really look out for once camp starts? Some are obvious, others are not. Here is a quick primer.
Of course, when talking about the Dallas Cowboys this offseason the first topics are almost always about the wide receiver and tight end positions. With the departures of Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Ryan Switzer, and James Hanna, there will certainly be a new look to the receivers and tight ends this season.
There is very little experience at the tight end position in terms of actual NFL games played. So, of course, the first thing to watch is who will emerge as the starting tight end/ends and what will this group look like. According to the staff right now Blake Jarwin looks to be an early leader. Fans want Rico Gathers, and only Geoff Swaim has any real experience. The rookies of Dalton Schultz and David Wells will look to be a part of a rotation.
The receivers would be the second position group many will watch. Without a current, number one receiver, there are a lot of questions surrounding this group as well. Allen Hurns has the best numbers of the group, Terrance Williams has been poor as a number two, and Cole Beasley is a fantastic slot receiver. After those three current starters, it becomes a little murky. Rookie Michael Gallup has the tools to be a good receiver but is a rookie.
The rest of the group is a bunch of guys who are all trying to prove they belong. Noah Brown seems to have the strongest argument at this point according to the coaches. KD Cannon, Cedrick Wilson, Mekale McKay, Deonte Thompson, and Marchie Murdock will all be trying to get a roster spot. Some of them will stay on the practice squad, others will be released, and maybe two will make the roster.
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The last group that always gets people to watch is the quarterbacks. Of course, Dak Prescott is the starter, but after what was seen as a down second year, all eyes will be on him for a bounce back.
Cooper Rush is the incumbant backup, while Mike White and Dalton Sturm will vie for the third slot and porbably practice squad quarterback. It may not be the battle for starter, but the development of Prescott and the search for depth will keep all eyes on the position.
The Not-So-Obvious, But Obvious
The defensive line seems like it is always a question with the Dallas Cowboys, at least in recent history. With the potential suspension of David Irving, there are a few questions along the front of the defense.
We know that Demarcus Lawrence will get the franchise tag, so essentially he is playing for a contract (with Dallas or somewhere else). We assume Randy Gregory will be reinstated, but have no idea what kind of shape he is in or how much he will contribute.
The acquisition of Kony Ealy should help some of the questions, and the development of Charles Tapper and Taco Charlton will help. So keeping eyes on their development, and Ealy’s fit into the system will be a key thing to watch. Also, the acquisition of Jihad Ward at defensive tackle will help, but there are still some questions as to the depth.
Brian Price and Tyrone Crawford, should figure as part of the rotation, but after them, the depth chart has some questions. James Hearns and Dorance Armstrong are rookies who will look to make a name for themselves early. How this group fares will go a long way to the success of the Cowboys.
The secondary as a whole will most certainly have eyes on it, even if it is for whether or not Earl Thomas should be gotten. Byron Jones moving back to corner should improve a young, but good looking cornerback group.
The safeties is where most eyes will fall. Jeff Heath has up and down games, Kavon Frazier and Xavier Woods should be in the mix as well. After them, there is a question on depth consisting of Jameill Showers, Marqueston Huff, and rookie Tyree Robinson. At some point, Thomas could be gotten, but for now, this is the group.
The Not Obvious
One of the few position groups that many feel should be fine is the offensive line. Yes, there is the matter of the left guard, but for the most part, this is the strength of the Dallas Cowboys.
While most will focus on the left guard, depth at tackle is certainly a position to watch. If you need to know why, re-watch the 2017 Dallas Cowboys after Tyron Smith goes down with an injury. Depth will be a vital part of training camp at all positions, but the offensive line will be one many won’t be watching as close as the should.
At running back, we all know Ezekiel Elliott is the starter. Depth without Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden should be watched with Rod Smith and Bo Scarborough. Tavon Austin could be lumped in here as well, but is also to be lumped in with wide receivers. While it may not be the most exciting battle for backups, it will be vital for 2018.
In the kicking group, we can say that L.P. Ladouceur will be the long snapper, Chris Jones will be the punter, and as long as Dan Bailey returns to being Dan Bailey there should be no concerns. On special teams, most of the questions will be on the cover teams and return game. Watching the returns will help answer questions to depth across the team.
With about a week and a half before training camp, there are just some of the storylines to follow. Depth will be a major questions at almost every position. Some more than others, but depth is where games can be won and lost. There are certainly other questions, but the ones above are a very good primer.
Linebacker wasn’t mentioned, because as long as everyone is healthy, it should be a strength of this team. Really depth is the biggest question. If someone gets injured in training camp, this could become a much more hotly watched position battle.
Now we all wait until next week. Some questions will be answered and others may not. Of course watching for how the new coaches will work, old coaches adjust, and the usual churning of the roster plays out will go a long way.