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Six takeaways from Cowboys training camp: Early tells for who makes the 53-man roster.

More dig routes for Dez Bryant? Who'll be the returner? Anthony Hitchens is the real deal.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tyrone Crawford dominated the headlines yesterday, and we eventually got word that his injury doesn't look as bad as initially feared, and that he may even be back in time for the season opener.

In the meantime, here are some takeaways from what else happened at camp on Tuesday.

1. No more kings of the Go route?

A Go route is simple route where the receiver runs straight upfield towards the end zone. There are two objectives of such a route: Outrun any defensive backs for an uncontested TD pass, or clear out space to create mid-range passing opportunities to a TE, WR, or RB. In 2014, Romo's last full year with the team, the Cowboys used the go route more than any other team for their outside receivers.

Here are the Go route numbers for 2014 from ProFootballFocus, showing that Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant were kings of the go route, despite the Cowboys having the second fewest pass attempts in the league with 476 attempts that year.

If camp is anything to go by this year, the Cowboys (and Dez Bryant in particular) could become the Kings of the Dig Route.

A dig route (also known as an in route or a drag route) is a route where the receiver runs a few yards downfield, then turns 90° towards the center of the field and runs parallel to the line of scrimmage.

Here's what such a route could look like:

I wonder whether this will be a wrinkle used more often this year; it certainly suits Bryant's strengths.

2. These are your core special teamers

Yesterday, we took a look at the first-team kick return unit, which looked like this:

  • DBs: Jeff Heath, Chidobe Awuzie, Kavon Frazier
  • LBs: Damien Wilson, Kyle Wilber, Mark Nzeocha
  • TEs: James Hanna, Geoff Swaim
  • RBs: Keith Smith, Rod Smith

Today I got the chance to look at the first-team kickoff unit:

  • DBs: Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Chidobe Awuzie, Kavon Frazier, Nolan Carroll,
  • LBs: Damien Wilson, Kyle Wilber, Mark Nzeocha
  • TEs: James Hanna, Geoff Swaim,

These core special teamers are often an early tell for who makes the 53-man roster and who doesn't. Barring injury, I would wager that the 12 players above are all roster locks.

A year ago, almost to the day, I listed the first-team special teamers in my report from 2016 Cowboys camp. Every single one of them made the team (even if some ended the season on IR).

3. But who'll be the returner?

Funny moment (at least for me) at the start of practice.

While the equipment staff was calibrating the kickoff machine to deliver the balls exactly to the goal line, Darren McFadden sauntered over and started fielding the balls from the machine.

When Ryan Switzer saw what McFadden was doing, he hurried over and started alternating returns with McFadden.

Not to be outdone, a host of other players (Lance Lenoir, Javontee Herndon, Uzoma Nwachukwu, Nolan Carroll, Rod Smith, and Alfred Morris) began lining up with McFadden and Switzer.

Sometimes, making the team comes down to what you've got to offer on special teams, and if you don't show it, the team won't know about it.

4. Players returning to practice:

Ryan Switzer took part in WR position drills and caught some balls during punt returns. But the coaches kept him out of the team portion of practice.

Maliek Collins was back and his return proved an immediate upgrade for the defensive line. He is a truly disruptive presence inside and even managed to push Zack Martin around in 1-on-1 drills. That doesn't happen very often.

David Irving was also back from an ankle injury, and interestingly he played inside today.

Chaz Green was back from his shoulder injury and looked good in drills.

Charles Tapper and Benson Mayowa had undistinguished returns to practice.

Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis were working out on the cords with the trainers, usually a sign that the players will return to practice soon. However, it's unlikely that either will play against the Rams on Saturday.

5. Kavon Frazier shows up

Frazier had a stand-out moment today when he intercepted a Kellen Moore pass. The ball was tipped by WR Brian Brown and Frazier quickly adjusted to grab the ball.

Frazier also broke up a pass intended for Geoff Swaim in the team portion of practice.

6. Anthony Hitchens is the real deal

Hitchens doesn't have much of a standing among Cowboys fans, but has quietly started 36 of a possible 48 games in three years, and is entering his contract year this year. From everything I've seen in camp, 2017 will easily be his best year. In fact, he'll probably be so good that he'll price himself straight out of Dallas.

Bruce Carter for example started just 32 games in four years and still translated that into four-year, $17 million contract in Tampa Bay. The Cowboys have high hopes for their young linebackers Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, and Mark Nzeocha, and if all live up to those hopes and stay healthy, the Cowboys may choose to let Hitchens walk in free agency.

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