Training camp in Oxnard is in full swing for the Dallas Cowboys, and there are lots of good things emerging. Still, not everything is going well, and we’re not just talking about the one big shadow looming over it all. There is very little margin for error or other mishaps in the hyper-competitive world of the NFL. Here are some developments that merit some concern.
This will be the big story until it isn’t. And frankly, it has gone on a bit too long already. Most of us were surprised when Ezekiel Elliott didn’t report. Now, Jerry and Stephen Jones are both taking a harder line than we expected. The team has brought in Alfred Morris as insurance (and to provide some veteran leadership in an otherwise extremely inexperienced group of running backs), but none of us want to see them fall back on him.
At least the team has not given us any evidence that they are distracted by this. Still, Elliott is arguably the best back in the league, and the team will be much better off with him back in the fold. Jerry Jones did make the comment that he can get deals done. Let’s hope this one is done before much more time goes by.
Veterans banged up
Sean Lee has always been subject to injuries. Now he is dealing with a knee issue, and the evaluation has worsened from day-to-day to week-to-week. That is not a good sign. The depth at the position is good, and if Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith can avoid problems, things should be alright. Still, having Lee join them in the “base” defense was highly anticipated, and we want to see that in September and beyond.
Zack Martin has been much more durable, but now is getting an MRI due to what is described as tightness in his back. There are few injuries that hold more potential for real trouble than the back. We should try not to panic until the results come out, and the team can probably afford to give him all the rest and recuperation time he needs until the regular season. That concern will still be there unless and until he is judged to be back at 100%.
Dak Prescott has had a bad couple of days
Since the OTAs, there have been glowing reports of Prescott’s improved footwork and decision-making. But now he has thrown some picks and missed a few receivers in the most recent practices. Gavin Dawson from 105.3 The Fan put up a video about that.
Was Scott Linehan protecting Dak or holding him back? Last two practices have me wondering...https://t.co/1X6yNRUCae— Gavin Dawson (@gavindawson) August 2, 2019
The success of the Cowboys is riding to a huge degree on the shoulders of the fourth-year starter. And it is a valid question whether the desire to protect him under Scott Linehan was justified.
However, part of the narrative this season has been new QB coach Jon Kitna telling his players that they have to rip it at times and not worry so much about protecting the ball. If that is going to lead to some growing pains, then it is far better to make those mistakes in camp and hopefully learn from them. After all, those mistakes are supposed to teach one more than successes.
I am like Dawson in that I think Prescott will come through all this in good shape for the season. Still, the staff does have to be prepared to make adjustments if they have to. And Prescott has been remarkably successful so far in his career. Even if they have to dial him back a bit, he has the weapons around him to still lead this team to wins.
It does put a little more pressure on getting the Elliott holdout resolved, however.
Prescott has also been very durable his first three seasons, but he is too valuable using his legs to disregard that as part of the offensive scheme. That comes with inevitable risks, and the team has to have someone who can step in if needed and keep things afloat for a few games. We don’t want to see that, but preparations must be made.
Either Cooper Rush or Mike White, or both, have to step up and show the team that they can be that fallback option. Rush has been showing some improvement of late. But more needs to be done. Otherwise, we will fear a tinge of terror every time Prescott is hit.
The Kellen Moore experiment
Maybe experiment is a bit too harsh a term, but promoting the second-year coach to offensive coordinator was certainly a bold move, Cotton. And those two bad practices by Prescott were also wins for the defense as whole. We don’t know yet just how significant that was. Perhaps it is just the normal ebb and flow.
We should get a little bit better idea after the Blue and White Scrimmage set for Sunday. And the preseason games will add more data. Still, we won’t really know about all that until the real games start.
Those are the biggest issues at this point. Most of the rest seems to be going quite well. It is just that teams cannot afford many missteps or injury issues along the way. Getting these problems sorted out would help the Cowboys. A lot.