Jerry Jones is Speaking But Are You Buying it?

jerry_jones_draftWith live coverage of training camp by the NFL Network, Jerry Jones has been getting plenty of attention which he appears to enjoy. Recently he has commented on a variety of topics but as fans, are we buying into what Jerry is selling?

1. Jerry strongly believes that with a healthy Romo the Cowboys would have “definitely possibly” beat the Eagles in week 17 and made the playoffs. That belief played a part in his decision to keep Garrett as coach.
Buying or not buying?
Dishing the real: Not Buying
Sorry but I’ve seen too many previous seasons where Dallas lost the “play in” game with Romo on the field to believe it would have gone differently this time. That’s not to blame Romo for everything like some key injuries and a weak defense, but he was a healthy QB when they lost a few games in 2013 that they should have won like the Packers and Lions games for example. Win those games, and they are not in a must win situation in week 17. Romo supporters may buy this Jerry comment, but I’m not. Jerry let Romo’s injury give Romo and Jason a way out of taking responsibility.

2. Jerry said he has invested in the development of head coach Jason Garrett over the years and would “hate to deny fans that asset.” He also said Jason is better as coach now than before.
Buying or not buying?
Dishing the real: Not Buying
It’s OK Jerry, go ahead and deny us fans Jason we don’t mind. Jerry’s insertion of an unqualified Jason Garrett as coach has nothing (I repeat nothing) to do with what is best for fans. This coaching project or indulgence if you will, has been all about the fact that Jason is not a strong leader and allows Jerry to run everything and be the face of the organization in every way. Jimmy Johnson was a strong successful coach but that wasn’t going to last with Jerry. Same could be said for Parcells. See Jerry likes him a “yes man” and he has that now in Jason.

As far as Jason being better now, that’s debatable or actually perhaps laughable, because it seems to me, Jason has less responsibilities on the team than ever and typically that increases as a coach develops. Jason is surrounded by three coaches that have been NFL head coaches before. (Monte Kiffin, Marinelli, and Callahan). Heck, Linehan was brought in to call the plays since Jason couldn’t handle that either. Jason’s clock management has been a joke and embarrassingly bad.

When Jerry speaks of doing what is best for fans, BEWARE!

3. Jerry says this season you will see more of the run game.
Buying or not buying?
Dishing the real: Not Buying
All indications are they intend to run more which they failed to do often last season finishing at the bottom of the NFL in run attempts. It cost them games. They should do it more and to be honest, I think the talk is sincere however I don’t think they will stick to the run in the heat of battle. And who knows if Murray will stay healthy?

Linehan, who came over from the Lions, is known to have pass happy offenses. I also believe even if they call a run play, their gun slinger QB will audible at the line to a pass play as he has done before without being held accountable. Bottom line, talk is cheap and they will do what they do when the bullets start flying.

4. Jerry says the defense is better right now than it was at the end of last season.
Buying or not buying?
Dishing the real: Not Buying
I’m not sure what Jerry is basing this statement on. They are trying to fill some big holes on the defensive line with Hatcher and Ware gone and has he forgotten that Sean Lee isn’t available and Spencer went on PUP? Perhaps this defense will be improved in 2014 but right now, I’m afraid realistically it isn’t much better.

5. Jerry expressed expectations that Romo would be the Cowboys QB for “years to come” as he held up four fingers to indicate at least 4 years. It was the reason he decided to pass on Manziel who he says was the highest player on their board at the time. Instead he went against his instincts and picked Martin.
Buying or not buying?
Dishing the real: Not Buying
I don’t believe Romo will hold up or last another 4 or 5 years as a QB in the NFL. Let’s see if he can make it through this one first. Jerry says that because he paid Romo like he will play until he is 50 or something. I think Romo’s health is quite questionable and now that he has a family, it changes things.

As far as the Manziel pick goes, just ask yourself if you think Manziel will be a better NFL QB than Weeden has been so far? If the answer is yes, then Jerry should have selected Manziel as Romo’s back up since Orton is gone. Evidently they don’t trust their own draft board and that’s not good.

6. Michael Irvin asked if the Cowboys will make the playoffs? Jerry said “yes”.
Buying or not buying?
Dishing the real: Not buying
Jerry gave this straight forward question little thought and quickly offered a knee jerk, yes. Ironically, immediately after saying yes, like right on cue, a horn blasted in the background at training camp which made it feel like a wrong answer had been given on a game show. VIDEO about the 6:30 mark.

