Competition up and down the roster. It seems that we have been hearing this since the moment Jason Garrett was named the team's interim head coach. Each year that competition has gotten better. Now the Cowboys sideline reporter takes a look at how this year's battles are expected to shape up as we get ready for serious football activities to begin.
"Which of the newly drafted CBs might take a starting spot from Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, and Nolan Carroll? In my opinion, there are three starting CBs because the nickel is used more than the base defensive package. Will Awuzie make enough of a mark in the offseason and training camp to move into the starting lineup? How will defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and DBs coach Joe Baker utilize the young guys, in particular, which will challenge for playing time in the slot?"
"And will the coaches let 1st round pick Taco Charlton settle in at RDE, or will they move him around the line. They like his versatility, but will they want him to focus more on one spot? And if he stays on the right side, what about DeMarcus Lawrence? Will he go to LDE? If he does, will Tyrone Crawford get work again inside at DT?"
Position Battles: Fierce Competition at WR - Nick Eatman, Dallas Cowboys
In addition to a competition at the returner spot between Ryan Switzer and Lucky Whitehead, Eatman sees strong competition for the entire wide receiver unit.
The Cowboys signed Brice Butler to just a one-year, $800,000 deal at the start of free agency. That doesn’t exactly guarantee him a spot if someone can beat him out. A player such as Andy Jones, who spent all of last year on the practice squad. By the end of the season, Jones apparently had shown huge improvement on the scout team and could be ready to showcase his skills this summer. Butler might get some heat from rookie Noah Brown, a big-bodied receiver who could be a special teams performer, something Butler doesn’t possess. Considering that Dez, Beasley and Terrance Williams aren’t used on special teams, it’s tough to get four receivers on the game-day roster that aren’t involved in special teams.
Early Predictions for NFL's Most Interesting Training Camp Battles - Eric Galko, Bleacher Report
Galko sees an interesting camp battle looming between Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Nolan Carroll.
The Dallas Cowboys clearly put a priority on defense at the 2017 NFL draft, and they arguably got two first-round targets with their first two picks. Chidobe Awuzie, made famous by Drew Pearson's legendary reading of his name in front of the Philadelphia crowd, was considered a fringe first-rounder who slipped to Dallas at the end of Round 2.
The Cowboys want to continue to improve their defensive back unit, and cornerback seemed to be a priority this year. While Orlando Scandrick seems entrenched as one starter, the opposite side, as well as the nickel position, is up for grabs. Anthony Brown is listed as the starter, but free-agent addition Nolan Carroll has a stake in the job as well. Awuzie, if he's NFL-ready, has the best chance to earn the job, but Dallas will rely on its pass rush to make up for secondary inexperience.
Smith will be one of the Cowboys 'redshirt rookies' this season, and should benefit from having a year of learning the team's defensive philosophy while he fought to rehabilitate his knee. He was a top five talent prior to suffering the injury and if he can battle back to even remotely the level he played at prior to his incident, the Cowboys defense will receive another defensive boost.
It’s just too early to project what Smith’s role might be for the Cowboys in 2017. Anthony Hitchens was a capable starter at middle linebacker last season, and the biggest focus for Smith right now is his continued work in the voluntary offseason program and then OTA’s later this month (Jason Garrett said he also anticipates Smith being eligible to participate in next weekend’s rookie minicamp). If the nerve regenerates over time, Smith has a better chance of being the dominant defender he was at Notre Dame. But for now, his rehab with the athletic training staff and his work with the brace on has really pleased the Cowboys. Progress.
Seeing him take the gridiron during rookie mini-camp will be a well earned reward for a player who has spent nearly a year and a half trying to work his way back onto the field.
Scales makes a second appearance in today's links with a look at former head coach Dave Campo's views on the restructured defensive backfield in Dallas.
"In this league, your young guys that you draft have to make the team and they have to produce. That’s a necessity to stay under the salary cap. So you’ve got to have coaches on your staff that are teachers, and those teachers have to get the young guys ready to play. That’s why it’s good to draft players from major conferences and big schools like Michigan in the Big 10, or Colorado in the Pac 12. Players in those conferences have been tested. Now they have to come into the NFL and compete." - Dave Campo
It is pretty difficult to block your man if you cannot get to him, and that is one of the factors that intrigued the Dallas Cowboys about Taco Charlton. The team's first round draft pick has incredibly long arms, the kind of arms that allow him to keep opposing offensive lineman at bay. Those arms were what Will McClay first noticed when analyzing the prospect prior to the draft.
Picture an older brother putting his hands on his younger brother's head and the younger brother just spinning his wheels because he could not get close enough to generate any power to break through. That's what Charlton would do to offensive linemen.
The coaching staff sees this as an added benefit to what they are getting with Charlton, especially since he has already figured out how to use his length to his benefit, unlike many players who never fully grasp their natural advantage.
Smith is not the only 'redshirt rookie' that has the Cowboys front office and coaching staff excited. Charles Tapper will also be entering the battle on the defensive line. He also lost his first season in the league due to health issues, but all signs indicate that he will be ready to compete as well.
"If he was in this year's draft, based on the measurable based on all the things people look at, he would have been considered as one of the top pass rushers" - Will McClay
Remember the long arms comment from the Taco Charlton story? Guess what Tapper also brings into play.
The Cowboys second round selection plays the game the way it has always been meant to be played. You might beat the cornerback once, but he will be coming back and bringing the same intensity on the next snap. Opponents will be challenged to beat Awuzie on every single play and he will not make it easy. There is a fire to his game that impressed scouts from all over the league.
It the title of this piece doesn't get you fired up just a little; then brother, nothing will.
Those in the know either realize or strongly suspect that Will McClay is the de facto general manager of the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones may keep that title for himself but the duties are being filled quite capably by the 'chief scout'. He is the architect behind the franchise's recent success in the draft, and the league knows his worth. Fortunately he is very content in Dallas, so we can look forward to continued prosperity in the talent acquisition field.
McClay would be the first to tell you that what the Cowboys do in player personnel is a team job. He credits the scouts, the coaches and the front office for being on the same page and working together.
But make no mistake about it, McClay is the one who puts it all together for the Cowboys in terms of communication between the coaches and scouts and identifying the right players to fit their philosophy and scheme.