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Dallas Cowboys To Host St. Louis Rams In Joint 2015 Training Camp Practice In Oxnard

This will be the fourth of Jason Garrett's five training camps as Cowboys head coach in which the Cowboys held joint practices with another NFL team.

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David Moore of the Dallas Morning News informed us today that the Dallas Cowboys and the St. Louis Rams are close to finalizing plans for "several days" of joint practice during training camp.

The Cowboys open the preseason in San Diego while the Rams open in Oakland. While the dates of those games have yet to be announced, they will take place in the window of Aug. 13-17. The Rams will swing by Oxnard either before the preseason opener or afterwards.

The Cowboys don't schedule these types of joint practices every year, but they have done it frequently enough in the past that for Cowboys fans they have become a routine part of training camp. Last year the Cowboys held joint practices with the Raiders, and before skipping a year in 2013, had joint workouts with the Chargers in 2011 and 2012 when Norv Turner was still the head coach in San Diego. Before that, the Cowboys frequently had such joint workouts with the Broncos and Raiders.

The trick with these joint practices of course is to not let them degenerate into a two-day brawl, as they often did when the Cowboys and Raiders met up in the 90s. At that time, the joint practices were largely a product of the close relationship Jerry Jones had with Al Davis.

Joint practices can help break up the monotony of training camp, but as Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas wrote last year when the Cowboys/Raiders practices were announced, they can serve another purpose as well:

I wonder if there is more of a benefit in the player evaluation side of things. In addition to the monotony of camp, players can figure out offensive and defensive tendencies. Players have been known to see the practice scripts over the years, which give them a heads up as to what to expect. When that happens, they'll obviously look better than perhaps they are.

With the Raiders bringing in fresh schemes on offense and defense, a corner won't be as familiar with the routes, splits and speed of a receiver and an offensive tackle won't know every move he'll see from a defensive end. It will only be two practices, but those sessions figure to be the most hotly contested of the summer and the personnel department will have some fresh tape to see.

The "fresh tape" that Archer mentions can be a great tool in the evaluation process by providing more competition and more opportunity to practice (and show up on film) in a "live" environment, especially since coaches script these practices.

Coaches can work their two-minute drills, practice 3rd-down situations, throw in some red zone work, and check out how the new wrinkles they've added in the offseason stand up against real competition. All in a controlled, scripted environment - something they won't get in the four preseason games.

Even though preseason games may not be real NFL football, they are still real games, where the play calls depend on the ebb and flow of the game. Your first team offense may not get a red zone possession before they hit their allotted snap count; your return unit may end up with a bunch of touchbacks and no returns; and the new play-action defense you just installed may not get tested because the other team had no interest in play-action.

All of this can be properly managed in a joint practice, where you can ensure the entire depth chart gets the reps they need. Because the practices are scripted, each team gets to practice exactly what they want - against NFL caliber competition.

And just as importantly, the joint practices allow veterans to get situational snaps in practice and then watch players on the bubble play in their stead in the preseason games. Over time, and as more and more teams adopt these joint practices, this will likely water down the preseason games even more - but it will keep a team's key players out of the trainer's room or doctor's office in August and ready to go in September.

And who knows, maybe there could be a second Laurent Robinson waiting for the Cowboys on the Rams’ squad. The Cowboys signed Robinson at the start of the 2011 season after noticing him in their joint practices with the Chargers and then picking him up when he was released during final roster cuts. At the time, the Chargers were very deep at wide receiver. The 2015 Rams will likely be very deep along their defensive line ...