The Dallas Cowboys and their crop of rookies have had their first look at one another, and we are all eager to see what the new faces can bring to the team. But there are also a lot of veterans that are going to be back in the fray as the OTAs and full minicamp grow closer.
Rookies come in with a lot of high expectations and having spent the past few years as among the best players on the field. Now, however, they are about to meet real NFL players.
"I think one of the things that would be a general impression is they realize how good the veteran players are," coach Jason Garrett said. "Sometimes rookies come in thinking like they know it all and they can make the transition, and then they see guys who have been playing in the NFL for 10 years and the level of expertise that they have, the level that they play with, and the way that they approach the game day in and day out."
With the frustrating suspensions faced by DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, Tyrone Crawford is being looked to as a possible temporary fix at defensive end. He is ready, and he is not the only one ready to step in.
"I've been along the line all the way down to nose from last year, so I feel comfortable," Crawford said. "We just have to step up and take on a role that may be uncomfortable for us. It's not only going to be me out there but Jack Crawford, David Irving, those guys are going to step up and go outside, too."
Dallas did not draft a wide receiver, but has signed several as UDFAs, the route Lucky Whitehead took to the team. He faces some competition as a result, and has put on about ten pounds through the weight room to try and fend off the challengers.
"I think I'm a lot stronger," Whitehead said. "I'm working on my lower body more than I have ever been. I've learned a lot just as a football player, being in the meeting rooms. I think I've grown a lot more."
This post was written as a response to a particularly badly done article about Dak Prescott putting some pressure on Tony Romo. There is no link here to that one because it is does not deserve the clicks.
Being a one-year-removed MVP candidate, Romo is looking to avenge his 2015 shortcoming. An undrafted free agent who is arguably only one Super Bowl win away from being a Hall of Famer has a lot to be concerned with going into the 2016 season: but being replaced is not one of them. If Romo can remain healthy, he is the undisputed leader in the Cowboys' locker room.
While it is true that the Cowboys are without a proven backup QB at the moment, it would seem that teams that heavily mortgaged their futures to draft quarterbacks took much bigger gambles. And there is still a long way to go before the season begins.
If what is said in May can still be true in September, the Cowboys will go into the season with (Kellen Moore) as the No. 2, followed by fourth-round pick Dak Prescott. Jameill Showers spent most of last year on the practice squad, but he worked more on special teams than at quarterback.
The stunning move to draft Jaylon Smith at 34, with his injury history and still-uncertain recovery, was probably the biggest shock of the entire draft. Bob Sturm goes into it a little deeper, including a look at choosing Smith over Myles Jack, who has a different concern about his knee.
It is a fascinating discussion to look at things from a purely projection standpoint of Myles Jack vs Jaylon Smith. Obviously, when we return to these stories in four seasons, we will know so much more information, but on the clock at pick #34, the Cowboys had nothing like that to work with. They had to trust their work, trust their doctor's view, and hope that they didn't make a big mistake. It helps (or hurts) to have a general manager who is secure in his position to make decisions like these, but make no mistake -- there is a lot riding on this decision being right.
One fun thing the mothership sometimes does is have a couple of their writers argue the two sides of a move by the Cowboys. Rob Phillips took the side of defending the Smith pick.
If you want to argue that drafting an injured player is a reach in itself, fine. But there certainly wasn't any guarantee that a healthy rookie selected at No. 34 would have made a significant contribution to the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.
And Bryan Broaddus plays the curmudgeon about the risks involved.
In the buildup to the draft, I never had a problem with Jaylon Smith the player, but where I did have a problem is the risk, especially with other healthy defensive players still on the board at 2-34. It was clear that they lost their player when Emmanuel Ogbah went off the board two selections ahead of them to Cleveland. That left players like Myles Jack and Noah Spence there.
Dr. David Chao had a long career as a team physician in the NFL, and he has an interesting perspective on the Jaylon Smith situation. He is doubtful about the reports that the New England Patriots were going to take Smith later in the second round if Dallas had passed on him.
The Cowboys were in a unique position to draft Smith as the GM is the owner and the trusted team physician (and Smith's surgeon) has enough political capital with the team where his job will not depend on his being right about nerve recovery. The Patriots were reported to covet Smith late in the 2nd round but I would be surprised if that were the case. Certainly Bill Belichick doesn't worry about answering to the owner; however, New England has a new team physician this season. I find it hard to believe that any new doctor would put his job on the line to clear a player with a nerve injury with unpredictable recovery.
Taking Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick got Dallas a player that is expected to be a major weapon in a potent and balanced attack, but it also paid off well for the rookie in a league where running backs have been seeing their paychecks decline in comparison to other positions.
Elliott's deal will pay him an average of $6,241,430 per season, using the projections from Forbes. That would make him the ninth-highest-paid running back in the league currently, just below Murray and just above C.J. Anderson in average per year. He's also making more than Mark Ingram, Ryan Mathews and Matt Forte, though he is well south of the biggest names, such as Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy.
While Dallas did not go with immediate defensive help in the first two rounds, they started taking some in the third with Maliek Collins. Rod Marinelli likes what he has to work with in him.
"I like him. He fits," Marinelli said on 105.3 The Fan. "Go back when Bo Pelini was [at Nebraska]. He was unbelievable, and he was playing our system. I had their line coach in here before, and they're doing everything we do. His movement and patterns, he was rated higher this year. And they changed systems, he was standing up as a linebacker at times, they blitzed him as a linebacker, everybody does it differently. No big deal. I try to evaluate all that."
Ezekiel Elliott is not just a beast of a running back. If the Wonderlic test has any validity, he is also a very smart man. Although doing well on the test is not in and of itself a predictor of success as a football player.
New Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, taken with the No. 4 overall pick, scored a 32 out of 50, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinelreported.
But what about new quarterback Dak Prescott?
According to an NJ.com report, Prescott scored seven points lower, earning a 25. That puts him behind former Cowboys quarterbacks Quincy Carter (30) and Troy Aikman (29). His score is on par with Colt McCoy (25) and Robert Griffin III (24). The man in front of Prescott, Tony Romo, scored a 37.