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The No-Huddle Notebook: Opening day of Cowboys training camp edition

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We take a look at Jaylon Smith, Jihad Ward, and more!

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

The No-Huddle Notebook is your dose of Cowboys coverage that takes a look at everything surrounding America’s Team.

After a long few months without football, the Dallas Cowboys are suiting up in Oxnard for 2018 training camp — signalling the beginning of football season at last. Most of the storylines include David Irving not making it to training camp, the development of a new offense built around Dak Prescott as he enters his third professional season, and a young defense that looks to build on a strong end to the 2017 campaign.

Let’s get into it!

Jason Garrett is not on the hot seat, says Jerry Jones

Training camp in Oxnard is not officially underway until the man in charge addresses the media, and Jason Garrett did just that on Wednesday. The Princeton alum talked about a variety of different topics from Dak and Zeke to the reinstatement of Randy Gregory to everything in between. One thing that he won’t have to address, however, is job security — at least according to Jerry Jones.

Jones explained that he has all of the confidence in the world in his coaching staff.

“They’re going to get a chance, I think, to be at their profession, at the very best time, and that is with young players,” Jones said. “Those guys are eager. They’re really listeners. They want to get better. They know the best way for them to have their own individual importance is to be a part of a team and leave that, I and me at the door. That will be emphasized out here, I know, by the makeup of this group.

”The bottom line is, I’d put the coaching staff at the head of my list as why we ought to get excited. And I think not only putting something in place for this season but for many seasons to come, coaching staff wise.”

It remains to be seen on whether or not Jones will be saying the same things if the Cowboys fail to make the postseason, but for now, Garrett is not on the hot seat in the eyes of his boss. After all, it’s not that long ago since Garrett was crowned the NFL’s Coach of the Year.

David Irving not attending Training Camp

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

David Irving has emerged as one of the better defensive players on the Cowboys roster for his ability to blow up the interior of the opponent’s offensive line and get into the backfield. Just watch his performance against the Green Bay Packers for reference.

However, the talented defensive lineman will not be in Oxnard and will instead be in a rehab center. Off the field, we hope that Irving gets the help that he needs. On the field, this gives another defensive lineman an opportunity to make a name for himself and move up the depth chart. Keep an eye on:

  • Jihad Ward — the 2016 second-round pick has found a new home in the NFL, and he looks to take advantage of it. After impressing in OTA, this is Ward’s chance to prove to the staff that he deserves big snaps while Irving serves his suspension and Maliek Collins recovers from a broken foot injury. If Ward can emerge, that would be big news for the Cowboys.
  • Richard Ash and Lewis Neal also have a golden opportunity. Can they make the most of their reps in Oxnard?

Which tight end will emerge?

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

With the shift in offensive personnel, many eyes are on the wide receiver position. Which wideout will step up and become a go-to target for Dak Prescott? How many wide receivers will the Cowboys decide to keep on the 53-man roster? Does Lance Lenoir have a chance to move up from the practice squad?

While the WRs are certainly fascinating, the tight end position is also worth watching. Since the sudden retirement of Jason Witten, the Cowboys have been put into a twist of sorts regarding who will start at the position. The candidates include Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, and Rico Gathers — all of which have some question marks, whether it be in blocking or in terms of becoming a pass-catching threat.

Training camp gives each of the four TE’s a chance to showcase their skills to the staff. As the offense becomes “Dak-friendly”, it will be interesting to see if Jarwin and Schultz can move up the depth chart due to their potential as a receiver. Gathers is the wildcard — can the former Baylor Bears hoop star put everything together and make a compelling case to make the 53-man roster, or will this be his final training camp wearing the star?

Jaylon Smith to be used as a pass-rushing specialist?

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

The second-round selection of the 2016 NFL Draft has had a long road to recovery, but the coaching staff, as well as the team in general, is confident in Jaylon Smith making an impact for the Cowboys this season. Garrett discussed his linebackers on Wednesday. One interesting tidbit was what he said about no. 54, detailing Smith’s skills in rushing the quarterback.

During his first season on the field, Smith showed some flashes of becoming a solid player in Rod Marinelli’s defense; however, Smith’s injury has hurt his progress in important areas — such as his ability to be effective defending the pass. Fortunately, it sounds like Garrett and co. realize that Smith has all of the talent in the world to flourish rushing off of the edge.

Just let Jaylon put his head down and attack the backfield. Good things will happen more often than not.

Between the former Notre Dame star and the rest of the linebackers and defensive line, there is a lot of optimism surrounding the Cowboys’ front-seven — and for good reason.

The month of August is a huge step in the development of Jaylon Smith. If he can improve on where he struggled last time while gaining more confidence in his lower body, Smith has the talent to become a force. If not, the Cowboys will be asking for a lot from rookie Leighton Vander Esch, especially with Sean Lee’s injury history.

It will be interesting to see how Smith performs in Cali. He has a lot of people behind him.