Too many roster questions and a serious lack of depth combined with a brutal December schedule, make me skeptical of making the playoffs. Jerry says that every year to put butts in the seats at his stadium.

Jerry sells playoff hope like snake oil, but I’m not sure how much longer fans will be buying it.

Carolina Panthers Kickoff Party Starts Training Camp

P1010777Usually I blog on all things Dallas Cowboys but since I was in Spartanburg, SC Saturday afternoon and in attendance for the Carolina Panthers “Back to Football Kickoff Party” on the campus of Wofford University, I thought I would share my thoughts from the camp of the defending NFC South division champs.

Things started with a bang from the Panthers PurrCussion Drumline band. These cats were in midseason form and gave a nice performance that got the crowd ready for some football.

Also performing were the Carolina Panther cheerleaders aka Topcats who gracefully strut onto the Gibbs Stadium field like proud show horses in their high white boots and Panther blue pom poms shimmering in the sun like ocean water on a hot summer day. They flawlessly executed their dance as the sound of Nirvana’s “Entertain Us” echoed through out the stadium. I’m not sure which was hotter that day, the blistering Carolina sun or the Topcat cheerleaders.

And if the young Carolina wide receivers can catch footballs this season as well as the canine were catching Frisbees on the field before practice, Cam Newton will be a happy quarterback this season.

Let There Be Football
Finally the Panther players meandered in small clusters down the hill from the field house and onto the field for the start of practice. Predictably, Cam Newton was one of the last to make an entrance.

Cam

Cam


Any concerns about Cam’s ankle that he had surgery on in the off season, should have quickly been put to rest for fans as Cam WOBBLED in the sun filled endzone to the song “Wobble baby” by V.I.C.

Cam displayed as much familiarity with the Wobble as the Panthers offense and I’m making a safe assumption it wasn’t the big fella’s first time doing the Wobble. It was fun to watch and it added a celebration of “football is finally back” to the air.

Cam’s ankle didn’t appear quite 100% as he tentatively participated in drills that required running. His throwing however looked very strong and I didn’t see any issues with passing. Sure he made an occasional high throw but over all, he was very accurate in pass drills.

Cam’s best pass in team drills occurred on a play action pass where he dropped back and threw a 50 yard pass to WR Kealoha Pilares who was at least 10 yards behind the nearest defender. Cam enthusiastically pointed to the sky after completing that one. As far as the ankle goes, I think Cam is going to be ready to go when the season rolls around. His dance moves convinced me of that more than anything else.

Kelvin Benjamin

Kelvin Benjamin


TOP Pick Kelvin Benjamin:
I paid particular attention to the Panthers first draft pick FSU WR Kelvin Benjamin. His contributions will be needed without Steve Smith on the team. Locating the young rookie’s number 13 on the field proved to be easy because his 6-5, 240 pound man/child size really stands out among the group of WRs.

I came away more impressed with Benjamin than expected as he is clearly going to be a handful for corner backs to deal with in coverage, and at practice he displayed nice hands. Do the Panthers have a young Calvin Johnson in this big target for Cam? Panther fans may want to start coming up with a nickname as cool as “Megatron”. But “Big Ben” is already taken. How ’bout the “Kelvinator“?

The Kelvinator

The Kelvinator

A Look at the Lines:
It would certainly appear that the defensive line is going to be a strength of the Panthers team again in 2014. During team drills, the defensive line often were successful at breaking through and blowing up run plays before they got started. The Addition of rookie DE Kony Ealy will just make that pass rush even more effective.

On the other hand, Panther fans have reason to be concerned about the offensive line. The very critical Left tackle position is far from buttoned up and they didn’t do much to address it in the off season. Protecting Cam could become an issue during the season.

Secondary:
It’s early but I didn’t come away impressed with the Panthers secondary which was out of position often on this day. During team play rookie Texas CB Carrington Byndom made a really nice pass break up providing some optimism. We will see how it unfolds, but I’m not convinced the Panthers secondary is ready and may rely heavily on a good pass rush.

A great crowd came out to celebrate the return of NFL football and the Panther fans appear quite enthusiastic about their team in 2014.

