Training camp for the Dallas Cowboys is nearing an end as we prepare for the much anticipated 2020 season. There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the upcoming year, but with no preseason games and limited access to what’s happening, it’s harder to get a feel for what’s going on with the team. That doesn’t stop certain things from buzzing as there have been plenty of developments out of training camp. Here are five of the most revealing storylines in camp so far.
A star in the making
Do you remember when the Cowboys had a history of drafting All-Pros left and right in the first round of the draft? Well, you should because it’s been happening for the better part of the last decade as six different first-rounders have taken home that honor over the last ten years. That’s remarkable. What’s even more remarkable is that since 2014, the team has produced a rookie All-Pro every other. Following along that trajectory means they are due for another one in 2020, and they might have the right guy to pull it off.
Since being selected as the 17th pick, the excitement has been sky high for CeeDee Lamb and what he could do for the Cowboys offense. And hearing that he is having such a fantastic camp bodes well for his chances to be an instant impact player. He looks so comfortable from the slot, shows great body control, and somehow manages to keep pulling off contested catches. With him being a rookie, it’s only natural for us to temper our expectations, but he is making it difficult.
Change is good
In 2015, Sean Lee played his 47th career game as a pro in a new position as he moved to weakside linebacker. He then proceeded to turn in two straight Pro Bowl seasons, including All-Pro honors in 2016. The move from middle linebacker to weakside was a smart one.
Jaylon Smith has 48 games under his belt, and it appears he too will be transitioning from middle to weakside linebacker. It’s early, but this could end up being a game-changer for the career of Smith who has been running all over the field making plays in camp. He’s played with more aggression, and has even played well in coverage which was an area he’s struggled with in the past. Smith just looks comfortable playing in space as he’s putting his athleticism on display in camp. This is encouraging news.
Smith flourished at Notre Dame playing the weakside spot, so there’s plenty reason to feel good about this position change.
A couple second-rounders showing promise
There could not be a larger gap in the approval rating between the team’s last two second-round draft selections, Trevon Diggs and Trysten Hill. Diggs was a player some thought could go late in the first round and was viewed as a steal at 51st overall. Hill, on the other hand, was seen as a “reach” as the previous coaching staff was really high on him. After a disappointing rookie season, he’s fallen out of favor with many fans.
But if camp is any indication, it may be a little premature to give up on Hill. The 22-year-old has been working extremely hard, and seems to have his head in the game as he’s been active in meetings and continuously following up on things he doesn’t understand. This is good news for a guy many believe has the raw ability, but has struggled mentally to mold it all together. Maybe there’s hope after all.
As far as Diggs, he had his struggles early as one might expect, but he’s showing improvement as of late. His length and stride provide him with the tools to be an effective corner in this league. Like camp, there will be some bumpy moments during the season as well, but we have to like what we’re seeing so far from the Alabama rookie. Especially the part when he gets his head turned around to make a play on the ball.
What is that thing he's doing with his head where he's looking towards the ball? Is that normal? That's not a technique I'm familiar with.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 23, 2020
Safety is no laughing matter
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was supposed to be one of those unheralded free agent signings that provide a bigger spark to the defense than some anticipated. With a cheap one-year deal, it looked like a smart move by the Cowboys front office. And with no tackling in practice, you’d think this would be his time to shine as coverage is his strength.
Unfortunately, Clinton-Dix hasn’t done much to make people feel any better about the safety position group. Some are speculating that it could be Darian Thompson, and not Clinton-Dix, who ends up earning the second starting spot next to Xavier Woods. And while this isn’t how we’d hope things would play out, the team doesn’t seem all that concerned. The Cowboys didn’t appear to show much interest in veteran safety Earl Thomas. If there is any area on the roster that has the potential to be a glaring weakness for this team, it’s safety, so we’ll just keep holding our breath that everything works out.
Just for kicks
The Cowboys were 0-6 in games decided by one score, so it became extra infuriating when Brett Maher pushed kick after kick wide of the goal posts before finally being released. This offseason, the team went after one of the best kickers in the league in veteran Greg Zuerlein.
Recent struggles made him available in free agency, but new special teams coach John Fassel knew that it was Zuerlein’s health that was holding him back. Well, all reports are that Greg “The Leg” is at full strength, and he’s been money so far in camp.
Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein is now 24 of 24 kicking field goals in training camp. He hit today from 33, 37, 40, 42, 44, 48— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 27, 2020