Guys and gals, we’ve made it to training camp. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, pour yourself a glass of your favorite summer beverage, you’ve earned this moment. Training camp is one of the more exciting times for die-hard Cowboys fans. It’s where everything is built from the ground up, it’s a new season of hope, the grind toward success begins now.
Before the Cowboys begin their practices and we have a daily overflow of juicy tidbits of information to process, it’s important to keep a few things in mind that will make us all better fans of the process. Each year there are few story lines that will dominate the headlines but also shape the entire season. Here are a few helpful nuggets for this year’s camp festivities:
Don’t treat Taco Charlton like a Top-10 pick
Look, we get it, everyone wants Taco to develop into the ‘guy’ as an edge rusher. However, it’s not fair to treat him in the same light as a player that’s picked at the top of the draft. Expectations are fine but make them realistic. Charlton was selected with the 28th pick, which means he’s going to need time with Rod Marinelli to develop. Most folks in this community get that but to those that are expecting a ten-sack guy because Joey Bosa did it in 2016 is going a little overboard.
On the roster you have DeMarcus Lawrence who is the only guy to even sniff close to ten sacks in a season. There are others like David Irving, Benson Mayowa, Damontre Moore, and Tyrone Crawford (if he doesn’t move back inside). All of those guys have more NFL experience at rushing the passer. Taco is the first round pick and that comes with excitement but it doesn’t mean he has to be the immediate starter at right end to be a success. It’s very likely that he will get ample chances to start but there will be an easing-in process. The likelihood of rookie edge rushers stepping in and having huge production is slim. Treat Taco Charlton like a fringe-first, early second-round talent and then be extremely pleased if he shows out early. Let’s give him a chance to win us over without making the expectations too high for the rookie.
Anything Jaylon Smith can do in practices will be a positive
When the pads come on, we’ll find everything we need to know about Jaylon Smith and what he can do. Though the “HYPE TRAIN” left the station many moons ago, it’s important to have patience with Jaylon’s recovery process. Any drill or portion of practice he’s allowed to be in will be a positive step for the young man. This is a player that was told he could never play again but he’s looking at six to nine months until he has full regeneration in his nerve.
As of now, he’s still wearing a modified AFO brace that allows for him to be able to move his foot. We’re past the worst part of it all but like Taco, temper the expectations. The Cowboys have signed Justin Durant, who is on NFI to get in shape. They have Anthony Hitchens to take reps as the starting middle linebacker right now. Jaylon Smith is the future at the position but they have to be cautious with him. Everyone in the front office believes that Smith will play in 2017, it’s perfectly fine to be excited about that. Just seeing Smith take part in some practices will be incredible for him while he continues to recover from his horrific injury.
Pay close attention to the battles in the secondary
The one area that is going to be the most exciting to watch is the area with the most turnover. The secondary has been completely refreshed with Nolan Carroll, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Marquez White, Xavier Woods, and Robert Blanton all new faces on the back end. Jeff Heath has been with the team for quite some time but he’s getting his first opportunity to start opposite Byron Jones. Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown are the only two holdovers at cornerback from 2016. There is going to be plenty to practice for in this group.
The preseason just got that much more exciting because we’re not sure who will be taking the field against the Giants on opening day. This team has vowed to make more plays in the secondary and it’s going to clearly be the most important area of the roster to keep an eye on. Those who love the thrill of competition will get plenty by watching the one-on-one drills with the Cowboys’ receivers. All of these new faces from the draft bring aggressiveness and good athleticism. Even the veterans are not completely safe to assume they’ll start. What more can you want from training camp than some red-hot, genuine position battles?
Expect the roster churning to continue for the Cowboys
Especially when looking at certain position groups, the Cowboys love to shop on the waiver wire. That’s where the Cowboys have done most of their free agency shopping over the past several years. There are guys on the street that could possibly help them, for example, DeAndre Levy, the former linebacker from the Lions. It’s equally important to look at the positions that the Cowboys would be interested in and linebacker is possibly one of them. You could make a case that they’re not finished looking at offensive linemen or maybe somebody gets released that they really like.
When it comes to this time of year, folks fall in love with a player and then he’s cut after a week for someone else’s castoff. It’s the nature of the business and expect no less this training camp. You never know when the Cowboys will make a move like they have in the past with Rolando McClain or George Selvie.
Be prepared for the Cowboys to diligently look at quarterbacks
This deserves its own bullet point because the Cowboys are going to be actively shopping for a quarterback. Scott Linehan and company have given the vote of confidence to Kellen Moore but that certainly doesn’t mean that everyone is sold on him. Dak Prescott is important to how the offense works in succession with the running game and play-action. If they feel there is a guy that makes his way to the unemployment line when he can still help a team, they will gobble him up.
Finding a perfect backup quarterback is impossible unless that backup is Tony Romo. He’s 99.9% retired so they will roll with Moore…for now. Quarterbacks are valued on a whole different level than other positions and the Cowboys feel great about Moore’s intangibles but what about his physical abilities? Dallas will continue to browse the quarterback market all the way up to the moment they decide their 46-man roster to play New York.