Dallas Cowboys training camp is here and it’s time to take a look at seven guys that may be on the bubble as far as making the team, may be coming off a down year or just guys that might be getting their first shot at real playing time.
- Jaylon Smith – Is he healthy and ready to contribute?
The answer to that question depends on who you ask. If you ask Jerry or Stephen Jones, the answer is absolutely yes. If you ask the always positive Jaylon, the answer will also be yes. Then if you ask anybody else, you will get a lot of the opposite because there is not a track record of guys with drop foot coming back to play NFL football at a high level or at all. Well, the time has come; training camp is where we are going to get a clearer picture of exactly where he is health wise. His health is really important because of the lack of depth the Cowboys already have at the linebacker position, then you have the issues currently surrounding Damien Wilson, who the cowboys had big plans for heading into the 2017 season.
- Jeff Health – Is heath ready for a starting role?
Heath finished off his 2016 season having the best game of his career and the best game of any cowboys’ defender against the robot that is Aaron Rodgers. Heath had one interception and nearly forced a fumble that would have put the Cowboys in great position to kick a game winning FG that would have sent them to the NFC championship game. Now with the departures of Barry Church and JJ Wilcox in the secondary, heath will be asked to step into a larger role on the defense.
- La’el Collins – Can he replace Doug Free?
One of the most underrated losses for the cowboys during the offseason was the somewhat unexpected retirement of Doug Free. La’el Collins is being asked to move from guard to right tackle, a move that Collins definitely has the talent to make, but one that won’t be 100 percent comfortable until it’s made successfully.
- Jonathan Cooper – Can he finally live up to the first round pick?
Jonathan Cooper is going to get an opportunity to win the starting left guard position. Cooper does have the advantage of having all pro Tyron Smith to his left and all pro center Travis Frederick to his right to help him out, but he is replacing a leader on the line in Ronald Leary.
- Byron Jones – Takeaways?
Byron Jones is an athletic freak, he can matchup with tight ends and some receivers. The only knock on Byron to this point is that he isn’t the playmaker as far as takeaways that everyone expects a free safety with his athletic ability to be. It was recently reported that Byron Jones has been working on his hands with the Frisco Riders outfielders.
- Nolan Carroll – Will he make this team?
Seems like a crazy question to ask if a free agent signing will make the team, but Carroll didn’t get off to the hottest start with the Cowboys. He was quickly arrested for DWI after celebrating signing with the team. With all the young guys the cowboys brought in this offseason, it would be nice to have a couple of veterans that have been through battles in the NFL to show these young guys what it’s like to be a professional and what it’s going to take to be successful, but those veterans have to be professionals themselves.
- Lucky Whitehead – Will he make it out of training camp?
Whitehead’s replacement was drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft. His name is Ryan Switzer. Switzer returned seven punts for touchdowns in his college career and during his 2016 senior season he had 96 catches for 1,112 yards. Needless to say, Lucky needs a huge training camp to prove his worth.
A couple more interesting names to keep an eye on during training camp are Rico Gathers and Charles Tapper. Both of these guys are guys from the 2016 draft class that turned into gold for the Cowboys. Gathers played basketball, not football at Baylor; he is 6’8” 275 pounds and ran a 4.7 40 at the NFL combine. Tapper is interesting because we didn’t see much of him in 2016 due to a back injury but he has the potential to be the pass rusher this team desperately needs.
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