Welcome to the Cowboys Training Camp Preview Oxnard Edition where we not only discuss the storylines to watch for as camp kicks off tomorrow in Southern California but also a prelude to SportsTalkLine staff with boots on the ground in Oxnard! Look for Cowboys Training Camp breakdowns, live social media updates, and YouTube reports it’s all coming right here! Get your popcorn ready!
Cowboys Training Camp Oxnard Storylines
There are a ton of storylines to follow at the Cowboys Training Camp in 2021. Every rookie is trying to make the club but people forget, so are a lot of the veterans and that makes for rousing competition. This is just what the club needs as they look to solve critical problems.
Offensive Line Interior
2020 was brutal on the edge for the ‘Boys but for 201 the club is set with both Tyron Smith and La’El Collins returning from injury, looking fit, and ready to dominate. However, as most were aware of the OT issues few were in the know about the shambles the interior line had become. Travis Frederick retired, Zack Williams was an injury mess and Connor Williams was not good enough to overcome the lack of talent around him. That brings us forward to 2021 with OC Tyler Biadasz, LG Connor Williams, and all-pro RG Zack Martin. The talent is there. Biadasz has been a find. Williams is gaining NFL strength by the day and can perform when he is not the best player on the line. Zack Martin is one of the two best OGs in the league. It all comes down to staying healthy which is what the entire Dallas line needs to do. That happens and this group dominates. It doesn’t and the wheels could (again) fall off the Cowboys season.
Offensive Line Backups
The next big question is who can back up the starting 5? You need a good swing tackle and then a guy in the middle who can (ideally) play all three positions. More often than not it takes two for the inside. Brandon Knight, Josh Ball, and Terence Steele are the 3 obvious candidates for the swing tackle position. Rookie Matt Farniok and former 3rd round pick Connor McGovern look to man the middle. I like the interior backups much more than the edge guys. Keep an eye on this. The club HAS to find a swing tackle that can play. I think the two guys in the middle are solid and have starting chops. We will see.
Linebacking Corps Shuffle
It only seems like yesterday most were extolling the excitement of a Jaylon Smith/LVE linebacking corps for the Cowboys’ foreseeable future! Oh wait, it was yesterday.
Jaylon Smith, LVE, Micah Parsons, and Jabril Cox will all now compete for the honor of being looked at as the future and I am giddy over the prospect. Here is why. It doesn’t matter who wins the competition, just that they “WIN” the competition. No “injury-default” results, no “coaching-favorite” decisions, no “front office directives” and the results will be magnificent. Competition brings out the best and if the Cowboys can get the 3 best guys out of that group identified and placed in the salary cap plan the results will be incredible.
Jabril is the best coverage LB. Micah has the most explosiveness. Jaylon has all the tools and LVE is still learning the game as he hones his incredible instincts. Some will be in a hurry to trade one of these guys but patience will pay the biggest dividend here.
The Cowboys should have the best LB corps in the NFL in 2021 and beyond. If they don’t it’s all on the coaches and the front office.
Defensive Line Shakeout
Yes. The ‘Boys need more pressure on the QB just like approximately 29 other NFL teams do. I like what was done to achieve that this offseason (more on that later). However, the Cowboys DLine has had one problem for over 20 years and that is they are susceptible to a power running game or any running game that attacks the interior of their defense. If the opponent of the day has a big, bruising back the outlook is not good by the 4th quarter. This is the result of a “small but quick” mentality that has been pervasive for the interior of the D that has been primarily cap-driven as Jones realized the small-quick interior guys were cheaper. What took him 25 years to figure out is there is a reason for that.
Most Cowboys’ depth charts at the moment are showing 6’2″, 308 lb under-achiever Trysten Hill as the starter in the middle of their base-3-man hybrid defensive line. Right behind him, however, is 6’5″, 362 lb Kentucky DT Quinton Bohanna wearing number 98. He is not “just” a big guy. He is athletic, has some quickness, and is very powerful at the point of attack. The man can clog the middle of the line and push the pocket a bit. Dallas is now employing just that type of D (versus penetrating) as they want their incredibly athletic LBs to have room to flow to the ball. I don’t look for Bohanna to overtake Hill as the starter right away. I do expect him to get solid rotation snaps as the club finds out how great this kid is going to work out for them.
Other guys are now primed to step forward and make a difference. DT Neville Gallimore gets his chance to show if he can take it to the next level. DE Randy Gregory no longer has Aldon Smith in his way. Demarcus Lawrence is healthy and seems to fit well with DC Dan Quinn’s scheme. 3rd round picks Odighizuwa and Golston are hoping to make a dent in the rotation as well. This crew is young, deep, and ready to go. I can’t wait to see how they shake out.
You do recall 2020 and the Cowboys’ DBs? Easy to spot, they were the ones on TV running after wide-open receivers. I am not a betting man but feel very comfortable stating the ‘Boys pass defense is going to surprise many in 2021. First, they will get more pressure from their front 7. Then, Trevon Diggs seems to be the real deal. Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis are under-rated and Donovan Wilson is a playmaker who is still improving his game. However …… I absolutely LOVE the new talent the club has brought in for 2021. Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright, Israel Mukuamu, and Damontae Kazee all bring the Dan Quinn D stamp to the club and if you hire a coach to bring their game to the team you know he needs “his” guys. For the positions that cover receivers, he got ’em.
Big, strong, long, fast, and nasty we will be watching to see who steps forward.
Dak, Elliott, and the Reciving Corps
Oh, yea. Now it really starts to get fun. Many predict the offense will have to carry the team in 2021 outscoring the other team. I think the D will carry more of its weight than people think, however, what matters here is how explosive this team is going to be when they have the ball. Very. Defenses will have to approach the Cowboys like nitroglycerin in Death Valley on a wagon with a broken axel. No matter what you do at some point you know it’s going to explode.
It all starts with the OLine, but don’t forget, Dak was performing at an all-pro level last season behind a makeshift OLine. When he gets his dominant line back all bets are off as then Zeke and the running game get going, play-action becomes a weapon and defenses literally don’t know what to run, who to cover or where the Cowboys are going with the ball. Defenses will know the deep ball is coming though and this will stretch the field opening up crossing patterns. Life will be good for Dak in 2021 and Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Cedrick Wilson, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz will all be possible big-play targets on any down. Just for some extra spice look for rookie Simi Fehoko to get some looks in the RedZone. Double-cover any player at your own risk but whatever you do, don’t forget to keep an eye on Elliot or Pollard out of the backfield or split in formation.
You get the picture.
Picking the Cowboys receiver that will have a big day will be a crap-shoot. Like picking the best WR with Tom Brady throwing the ball Prescott has not shown a penchant for playing favorites or forcing his passes. This results in huge team passing totals and Prescott being the only reliable Fantasy Football option of the explosive offensive.
The Cowboys are going to put up huge numbers on the offensive side of the ball in 2021. The question is, will they put up huge scores? How many times will they drop a 40-burger on an opponent? I am believing the club has the talent to accomplish that feat at a clip they have never approached before. Perhaps that any NFL team has?
There is plenty of trade talk at the WR position but I believe that just as with LB the ‘Boys would do well to show patience here.
Can’t wait to get eyes-on tomorrow and watch the process unfold. Check back for more!
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on Twitter: Steven Van Over