Back to school time is on the horizon, and I am not referring to the day when we first load our children onto the big yellow bus. The Dallas Cowboys post-graduate course in football arts and sciences will once again be in session. For the 2015 class, the faculty has assembled one of the most promising groups of students in recent memory. To provide the day-to-day education that will eventually result in productive and successful professional, they have also assembled a distinguished group of instructors to provide a challenging course of study that will test the class to their fullest extent.
The Cowboys invested their first-round selection in the most recent NFL Draft on an athletic freak defensive back named Byron Jones, who also happens to have a high football IQ. Jones is the type of defender who has enough physical gifts to match up with anyone he may come across. That was obvious from his record setting performance at the combine. The kid has a great future ahead of him. The one area that he is lacking is that he has not been exposed to the polished veteran wide receivers that make up the elite of the National Football League.
Jones is fortunate (and perhaps just as bit unlucky) to have one of the top wide outs in the game in his own locker room - Dez Bryant. Very few would hesitate to say that #88 is not one of the top three receivers in the game today. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl the last two seasons and was named All Pro in 2014. Dez is the type of player who gives defensive backs nightmares the week before they have to face him. Jones will have that opportunity throughout camp. The Cowboys top receiver will become Professor Bryant when he lines up across from young Mr. Jones.
Joining Jones at the College of Hard Knocks will be another talented young student of whom much is expected. Randy Gregory will begin his post graduate work under the expert tutelage of Tyron Smith. "Doctor" Smith's resume is even more impressive that the one owned by Bryant. Smith too has been to the Pro Bowl twice but he has also earned All Pro honors a second time. He will be teaching a symposium on football in the trenches for his young pupil to learn.
Like Jones, Gregory is blessed with an abundance of natural talent, and he is no stranger to putting in a hard day's work to master his course work. The team has been impressed with what he has done so far in his short time in Dallas. Once the scene shifts to Oxnard and the pads go on, Gregory will have to double down on his efforts to prove to the master that he is a worthy pupil. Smith will become the master in the way that DeMarcus Ware once did for him.
Last but not least, the Cowboys will also welcome a third high-level talent in offensive lineman La'el Collins to class. He signed with the club as an undrafted free agent but Collins has first-round talent. As part of his studies he will have opportunities to learn from visiting professor Greg Hardy. The defensive end is another instructor with Pro Bowl and All Pro credentials to his credit. In addition to those lessons, he will also study under graduate assistant Tyrone Crawford. Crawford may not have the resume of the other teachers yet, but he appears to be right on the cusp of attaining that level of success. He took will be helping to school the promising offensive lineman from LSU in the ways of NFL trench warfare.
The Dallas Cowboys have three exciting new talents at the top of their rookie class. Each of them was worthy of a first-round investment, but each is also a rookie. There will be mistakes. That is where the teachers come in to play. Their job will be to school these young men for the future and insure that the mistakes are made (and corrected) on the practice field rather than on the exams that are given every Sunday around the league. The grading curve will be steep, but in the end there is little reason to believe that the graduate students that will be entering Dean Garrett's grad school of football will find anything other than success.