Cowboys Training Camp Notes After 2 Days

Cowboys 2014 training camp

Cowboys 2014 training camp

The Cowboys training camp started in Oxnard, California Friday. They come in with many questions on the defensive side as they try to improve on a rough season last year.

Notes from the first two days of camp:

Not Active:
Anthony Spencer: As expected, DE Spencer went on the PUP list and probably will not be playing anytime real soon.
Ronald Leary: Went on the PUP list after straining a hamstring but is expected to return next week. Leary hurt his hamstring back in Dallas before camp actually. It occurred after head coach Jason Garrett wisely cancelled the condition test because he felt it was not worth the risk. But players decided they needed it and conducted it anyway. It brings up the question, “who is in charge of this team?” We have seen these kind of things before under Garrett’s leadership or lack of it. Last year when trailing by 32 points to the Saints, Garrett basically admitted that he should have removed Romo from the game but Romo insisted on staying in the game.
Brandon Carr: The high dollar corner has been a no show at camp so far as he attends to an unspecified personal matter. No reason for concern here yet, but stay tuned.

LBs:
Rolando McClain: The Cowboys recent signee and possible replacement for Sean Lee at middle LB, was in court Friday for some misdemeanor charges. He was sentenced to 18 days in jail but that is being appealed. McClain participated in practices Saturday. Keep expectations low here but he may help them at some point during the season. I’m not yet convinced this guy is serious about turning over a new leaf in his life. We will see.

Bruce Carter has looked much more comfortable and confident at LB in camp than he did last year by all accounts. He needs to step it up this season and perhaps he will.

The Cowboys have used several different combinations at LB early in camp. I look for that to continue as they try to figure out the best three to put on the field.

Defensive Line:
Without Hatcher or Ware, the defensive line is younger and less experienced than before. Coach Marinelli begins the process of molding them into a unit. Some how it needs to play better this season.

So far Henry Melton has looked like he is ready to play after a knee injury last season. His movement in drills has been very good. That’s a good thing to see early in camp. Melton will play a critical role as the three technique on the defensive line.

Indications are All Pro tackle Tyron Smith has had no trouble blocking the 2nd round pick Demarcus Lawrence or Jeremy Mincey. Which brings up the question, is Smith that good or is this defensive line just not that good?

On one hand I think the Cowboys offensive line will be one of the better ones in the NFL this season on the other hand, I’m not convinced their defensive line is very good yet. A lot of work to be done on that defensive front in camp.

Secondary:
If there is one area that needs to show improvement other than the defensive line, it would be the secondary.
Mo Claiborne: Mo, an early pick a couple years ago, has a lot to prove and early word is he is healthy and playing tough so far in camp.

On Saturday he was mixin’ it up some with 2nd year WR Terrance Williams. Their battles were competitive and they continued after the whistles so to speak. It’s a good sign to see Claiborne getting after it this early. He personally needs a good season and the team needs it from him. Importantly, Mo seems to get it that he must deliver this season and he is practicing with a sense of urgency.

JJ Wilcox: Wilcox begins his 2nd year after a rookie season that would be best described as a “learning curve”. So far indications are he weighs less and is moving around noticeably quicker. Also seems to know where he should be in coverage which hasn’t always been the case. Wilcox is yet another guy who needs a good season. Looks like he is off to a good start and that is encouraging.

Offense:
QB Tony Romo was very limited in practice Friday as he returns from back surgery. He did make throws on Saturday and word is he looked fine. Romo appears ready to go but they are bringing him along in camp at a methodical pace.

In drills, the Cowboys offensive line has been dominant for the most part. As mentioned earlier, Smith has been a human wall and the top pick rookie Zack Martin is making a successful move from tackle to guard. He has moved his feet well in drills and looks comfortable in pass protection.

The second year center Travis Frederick has been unbeatable in drills. It would appear the Cowboys offensive line will be their strength in 2014.

RB Lance Dunbar missed a large part of last season with an injury but in RB position drills, he was moving quite well. No signs that he has an injury as he navigated the rope drills smoothly and with quickness. I look for Dunbar to play a big part in the offensive scheme this season as a runner and particularly as a receiver out of the back field.

WR Dewayne Harris has been noticed in camp making catches and doing what my man Harris always does, make plays. He has even been running at times with the first offense. It would be good if they involved Harris more in the offense in 2014. A much under used talent last year IMO.

