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Cowboys 2018 training camp: Five camp battles to keep a close eye on

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With training camp starting this week, here a few of the biggest training camp battles to keep an eye on.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Minicamp Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Training camp is finally here, well not quite, but it’s close enough. The Cowboys have their first training camp practice on Thursday, in Oxnard, California. With so many new faces on the roster, there will plenty of heated roster battles to keep an eye on during practice. It’s been a long six months, but today we will highlight some of the most important battles that will kick off on Thursday in practice.

Michael Gallup vs Terrance Williams

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-OTA Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The rookie versus the vet. An old fashion heavyweight classic. Michael Gallup has the potential to be one of the biggest steals of the NFL Draft if things go as planned. His first order of duty will be knocking off Terrance Williams as the teams starting “Z” receiver. Gallup has the size, speed, route running ability, and hands to easily win the job if given a fair shake at things. If Gallup doesn’t win the job in camp, he will definitely be pushing for Williams’ job all year if healthy.

For Williams, his offseason did not go as planned. First he suffered a foot injury that left him in a walking boot for months. Second, he was arrested and charged with public intoxication a few months ago in his DFW neighborhood. Williams has had a head-scratcher of a career in Dallas. At times, Williams has been a go to receiver in clutch situations, at other times (2017), he’s nowhere to be found and putting up severely disappointing numbers. Williams roster spot may be safe, but the starting “Z” job should be up for grabs, and TWill better show up prepared for an all out war with rookie Michael Gallup.

Noah Brown vs Lance Lenoir vs Cedrick Wilson

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s first go through the list of guys everyone expects to make the roster:

  1. Allen Hurns
  2. Cole Beasley
  3. Michael Gallup
  4. Terrance Williams

I’m also going to throw in Deonte Thompson as a guy who will likely make the roster. Sure, that can be debated, but for now we’ll go with that. Who will step up and win the sixth wide receiver roster spot (I’m counting Tavon Austin as a running back)?

Noah Brown has the experience, after playing a full season on the Cowboys active roster. Brown was more known for his ability to block than his ability to be a big receiving threat, but he will need to bring more to the table this year than just his ability to block if he wants a roster spot. Brown is familiar with the system and had a solid rookie season after being drafted in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Lance Lenoir may be the biggest riser since OTA’s. Lenoir is known for his route running ability and his ability to separate, which is exactly what the Cowboys new wide receiver coach, Sanjay Lal, loves out of his receivers. Lenoir has been putting in a ton of work this offseason to work on his strength, speed, and improve on his route running ability. He is taking the opportunity and running with it so far.

Cedrick Wilson is the fresh blood in the room, but has already made a positive impression on his coaches, teammates, and media members in just a few practices. Wilson was a big-play receiver at Boise State and had one of the highest ceilings out of anyone in the 2018 NFL Draft class due to only playing the position for two years.

Randy Gregory vs Kony Ealy

NFL: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The roster battle headline in recent months has been Kony Ealy vs Charles Tapper, but the second Randy Gregory was reinstated by the NFL, that battle changed. Let’s first go over the guys that should be roster locks at defensive end:

  1. DeMarcus Lawrence
  2. Taco Charlton
  3. Tyrone Crawford
  4. Dorance Armstrong

Armstrong is a lock for this exercise because the Cowboys were ready to trade up into the third round to get him, which shows how much they value him. Every other defensive end will need to bring their “A” game this offseason in order to reserve themselves a spot on the roster. Before Gregory was reinstated, the battle was between Charles Tapper and Kony Ealy. Ealy seemed to have the slight edge over Charles Tapper due to his ability to stay healthy, and his experience in the league. Now with Gregory back, and in the best shape he’s been in in some time, the battle has now changed. It’s very exciting to think about the things this defensive line could do with Gregory rushing off the right side. Gregory’s upside is through the roof, but he has yet to stay healthy and not suspended long enough to show off his elite traits as a pass rusher.

But don’t sleep on Kony Ealy either. Ealy has the experience, the stats, and the position flex to make a case that he should make the roster over Randy Gregory. This one will be very interesting, the Cowboys would be taking a risk keeping a guy with the off the field history of Randy Gregory over a guy who has 15 career sacks, has stayed relatively healthy, and can play both outside and inside in Rod Marinelli’s 4-3 defense. It’s tough to see where both Ealy and Gregory can both make the roster, though it could be done.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Chaz Green vs. Marcus Martin

This is yet another interesting battle to keep an eye on. Chaz Green is a very familiar face around the Cowboys locker room, but his time in Dallas has been a huge disappointment. Since being drafted in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Green has seen playing time at both guard and tackle. In 2017, he actually started the season out as the Cowboys starting left guard before getting injured and losing his job to Jonathan Cooper in week four. Green has had a few good outings at both left guard and served as the Cowboys swing tackle in recent years, too. Green has the position flex, familiarity with the coaching staff, and the fact that he was drafted by the team in the top 100 on his side to possibly win the last offensive line spot, he will need a very positive camp in order to keep his job though.

Marcus Martin was signed this offseason in free agency to come in and compete for the starting left guard job. Little did the Cowboys know that Connor Williams would fall to them in the second round of the NFL Draft. Martin is entering his fifth year in the league, and is playing on his third team. In his career, Martin has started 24 of 26 games since coming into the league in 2014. Martin didn’t play at all in 2017, so is looking jump-start his career in 2018. There are some Kadeem Edwards fans out there, and he has actually had a very good offseason, but the Cowboys normally give their high draft picks, and free agent signings, every opportunity to succeed before turning to Edwards as the last offensive lineman.

Anthony Brown vs Jourdan Lewis

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There should be zero question here who the more talented player is between Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown, but for some reason Brown has been getting the nod in offseason workouts and practices so far. Anthony Brown is entering his third year as a member of the Cowboys, and boy has it been a roller coaster of a career for Brown. In his rookie year, Anthony Brown was a pleasant surprise coming on as a sixth-round pick, and eventually earning a starting job by the end of the season. Brown has goos size, and very good speed for a 5-foot-11, 196-lb corner.

Jourdan Lewis on the other hand, lacks the ideal size at 5-foot-10, 195-lbs, but plays with a big chip on his shoulder in both the running and passing game. Lewis is the far superior player in just about every aspect of the game, but Kris Richard prefers his corners to be bigger than what Jourdan Lewis is. What Lewis lacks in the size department, he makes up for it in his technique, run support, and arm length. It won’t take long for Kris Richard to realize the player he has in Jourdan Lewis, but it’s unlikely Lewis will start out as a starting nickel corner when the Cowboys kick off practice on Thursday in Oxnard. Neither Jourdan Lewis or Anthony Brown will be battling for a roster spot, as both will make the team, but the two young defensive backs will be battling to see who can win the starting nickel job with Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones as the teams starting corners in base packages.

What training camp battles are you most excited to see when training camp kicks off this Thursday in Oxnard, California?