Every year in training camp there are some aspects of the team that may surprise and disappoint you. After two pre-season games, the Dallas Cowboys have begun to show us what they are capable of. Some aspects of the offense and defense have stood out, and there have also been some players who have begun to make a strong impression.
The biggest surprise of the summer for me has to be the offensive line and the changes Bill Callahan has made appear to be actually making a difference.
Doug Free's return to relevancy is the type of progress we needed to see, but he had nowhere to go but up. Ronald Leary was a guy I was high on last season, unfortunately he just wasn't ready in his rookie season to contribute. One year later, Leary looks like he can make a significant change to the left guard position and bring more of a physical element that was lacking.
Overall as a unit, the additions of Leary and Travis Frederick could give us the best offensive line we have seen in Dallas since 2007. It's been a very long time since the line was a strength, not a weakness of the team. They must continue to keep up the strong play, but I have to admit they have surprised me.
Other than the line, the only other real surprise for me has been what Callahan has done. For years the Cowboys struggled to assemble quickly enough to have time to adequately make changes. The new number system gives Tony Romo more time to do that, but the urgency and pace look like they could change this offense for the better.
Callahan still has a long way to go as the new offensive coordinator. If he can put together this system in the regular season and keep the running game effective, then this offense could be scary good.
So what has actually surprised some of the other writers here on BTB? They took the time to answer that and give some insight on the topic.
One.Cool.Customer: My surprise is going to be RB coach Gary Brown. A lot of new coaches got a lot of hype this season, and given the scale of the transformation on defense, probably deservedly so. But the one unit that really stands out versus last year are the running backs. Remember how we all breathed a sigh of relief when the Cowboys drafted a running back, because we thought there really wasn't anything behind Murray? Well, not only does it now look like the Cowboys will keep four instead of three RBs, but the guy they brought in to "fix the position" looks likely to be the fourth guy on the depth chart, despite a very solid camp.
Somebody has to get the credit for the development of the running backs, and I'm giving it to Brown.
KD Drummond: The biggest surprise is that the pro scouting department has been able to provide the necessary depth for camp outside of just camp bodies. George Selvie, Jeris Pendleton, Alex Tanney amongst others look like legit shots to make the 53.
Nick Hayden was a futures guy in February and is competing to be a primary rotational guy on the line. It's a carryover from the way they were able to keep plugging away during 2012, but these guys are on their jobs.
rabblerousr: Mine is George Selvie. He was brought in to take reps after Tyrone Crawford was injured and Anthony Spencer's knee flared up, and nobody even knew who he was (including, as KD is so happy to remind me, yours truly, who confused him and Landon Cohen on a podcast soon after he joined the team). Since then, however, nobody's mistaken him, as he has shown terrific size (he's huge and rangy) and flashed both speed and power. On a team that's increasingly difficult to make as a UDFA/ street guy, Selvie has staked out a legitimate claim for inclusion on the final 53.
Tom Ryle: Mine is Doug Free. After all the pay cut drama and the real disdain so many of us had, he has come into camp and made it clear that he is the starting RT. This also is a credit to the coaching, which I think has done as much with getting his head straight as improving his technique. Remember, the left side of the line has been consistent since day one, but Free has worked with Arkin and now Bernadeau, and has looked just as comfortable with both. If the team brings in Brian Waters, I think he will adjust just as smoothly, something I would never have said just two months ago.
Runner up, just for the heck of it, is Jason Hatcher. When you are playing next to DeMarcus Ware, and still get mentioned as possibly the standout defensive player of camp, you are a man in full.
CotySaxman: The team's resiliency along the defensive line. Despite injury after injury piling up (the Cowboys have placed five players from their defensive line on injured reserve so far this offseason), the Cowboys' defensive line has remained an effective unit and still looks to be a strength of the team going into the halfway-point of the preseason.
This is, of course, a credit to the Cowboys' college- and pro-scouting departments, but also - and this can't be said enough - it's a testament to the fine job Rod Marinelli has done in coaching up his players. Some like to say that a great scheme makes an effective player into a star, or that a star player makes an effective scheme look great. In this case, it seems that both the scheme and the personnel are contributing to the success of the unit on the field. I'm looking forward to seeing them at full strength in September.
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