SUMMARY:
The Cowboys offensive line looks ready to go and will be a solid group in 2014.
The defensive line is young and unfamiliar with each other. A lot of work to do to get this group ready to play better this season. Good to see Melton moving well.
The defensive secondary looks improved already with Wilcox at safety and Mo getting after it at practice. They do need Carr to get back in camp right away.
The LB situation is totally up in the air at this point with many questions to be answered in the coming weeks. McClain showed up Saturday and appears ready to compete. Carter looks improved.
Romo appears right on pace in his recovery to be ready to go. Dunbar also appears ready too.

Dallas Cowboys 2014 Training Camp Position Battles

Safety JJ Wilcox drafted in the 3rd round of 2013.

Safety JJ Wilcox drafted in the 3rd round of 2013.

Most of the starting positions on the Dallas Cowboys team are pretty clear heading into training camp, but I’m going to identify few position battles that have yet to be determined and will be interesting to watch.

Linebackers:
All three positions (Mike, Will, and Sam) are up for grabs actually and it isn’t easy to narrow it down to two players at each spot either. With the early injury to Sean Lee, things really got thrown up in the air. The Cowboys have a lot of important decisions to make here during preseason for sure.

During earlier workouts, it appears the Cowboys are looking at Justin Durant at the middle LB but I think that could change during preseason as I really like DeVonte Holloman‘s chances to earn that starting spot. As a former safety in college, Holloman displayed good pass coverage instincts last season and I think he may represent the best option to replace Lee. Recently Dallas signed LB Rolando McClain who is attempting to revive his career. He certainly will get a chance in preseason to show what he can offer at MLB but I would keep expectations low for Rolando working out in the middle.

Rookie Anthony Hitchens was drafted in the 4th round and has experience playing weakside LB in college. He will likely get a look at both the middle and weakside spots during preseason. They also drafted rookie Will Smith who has experience as a weakside LB but could get a look in the middle too.

Kyle Wilber returns after a solid performance at the strong side spot last season and Wilber is the favorite to start at the strong side spot. Wilber brings some stability to the LB situation.

Bruce Carter who struggled as weakside LB last year, has not been moved yet to another LB spot so it appears the coaches just hope he will improve this season with more familiarity with the 4-3 defense. Indications are Carter is off to a good start this season.

Projected Starters:
Sam- I think Wilber starts at the Sam spot opening day.
Will- I look for Carter to start at the Will but definitely think the starter could change often during the course of the season. Look for the rookies to see more action here as the season progresses. Carter’s experience will get him the start initially, but Dallas may have him on a short leash after last season’s performance.
Mike- I look for Holloman to beat out Durant who I actually think will be fortunate to make the roster at all. Hitchens may work his way into playing here some too during the season. McClain is a wildcard for the middle spot and may show us he is serious about reviving his career.

The LB position battles will be interesting to watch and subject to change on a daily basis.

Safety:
The battle here will be the spot opposite of veteran Barry Church. The early favorite appears to be second year safety JJ Wilcox who ran with the first team often in preseason workouts. Wilcox appeared too inexperienced last season but hopes are that he will be much improved this season. So far he has looked more comfortable and mobile after losing some weight, according to reports out of preseason workouts.

There are a few other players that figure in the mix as well including Jeff Heath who saw plenty action last season. Jakar Hamilton is also a player we should hear from in preseason who is fighting for playing time. And the Cowboys have two rookies Ahmad Dixon and Ryan Smith who figure to see playing time in preseason. Even the often injured Matt Johnson is still hanging around but I don’t look for him to stay on the field enough to compete.

Who will emerge as the starter is a battle to watch in camp. All of them are relatively inexperienced making this safety spot really wide open.

Projected Starter:
At this early time, the spot would appear to be Wilcox’s to lose as I think Dallas wants their 3rd round pick to pay off. However a lot can change at this position during the course of the preseason and season.

Hamilton and Smith have shown some good pass coverage instincts for the position and that’s what the Dallas defense needs opposite of Church. If either can show good cover skills in the preseason, they must be considered as a starter.

During preseason, keep an eye on the Auburn rookie Ryan Smith who appears to bring some swag in pass coverage that the other guys just don’t seem to offer. Heath provided value on special teams last season and can’t be ruled out as a starter at safety yet.

