The Cowboys training camp inches closer day by day, and there are lots of position battles going into the 2019 campaign. The amount of young talent on this team makes for fierce competition on both sides of the ball.
The new players that arrived via the draft and free agency will be making noise to get on the field. However, there are plenty of players with their spots locked up, so we’ll be focusing on those in danger of losing playing time.
After entering last season without a number 1 receiver, the Cowboys sought out to acquire Amari Cooper. They also drafted Michael Gallup who ended the season on a good note by finishing his last 4 games with 14 receptions, 240 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Another addition was Randall Cobb who is expected to replace Cole Beasley in the slot. With those 3 guys having their spots locked up, we’ll be keeping an eye on how the Cowboys fill in the last few spots. There are many receivers fighting for those spots, but these guys have the best shot: Allen Hurns, Noah Brown, Tavon Austin, Cedrick Wilson, and Jalen Guyton.
Hurns is coming off a vicious injury in which he dislocated his ankle against the Seahawks during the playoffs. He arrived in Dallas with big expectations but failed to live up the hype. In his second year, he’ll have to step up or risk losing out to one of the younger guys. Brown is loved by the Cowboys due to his big frame and incredible ability to run block. Now without Terrance Williams on the team, Brown maybe this team’s best receiver on running situations. Austin hasn’t lived up to his 1st round pedigree but had some big plays for Dallas on special teams. The key for Austin will be showing that he can stay healthy for a longer period of time. Wilson, on the other hand, has a big upside with his quick agility and route running ability. After sitting out for a season due to injury, Wilson now knows what to expect in the NFL and will use that to his advantage in order to make the team. Guyton is more of a surprise candidate that brings explosiveness that the Cowboys could use to spark the offense. Even though he’s a rookie, he’ll be a problem for defenses to contain. All of these guys will be giving it their best shot, but in the end, only a few can make the 53 man roster.
Byron Jones had an unbelievable 1st year at the corner for Dallas as he only allowed 1 touchdown in 18 games. Opposite of him will be Chidobe Awuzie who has shown to be a solid option as the second corner. The real battle lies in the slot corner position where Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown will both be battling for the job. Kris Richard has shown that he prefers the taller corners, where Brown literally inches out Lewis. He came in as a steal in the 6th round of the 2016 draft class. Since then Brown has racked up over 150 tackles, 25+ pass deflections, and 4 interceptions. Brown, now entering a contract year will be looking to play his best season thus far to seek out a payday from someone in the league. Jourdan Lewis has a remarkable ability to break on the ball as we saw in his rookie season where he had 10 pass deflections and an interception. Against the Saints in last year’s matchup, Lewis had an interception and almost had a pick 6 in the first half as well. The slot corner battle will be one of the better battles to keep an eye on during the preseason.
Right Defensive End
With Randy Gregory trying to get reinstated, the Cowboys have to find a replacement to go opposite of Demarcus Lawrence. Dallas ended up making a deal to get Robert Quinn from the Dolphins, to come in and compete with Taco Charlton. Taco hasn’t had much success in his first 2 seasons but looks to turn the page in year 3. He had surgery on January 24th and is now recovering from an ankle injury. Taco claims that he’ll be 100% come training camp. He’ll be going into the season with extra motivation to play well since Dallas can opt to pick up his 5th-year option after this season. Last season he showed flashes of why he was drafted in the first round, and now being fully healthy he can continue to grow. However, Quinn is also out on a mission to prove to the league that he can still play at an All-Pro level. In his past 2 seasons, he’s averaged 7.5 sacks per year. Now with the focus being mainly on Lawrence, Quinn will be free to take advantage of his one on one matchups. Rod Marinelli brings out the best in defensive linemen, and this season we could see an enormous jump from that front line.
Dak Prescott has proven to be a durable player as we’ve seen him start every game since being drafted by Dallas. However, having a good option behind him is an important role due to the unpredictability of the injury bug. Cooper Rush is now entering his 3rd season, whereas Mike White is coming into his 2nd year. Rush came to Dallas as an undrafted free agent and showed potential during his rookie season in the preseason by throwing 6 touchdowns without any interceptions. Last year’s preseason it seemed that he regressed by throwing 4 interceptions and only 1 touchdown. He’ll have to prove himself once again this preseason in order to maintain his position as Dak’s backup. Mike White was drafted in the 5th round last year and had some sparks during his limited snaps. White had zero touchdowns and 1 interception but completed over 60% of his passes throughout the preseason. After having a season under his belt, White will look to take over the backup position. This may be the biggest battle to keep an eye on, with both players trying to make their case as the team’s backup quarterback.
Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath have their spots secured according to Kris Richard, but their backup has yet to be chosen. This is where we’ll get to see George Iloka, Kavon Frazier, and Donovan Wilson. Iloka is a veteran that has plenty of knowledge about the position. Frazier has been around the Cowboys his whole career and tends to make plays when called upon. Wilson is a rookie that plays tough and knows how to lay the wood on opposing players.
While Jason Witten looks to be the starter going into the season, the other tight ends will also have playing time allocated to them. Blake Jarwin displayed incredible talent towards the end of last year, and this year he looks to be better in the receiving aspect. Don’t count out Dalton Schultz who was drafted in the 4th round just a year ago. Schultz would be de ideal player to copy Witten’s style of play. Schultz can block and move the sticks in short distance situations.
There are always players that will shock the world by playing at a high level that ultimately lands them onto a 53 man roster. While the preseason may not count towards getting to the Superbowl, there will be plenty of things to watch. These battles should make things more interesting, as the regular season gets closer.
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