Before we move on to today's delicious links, a look at our handy-dandy training camp guide is in order. If you live within striking distance of Oxnard (meaning if you are West of the Mississippi), you must take it upon yourself to come watch the Cowboys excellent coaching staff put their charges through their paces.
Cool and I offer useful information about what to expect at camp (it will be a different layout this year) and what to see and do in Oxnard. Bookmark it for reference as you make your travel plans!
Here's the daily practice schedule. Bookmark it and keep it handy as we wind our way through August.
Moore follows his Morning News colleague Jon Machota in offering five watchable storylines. I agree with all of them; the one I consider most important has to do with the refurbished pass rush. Here's Moore:
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes to send his linemen at opposing quarterbacks in waves. Those waves are more effective when there’s at least one blue chip player at end and one at tackle.
Hardy is an elite talent at end. Crawford has the potential to be that player on the inside. Determining the remainder of that eight-man rotation is critical in this training camp.
In response to the response to his somewhat controversial QB Tiers article, Sando poses the top five hottest debates that ensued. One of them concerned a certain Antonio Ramiro Romo:
As I've spelled out in the past, Romo has gotten less defensive support than any regular starter in the past five years. Quarterbacks on teams with poor defenses know they need to make higher-risk decisions. Ryan and Drew Brees have experienced that pressure in recent seasons. Romo was spared this past season, and as a result, you saw an uptick in his stats. (A dominant ground game didn't hurt, either.)
"I know Rodgers is considered the best, but I had Romo as the best quarterback in the league last season," a voter with a background in analytics said. "He had the five game-winning drives and was the reason they got as far as they did. I am not a big Romo guy, either. It shows the impact of a solid running game."
The stats about defensive support are noteworthy. The Cowboys are 25th in defensive EPA rank since 2013, and yet are 8th overall in wins. Romo's gotta get a lion's share of the credit for that.
And then there's this big fat slice of awesome:
Archer reaches into the virtual mailbag and answers twitter queries. Here's his response to the Cowboys offseason, in which he focuses on Murray:
I keep going back to this: had Frank Gore not backed out of his contract with Philadelphia, then Murray almost assuredly would've been back with the Cowboys. I do think too many people are minimizing Murray's worth to this team. For all of the "meat on the bone" talk from Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson this week, I'm half expecting somebody to say Murray never should have been tackled at all last year. Do I believe Murray left some yards on the field? Yes, but I also think he created a lot of yards on his own as well, especially with those dirty runs. That's what the Cowboys will miss most and they will have to find out if Murray's replacements have the fortitude to get the tough yards when the box is loaded and everybody in the stadium knows he's getting the ball.
A wise man, that Archer.
The Mothership's series on the rookie class continues with a look at the 27th overall pick. Here's Eatman's take on where he'll end up: 2015 Outlook:
Morris Claiborne’s progress might go a long way in determining what to do with this ultra-versatile rookie. Jones was touted as being able to play both cornerback and safety, and he displayed that during OTAs and minicamp. The question is, where do the Cowboys need him more? It’s possible he could push J.J. Wilcox for playing time at free safety, or he could ease into the No. 3 cornerback spot. Given his talent, trust the coaching staff to get him on the field somehow, perhaps in nickel and dime situations, at least.
Archer's position group previews turn to the tight ends. One of the few questions that group poses is: what will they do with Gavin Escobar in 2015:
He will be given the chance to run alongside Witten when the Cowboys use their two-tight-end personnel grouping. Hanna won that job last year and did a nice job. Escobar has improved as a blocker but his strong suit will never be as an on-the-line tight end. He has gotten bigger and a little stronger, but he is so long that it’s hard for him to win the leverage game enough to be on the line all of the time.
And now it's time to preview the specialists (you know, the skinny guys who stand off to the side during practice). Here, he opines on the loss of Dwayne Harris:
He showed on numerous occasions he could flip field position with a kick or punt return. The New York Giants gave him a massive contract as a free agent and it leaves the Cowboys with a hole.
This should not be viewed as a trivial deal. Field position matters.
Machota takes his turn at the pre-camp roster rankings game. Here, at the bottom of the roster, he answers the "who do you think will be the team's fifth receiver" question:
51.) George Farmer, WR. The undrafted rookie free agent has a good chance of making the team. The Cowboys need a wide receiver to fill Dwayne Harris’ spot and Farmer is the early favorite. Other possibilities for this position: Chris Boyd, Reggie Dunn, Lucky Whitehead, Deontay Greenberry and Antwan Goodley.