Left Guard:
The Cowboys took another step to having one of the better offensive lines in the entire NFL by drafting Zack Martin in the first who will start at left guard. Determining the final piece of the line is who will start at left guard? That will be a battle between Ron Leary and MacKenzy Bernadeau.

Leary started there last season while Bernadeau started at right guard. Bernadeau has experience at playing center as well and may prove to be a valuable back up. During preseason workouts, both rotated with the starters and 2nd teams.

Projected starter:
I think Ron Leary will be the starter at left guard and it makes sense to have Bernadeau as a back up at guard and center since he has game experience at center.

Three positions that should offer interesting coverage during camp.

Potential 2014 Roster Casualties for Dallas Cowboys

B.W. Webb

B.W. Webb

July training camp is quickly approaching for Dallas and at that point, things tend to happen quickly. The process to get down to a 53 man roster and a practice squad begins in just 14 days. I’m focusing on players who were on the roster in 2013 but are in for a real battle in the next several weeks to make the 2014 version of the Dallas Cowboys.

1. Cornerback B.W. Webb- Let’s face it Webb, who was drafted last season, struggled in the secondary often displaying the “deer in the headlights” look. And never really found a place to contribute on special teams either. He finished the season with 13 tackles in 15 games.

Dallas drafted CB Terrance Mitchell in the 7th round this year and in the preseason OTAs, he looked pretty impressive. Definitely didn’t show any signs of being intimidated by playing on the NFL level.
An undrafted CB, Tyler Potman out of Oklahoma St. was also solid and not in awe of things in the OTAs.

Last season veteran CB Sterling Moore was a final day roster cut and at the time, I thought it was a mistake to let him go. With injuries at the position later, they brought Moore back to help so I have a feeling they will be slow to cut him this time.

2014 ROSTER: It’s not clear if Dallas will keep 5 or 6 corners in 2014 but we know they will keep Scandrick, Claiborne, and Carr. And I think they keep Moore this time too. After those four, it will be a battle for those last couple spots between Webb, Potman, and Mitchell. If Dallas only keeps five, Webb could be cut. Clearly he needs to have a very good preseason. Webb is in for a battle.

2. Safety Jeff Heath- Last season the undrafted rookie made the roster by showing an ability to take the ball away from opponents. During the season, he had mixed reviews. Impressing at times and depressing at times too. His lack of experience leaves his role on the team in question. Heath has been a solid contributor on special teams. He finished the season with 60 tackles and one interception.

In 2014, Dallas drafted Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon in the 7th and also brought in undrafted Auburn safety Ryan Smith. Dixon has been nursing an injury but Smith impressed at OTAs and doesn’t look like an undrafted safety. Smith played on a big stage at Auburn and seems NFL ready. Jakar Hamilton was an undrafted safety in 2013 who has gotten noticed during OTAs and will compete for a roster spot.

2014 ROSTER: Most likely Dallas will keep 4 safeties on the roster based on the past. The Cowboys are favoring JJ Wilcox as a starter and we know Barry Church is a given. After those two, Hamilton, Smith, Dixon, and Heath, are all four fighting for two or possibly three roster spots. I like Heath’s chances to make the roster but he is in for a battle and he needs to show improvement in preseason.

3. LB Justin Durant: The Cowboys signed the veteran LB last year from the Lions and with several injuries to their LBs, Durant saw action. In 10 games Durant had 24 tackles and a forced fumble. While he is dependable against the run, his pass cover skills are less than Dallas would like at the position.

With a season ending knee injury to MLB Sean Lee during OTAs, I thought it would increase Durant’s chances of making the roster however Dallas recently signed experienced LB Rolando McClain from the Raiders. McClain is an intriguing player who was drafted in the first round in 2010 but didn’t play at all last season. He has underachieved in his NFL career so far and had some off field issues too, but he appears athletic enough to be a good option in pass coverage. He is expected to compete for a spot at MLB.

In the 2014 draft Dallas drafted two LBs Will Smith and Anthony Hitchens. I like their chances to make the roster.

2014 ROSTER: I look for Dallas to keep 6 LBs on the roster again this season and I expect them to keep DeVonte Holloman, Bruce Carter, and Kyle Wilber. If they also keep both drafted rookies (Smith and Hitchens), it will leave Durant in a battle with several LBs including McClain, for that final 6th spot on the roster. With the signing of McClain, I think Durant is in a real battle to make the roster in 2014. He needs to perform well in preseason.

