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Surprises So Far In Dallas Cowboys Training Camp

Every year, things develop in training camp we didn't expect. So far, the surprises in 2014 have been more good than bad.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With the Dallas Cowboys entering the second week of training camp in Oxnard, there are several things already about the happenings in Oxnard that have been surprises. Everyone has certain expectations for the team before camp, and part of the fun (or, in some cases, gloom) is seeing what doesn't go according to the anticipated plan.

Getting the Tyron Smith deal done. That was the biggest single thing to happen so far, hands down. Every indication up until the announcement was that there was no rush, and truly, there wasn't. But when the team can get a deal like Smith was willing to sign, they want to get those signatures inked as soon as possible. Word is that this deal is so favorable to the team that agents around the league are complaining. I don't think anyone should feel too badly for Tyronasaurus, either. Having an anticipated income into nine figures by the time you are 32 is the kind of deal most of us cannot really grasp.

I was looking for something to happen late in the season. It's good to see this get done, and now it has totally reshaped expectations for getting Dez Bryant's deal finalized.

Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie are better than we thought. I had Weeden penciled in as the new backup for Tony Romo from the moment the Cowboys signed him and expected him to be serviceable, but it looks like his arm is better than anticipated. While he is not going to start any quarterback controversy in Dallas, his skills and the extra first-team reps he is getting while the team brings Romo along with extreme caution should make him be at least equivalent to Orton if he should be called upon. And Hanie is pure gravy for camp. Based on his checkered career in the league, I had absolutely no expectations for him, but as Rabblerousr has mentioned more than once, he is by far the best third-string signal caller the team has had in years. That is the kind of thing that pays a lot of subtle dividends, mostly in giving the down roster players better opportunities to hone their skills and perhaps catch the eye of the coaching staff.

We still have a depth problem on the offensive line. This is probably the biggest negative of the whole camp. While the second- and third-stringers here have not been called terrible, there just does not seem to be a lot of potential here once you get past the starters plus whoever loses the battle at left guard. The biggest disappointments are Jermey Parnell and Darrion Weems. I thought surely one of them was going to step up and claim that swing tackle position as his own, but both players seem to have stagnated. And in the NFL, if you aren't progressing, you are falling behind.

Morris Claiborne. Fans were hoping he was going to step up his game, along with Brandon Carr and Bruce Carter. Carr has sadly missed all of camp due to the illness and passing of his mother. Carter has looked better in practices. But Claiborne is getting raves from everyone. He is showing the talent and skills that led Dallas to trade up for him him the first place. It is starting to look like he was held back by the health problems that kept him out of so much training the first two seasons in Dallas. With a healthy offseason to build on this year, he is putting on quite a show. Let's hope the tendinitis problem that flared up late on Wednesday is not going to affect him much, because the Claiborne that has been in camp could be a bit of a game changer on Sundays this fall.

Scott Linehan is really running things differently. I really didn't expect all that much of a difference with Linehan. To be honest, I just thought the move was designed more to make sure Jason Garrett had someone that would generate less friction in running the offense. Looks like I was totally out to lunch on that one.

Based on Rabblerousr's excellent reports from camp (and if you haven't been reading them, drop and give me 50, then go get caught up), this is going to be a very different beast on the field. The key element seems to be creating mismatches, with wide and slot receivers switching positions, tight ends and running backs moving out wide, tight ends lining up in the backfield, and generally doing the unexpected. It looks like Lance Dunbar, Gavin Escobar, and Cole Beasley are going to be big winners in this, while the usual standouts will not suffer at all. I, for one, am drooling at the prospect of seeing what Romo can do when they open this baby up in the regular season.

Mike Pope is just bizarre. This is more amusing than anything, but after seeing pictures of shirtless tight ends getting doused with ice water and running around with plastic bags over their heads, I am almost afraid to see what drill he comes up with next to teach his players to catch the ball no matter what happens to them. He claims to have 478 different ways to do this.

TE's catching passes while being doused with cold water.

TE's catching passes with bags on their heads.

There may be no camp bodies at wide receiver. Or, as Bryan Broaddus put it, "The depth at receivers is better than I thought it was coming into camp." It seems that not only have all the wide receivers in camp stood out at various times, they are also maintaining a good level of consistency.

This is almost sad, because with the returning receivers from last season, it is likely the Cowboys at most can find room for two more wide receivers, and one of those spots is almost certainly going to Devin Street. Finding the sixth guy, if the team goes that deep at all, is going to be a difficult choice. If the competition continues at the level it has among these players, look for other teams to be poised to pounce when Dallas starts cutting down. Hopefully, the Cowboys can also sneak a couple of the eligible players onto the practice squad. Turning some of these guys loose is going to be painful.

Those are the things I didn't see coming. I'm sure there will be more surprises. If you have noticed things you didn't expect to see, share them with us in the comments.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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