Notice how he hedges his bets by including essentially every other viable fifth WR candidate...
Cowlishaw meditates on Garrett's place in Cowboys coaching history, and begins with a slightly stunning factoid:
When your heroes take the field against the red-and-pewter clad Bucs [on November 15], Jimmy Johnson will step aside as the man who coached the most Cowboys games behind Tom Landry. Johnson will remain Landry’s only equal in Lombardi trophies, of course, but with his 81st game as head coach, Jason Garrett will slide past Johnson in regular-season games.
What remains, Cowlishaw points out, is the kind of postseason success enjoyed by Landry and Johnson...
The Vikings head coach was asked about his coaching career in Dallas, and he offered up some names of the best players he's ever coached. There are three on the list, but only one of them spent his entire career in Dallas:
Zimmer and Woodson worked together in Dallas for 10 seasons (1994-2003). When Zimmer joined the Cowboys as a defensive backs coach in '94, Woodson was going into his third NFL season and still hadn't recorded his first interception. Zimmer helped Woodson become an elite safety in the first year of their pairing, as Woodson picked off five passes and made the first of what would turn out to be five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1994-1998.
Zimmer's take: "Darren Woodson was an unbelievable safety, great person. Smart, taught himself so many things."
All hail, Woody!
The folks at Sports Illustrated come up with a "most hated" list, and neither the Cowboys, their fans, nor their owner make an appearance (although there are several mentions). That doesn't mean that Dallas gets shut out, however:
Most hated mascot: Rowdy, Dallas Cowboys According to the bio for Rowdy posted on the Cowboys' official website (no, really), the spray-tanned, chubby-cheeked, large-headed mascot enjoys steak, working out, staying active and doing anything outside. He also claims that he wants to get back to the Super Bowl as much as possible. Which is interesting, as Rowdy was created in 1996, and the Cowboys last appeared in the Super Bowl at the end of the 1995 season. Coincidence? We think not. We think it's possible that Rowdy has angered the Football Gods, and his continued existence may keep the Cowboys out of another Super Bowl until he's "put down." Which almost happened in 2009, when Cowboys officials decided to re-evaluate Rowdy's role after he parked his ATV in the end zone during receiver drills and chest-bumped Terrell Owens after a touchdown the year before. But Rowdy is still alive and kicking... maybe you can tell us why. —DF
In a completely unsurprising development, the league's worst fans, as per the article, root for the Eagles.
Speaking of the Eagles, let's finish today's festivities with a tour around the NFC East, shall we?
After calculating the average height and weight of every team in the NFL for a piece in the Eagles Almanac, Gowton discovered that the Iggles have the NFL's tallest roster. If it's true, as they say, that low man wins, that factoid doesn't appear to bode well for the 2015 Eagles.
In a FanShot over at our Giants sister site, Valentine shares former Giant Shaun O'Hara's take on what he'd do if he found JPP across the line from him:
"If I was playing against him, the thing I would want to figure out right away is: Is he scared to use the hand? I would be pretty aggressive with him, get my hands on him and see if he’s willing to use his hand or is favoring it. It’s going to take him time to be pain-free, but the biggest thing with him is to get in football shape because it’s going to take awhile. He hasn’t taken a football snap since the last game last year because he wasn’t there this spring."
Magary compiles a long litany of massive screw-ups committed in Washington in the last year. Here's a mere sampling. Prepare to LOL:
- They held a Cyber Monday promotion but did not allow you to order anything using your computer.
- They uprooted seats from FedEx Field for the third time in five years. Oh, but I’m sure the waiting list is still three generations deep.
- Their bus crashed.
- They got publicly pwn3d by Jeff Fisher when he made every player traded for RG3 a captain against them.
- "I can’t grade the pass game. Our quarterback does not allow a proper grading of the pass game."
- Clinton Portis went broke.
- They bribed Indians.
- They hired fake Indians.
- Their fans managed to combine blackface WITH redface somehow.
- Their coach openly admitted that the franchise quarterback is incapable of playing quarterback.
- Joe Theismann lived another year.
Two things: beware some salty language in the article, and make sure to read the comments section in which 'Skins fans go off on how much they hate their team. Priceless.