4. RB Joseph Randle- Last season the rookie did a decent job filling in for Murray at times. He finished the season with 164 yards and 2 TDs. However his yards per carry were only 3 yards and questions remain if Randle is the answer behind Murray.

In the off season, Dallas signed RB Ryan Williams from the Cardinals. He has only been healthy enough to play in 5 games and his stats almost mirror Randle with 164 yards and a 2.8 average.

2014 ROSTER: Dallas typically keeps three RBs and sometimes four. It could depend on if they keep a fullback this year which is under consideration. Demarco Murray and Lance Dunbar will be on the roster so it leaves Randle in a battle with Williams for what may be the final 3rd spot. I like Randle’s chances to make the roster but he will need to show improvement in preseason to hold off Williams.

Four guys to keep an eye on preseason to see if they will return to the Dallas roster.

Jerry Jones says Cowboys Defense Can’t be Worse in 2014. Is he right?

Jerry points
Recently when asked about the Dallas defense in 2014, Jerry commented that they couldn’t be worse than last season. No place to go but up, he explained. But is that really the case? A former Cowboy who played on super bowl winning teams, Charles Haley, stated that actually it was the Dallas offense that needs to get it’s stuff together. Haley said,

“You know what, we need a better offense. And not worry about the defense. Because if we put some points up on the board, then teams gonna to have to just throw the ball. And what we’ve been lacking is the teams can run and throw. When you make them one-dimensional then you can defeat them better.”

I have respect for the Cowboy players who played on super bowl winning teams and pay attention to their assessments of the current situation in Dallas. But I must admit when I first read Haley’s comments, I thought here is another example of a NFL player with too many head injuries or something. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it started to make.

I’m not going to tell you that Dallas defense was good in 2013 because they weren’t. The numbers and rankings speak for themselves and I have pointed out their need to improve areas like the defensive line. There was Manning and the Broncos scoring 51 points and Brees leading the Saints to a record breaking number of first downs. Calvin Johnson having a season worth of yards in one game. When the Dallas defense was bad, it was VERY bad.

But at times, the defense played well in 2013 and I’m afraid it actually could have been worse, believe it or not.

Play in game Eagles:
In the final game where a win clinches a East title, the defense had an impressive goal line stand in that game and they had a big stop late in the game to give the offense a chance to win it. But a late interception thrown by Kyle Orton (the offense) actually ended their chances to win.

The Dallas defense produced one turnover but the Dallas offense committed three turnovers. Two INTs by Orton and an important fumble loss by Murray.

Another key play was the failed two point conversion by the offense that would have tied the game.

The defense wasn’t perfect in this crucial division game but I would argue it was good enough to give them an opportunity to win.

Eagles Game One:
The Eagles eventually won the division but in their first meeting, the Dallas defense was outstanding holding the Eagles to only a field goal in a game Dallas won 17-3. The Cowboys defense came up with three INTs in that game to offset two INTs thrown by Romo. The defense didn’t allow the Eagles to take advantage of the Romo turnovers.

An example of a great game by the Dallas defense in 2013.

Rams Game:
In week 3, the Dallas defense held the Rams to just 7 points in a nice win for the team.

Another game where the Dallas defense was solid.

Week 1 the Giants Home away from Home:
The Giants had dominated play in the Cowboys stadium in recent years but it was the defense that picked Manning off three times in the game including a game sealing 40 yard TD on a pick by Brandon Carr.

It was the defense that played a huge role in ending the Giants dominance in their home away from home.

Final Thought:
The short comings of the Dallas defense in 2013 were certainly well documented.

But in NFC East play in 2013, the Cowboys defense allowed an average of 19.6 points a game. Not bad. That should have been good enough to go undefeated in the East and lead to a playoff birth. And Dallas almost did go undefeated in the East and win the division if not for that loss to the Eagles in the final game. There is plenty of blame to go around for last season on both sides of the ball.

To Jerry’s point, at times the defense was absolutely awful and appears to have no where to go but up. But to Haley’s point, that Dallas offense could have been better at times too in 2013, and doesn’t deserve a free pass. The offense must establish a run game and then stick with it for the whole game. And avoid becoming one dimensional.

With the loss of Ware, Hatcher, and now Sean Lee on defense, I don’t dare say that defense can’t get worse in 2014 and if it does decline, the offense will need to step it up.

