The Dallas Cowboys have arrived in Oxnard, California for another training camp. It’s an exciting time as we get to finally see the players battle it out on the field. It’s also exciting because it won’t be much longer before some of our biggest questions will be answered. Before things kick off, we go bold with five final predictions for the team heading into training camp.
1. Mike White will win the backup QB job and it won’t even be close
Draft stock doesn’t carry a lot of weight, and when you compare Mike White’s fifth-round cost to the undrafted Cooper Rush, not many care all that much. However, White was viewed as a pretty good value. Draft guru Dane Brugler had White going in the third round.
I had QB Mike White in the 3rd round so I love the pick by the #Cowboys. Passing instincts and intangibles are above average.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) April 28, 2018
While both struggled last year, things should be different this time around. For White, it’s year two. The game should move a little slower for him and with a deep offensive line and deep receiving group - he’s got a lot to work with. Not only does White see the field better than Rush, but he’s got a bigger arm, too. People have this as a coin flip, with Rush having the slight edge, but look for White to put on display why he was rated so high by the Cowboys as he not only locks down the no. 2 spot, but he plays Rush right off the roster.
2. Xavier Su’a-Filo will be traded for a late-round pick
Injuries have a way of messing with your plans, and while the Cowboys are stacked at offensive line right now, that could all change in a heartbeat. Should the team work themselves through camp rather unscathed, that’s going to leave them with a surplus along the offensive line. Furthermore, there’s guaranteed to be other teams who have suffered a set back and have a need for some extra depth along the offensive line.
The Cowboys have a lot of young players that could earn a spot on the roster. It might be in their best interest to keep a young player on the rise who will be super cheap over the next four years versus a veteran on the last leg of his deal. That could mean a player like Su’a-Filo gets pushed off the roster.
Mitch Hyatt and Brandon Knight are two guys to pay close attention to. If one of these guys are playing comparable to Su’a-Filo, wouldn’t it make more sense to keep the young guy?
Right now Su’a-Filo’s stock is sitting pretty good after filling in well after Connor Williams got hurt, so he has value. Some team might start asking about acquiring him for a fifth- or sixth-round draft pick, especially if they find themselves depleted on the offensive line.
3. An undrafted free agent linebacker bounces one of last year’s guys off the roster
The Cowboys top four linebackers are set as Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, and Joe Thomas will all make the team (barring injury). Right now, Justin March-Lillard and Chris Covington are the bottom two guys who appear to be the front runners to round out the linebacker depth.
Keep an eye on these two numbers - 57 and 45. Luke Gifford (57) and Andrew Dowell (45) are two players who have some sneaky upside to them. Both possess great instincts and move extremely well. Don’t be surprised if one of these guys ends up being this year’s “Keith Smith” pick. Some may remember that before Smith was converted to a fullback, he played linebacker and he would always turn heads in preseason playing with third-stringers. It was enough to keep him on the roster. Although he was cut several times, he kept coming back as the team tried to find a way to keep him around, ultimately resulting in a position change.
Gifford or Dowell are a couple candidates who could sneak on the team. March-Lillard is a solid player, but nothing about him is overwhelming. He’s also only signed through the 2019 season, so they’ll have to find his replacement eventually.
The team loved Covington so much that they essentially just burned a roster spot last year while they developed him. If he doesn’t show improvement this year, they may feel the practice squad is the best thing for him this time around.
If either of the veterans show weakness, that will open the door for the undrafted free agents to surprise people and make the roster.
4. Darian Thompson beats out George Iloka at safety
The Cowboys didn’t make a big move at safety like many were hoping they would, so instead they got cheap free agent George Iloka. Most figured he’ll end up being the number three guy behind Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. That’s a possibility, but it’s also a possibility that he doesn’t even make the team.
The team is light at safety, so there’s not a lot of talent people have to beat out to make the team. The bad thing is - there’s not a lot of talent there to begin with. The team is filled with middling players and there are a handful of guys who could just as easily take Iloka’s spot. One of those players is former third-round pick Darian Thompson.
The Cowboys took a chance on Thompson last year when they signed him off of Arizona’s practice squad. They had him rated 50th on their draft board in 2016, and he has the upside to make plays in this secondary. The Cowboys love Boise State guys, which Iloka should be happy about, but Thompson’s a Boise State guy too. And last month, we identified Thompson as this year’s Antwaun Woods player who comes out of nowhere to get starts.
5. Taco Charlton gets into a scuffle
This is the year we hope the Cowboys 2017 first-round draft pick breaks out and shows us something. After two disappointing seasons, many are projecting this year to be the last hurrah if Taco Charlton can’t right the ship.
With a lot to prove, things will be intense for him. Charlton doesn’t exhibit the best temperament to handle adversity. His thin skin has been evident on social media as he allows his frustrations to get the better of him. When you mix that in with a handful of undrafted free agent tackles who have an extra kick of nastiness in them, that could be a recipe for a scuffle.
Every year, there’s always a rookie that won’t back down to a veteran. Jourdan Lewis went toe to toe with Dez Byrant in 2017. Antwaun Woods showed that he wouldn’t be pushed around by Travis Frederick last season. Look for Charlton to be involved in this year’s skirmish.
What are your bold predictions for training camp?