Training camp in Oxnard, California is officially over. The Cowboy now head back to Texas where they will face off against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday in their second preseason contest. The remaining practices leading up to the regular season will now take place at The Star. So, with the final week of practice in the books, which players performed well and bolstered their stock? Which players underwhelmed and slide down the ranks?
The excitement is hard to temper for the Cowboys newest edge rusher when he’s out there performing the way he is. The team has said they will be cautious about how they ease him back into football activities, but with every new day, Gregory is passing each step with flying colors. This week, he participated in one-on-one pass rush drills and was exploding off the line of scrimmage. It’s as if he hasn’t missed a beat. Gregory has even taken good care of himself and added muscle to his upper body while he was away. Most impressive was how he got the better of Tyron Smith in two out of three plays. Gregory’s quick first step and ability to bend made it difficult to for Smith to have a clean target to knock him away.
Randy Gregory had his best day of training camp today, breaking through for multiple sacks in team drills. Jason Garrett: “He’s done a really good job up to this point. There have been no setbacks in any way and we’ll just keep progressing day by day.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 16, 2018
Can you imagine if the Cowboys have a stud edge rusher at both ends? I can and it feels fantastic!
One of the appealing factors of rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is his amazing athleticism and how well he can perform in coverage. But to the surprise of many, the team has another linebacker who has become skilled in coverage as of late. The play of Jaylon Smith continues to leave mouths open as he’s having a great training camp. His ability to move has always been scrutinized since coming back from his knee injury, but the way this guy is flying down the field knocking down passes is incredible. People started thinking of him as a two-down linebacker when camp started, but don’t tell that to Jaylon as he’s proving to everyone that he can do it all.
Chasing down running backs - check!
Covering tight ends/running backs - check!
Oh yeah, and let’s not forget about this...
That’s not Taco Charlton out there with that spin move. That is your linebacker, folks.
Pass rusher - check!
There was a huge sigh of relief when the Cowboys signed Fleming in free agency this offseason, but it’s hard to get too worked up about him until we saw him in action. Now, with a solid performance in the first preseason game against the 49ers and a good week of practice, it’s starting to set in that the team has a quality swing tackle. Fleming is in close battle each rep, but he’s a fighter and is making it hard for edge rushers to move through him. He stepped in with the first team while Tyron Smith was sitting out and held his own very well.
Nobody is really talking about the tight ends much and if they are it’s usually about Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, or the rookie Dalton Schultz. Everyone has forgotten about Geoff Swaim. The Cowboys most experienced tight end is quietly having a good camp. Besides being the team’s clear-cut most consistent blocker, he’s starting to show up here and there as a receiver. This week, he had several nice catches and is starting to get more comfortable in the offense.
Deonte Thompson and Noah Brown
The continued strong play of Lance Lenoir is making the wide receiver group crowded with potential keepers for those last remaining roster spots. Free agent Deonte Thompson was signed to help the group and you would think his chances of making the team was pretty good considering the rapport he has with new receivers coach Sanjay Lal. Unfortunately, an Achilles injury has kept him sidelined which is going to make it difficult for him to prove he belongs on the team.
Noah Brown has also missed time with a hamstring injury. One might think that Brown would have the upper hand in retaining a roster spot since he made the squad last year, but the team has a long list of quality receiving candidates. It’s hard to see the team opt to go with Brown over a player like Lenoir and it’s even harder to see them go with seven receivers.
Things are not looking good for Thompson and Brown.
Leighton Vander Esch
The rookie linebacker left practice early Wednesday after suffering a groin strain during team drills. The good news is that it doesn’t look like it’s anything to be too concerned about as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that it didn’t seem serious. The team is very cautious when it comes to the slightest inkling of injury so Vander Esch was held out for precautionary reasons.
While Vander Esch appears to have avoided anything serious, every snap he misses is precious development time he needs to get better. He’s definitely going to have his share of growing pains and with Jaylon playing so well, the chances of jumping him as the team’s starting middle linebacker doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.
While the Cowboys first-round rookie linebacker may miss out on landing a starting gig, the team’s fifth-round rookie linebacker may miss out on making the team. Covington has missed a lot of practice time due to a battle with bronchitis and he hasn’t been able to show what he can do. But to add insult to injury, the team’s reserve linebackers Damien Wilson, Joe Thomas, and Justin March-Lillard are all playing well in camp. It was believed that Covington might be able to push for that last linebacker roster spot, but that is just an afterthought now. He’s essentially playing for a practice squad spot now.
The hearts of Cowboys fans after the Travis Frederick scare
Admit it, you were worried. Of course you were... and for good reason. The All-Pro center gave us a scare when news broke about a possible shoulder/neck injury. He had experienced several stingers over the course of a couple days to the point where he needed to have it looked at. The good news is that everything checked out okay and his injury isn’t expected to be something that will keep him out for an extended period of time. The bad news is that he’s going to need some time to rest to get the inflammation down, but more importantly - is this going to be something that lingers with him this season? Expect the coaching staff to put him on ice for several of the remaining days of camp and I’d be surprised if we saw him play in preseason anymore this year. However, Frederick is a super-tough guy so I wouldn’t be that surprised.