Update on the Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks after Rookie Camp and OTAs

Rookie Zack Martin

Rookie Zack Martin

Since the draft, the Dallas Cowboy coaches have had enough time to kick the tires of their draft class and perhaps take a little test drive. So far, who have impressed and who haven’t yet?

A look at how their picks are doing after rookie camp and mixing it up with some veterans in OTAs. Going in the order they were picked during the draft.

1. Guard Zack Martin:
The Cowboys immediately moved Martin from tackle which he played at Notre Dame, to guard. Martin started off OTAs with the biggest play so far when he pulled out on a screen pass and crushed LB Sean Lee in open space. Unfortunately Lee was losing his footing a little before contact with Martin and he suffered a season ending knee injury with a torn ACL.

Martin has lined up at both left and right guard and even took a few turns at center as the coaches try to diversify his skill set on the line. But all indications are, Martin will start at right guard for Dallas. So far, the news has been that Martin looks very comfortable at guard and is picking things up quickly.

I look for Martin and center Travis Frederick to work well together in the middle of the line. Just got to make sure the big fella doesn’t hurt any more of the Cowboy defenders in preseason.

2. DE DeMarcus Lawrence:
The Cowboys wasted little time in seeing what Lawrence has got by sending him up against all pro tackle Tyron Smith. And word is, Lawrence has held his own against Smith which is a good sign for sure. In fact this battle has been one of the better ones during OTAs and should be fun to watch during preseason camp.

The rookie Lawrence showed up with some pass rush moves in his arsenal and the Cowboy defensive line coaches are developing more of them for Lawrence. Some scouts have been surprised at the strength he has displayed in going against the very large Smith.

I look for Lawrence to start at right DE for Dallas.

3. LB Anthony Hitchens:
Hitchens was drafted as an insurance policy for the often injured Sean Lee but no one could have known that Dallas would have to cash in that policy after the first OTA when Lee suffered his injury. Dallas quickly took a look at Hitchens at MLB but recently, have been playing him more at the weak side LB where he played at Iowa. Hitchens appears to be learning things quickly and I think he will see action at both LB positions during camp.

Hitchens does have some developing to do in pass coverage.

4. WR Devin Street:
Dallas has had Street line up outside and in the slot receiver spot during OTAs. Street has had some drops during workouts and has looked sharp at times too. The word seems to be he has developing to do before being ready which one would expect this early. He will likely be expected to play at multiple WR spots to provide depth.

I would compare Street to Terrance Williams who as a rookie last season, came on as the season progressed. Street will get better in time and find his groove eventually in the Dallas offense.

5. DE Ben Gardner:
Gardner has been sitting out of workouts with a sore hamstring. The Cowboys seem interested in not only playing Gardner at DE, but also give him a look inside at DT. Unfortunately so far the only look he is giving them is on the stationary bike on the sidelines.

6.LB Will Smith:
Losing Lee makes picking Smith look even better and while he has been quiet in camp so far, many think he will shine when the guys put their pads on and start the tackling. Cowboys scout Bryan Broaddus has described Smith as struggling to get through the traffic at first but showed significant improvement quickly. Watching Smith on video of college play, he definitely shows a real nose for the ball and when the preseason games begin, I think Smith will capture fans attention.

Smith played at the “Will” LB spot in college but Dallas will likely move him around to all the LB positions during camp to determine where he fits best.

7. Safety Ahmad Dixon:
Dixon sat out of rookie camp with a hip strain suffered during the Senior Bowl. During his time at Baylor, Dixon only missed starting one game. The word “learning” comes up often when discussing Dixons play in OTAs but the injury has slowed progress.

I view Dixon as more of a big hitting, run support safety with just OK cover skills and I believe that is going to prove to be the case this season.

8. DT Ken Bishop:
Bishop has looked impressive in OTAs and it appears Dallas will line him up as a one technique DT. After the draft, I referred to Bishop as a “poor man’s Timmy Jernigan” and I’m sticking with that comparison.

Coach Marinelli will build a rotation of players for the DT positions and I definitely look for Bishop to be in that rotation.

9.CB Terrance Mitchell:
After missing practice time back at Oregon finishing school, Mitchell had a couple good practices during recent OTAs. He has shown some maturity to his coverage skills for a rookie in preseason. He figures in the mix to battle BW Webb and Sterling Moore to make the roster.