By Jesus Flores @DFWSportsFlo on July 16, 2014
Training camp is a few weeks away and the Dallas Cowboys still have a lot of questions that need answers. For the third consecutive year, they will field a new offensive play-caller and a new defensive coordinator. Will all these changes and the commitment to get younger pay off in 2014?
The Dallas Cowboys will depart Dallas, Texas for Oxnard, Calif., on July 22 with their first official practice coming on July 24. The opening ceremony will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, 2014. The Blue & White scrimmage will be held on August 3. Among the special events held during training camp will be a Military Appreciation Day on July 29 and August 5, and a First Responders Appreciation Day on July 31.
Starting Qb Tony Romo is coming off of his second back surgery and there are a lot of questions surrounding his durability. As of Tuesday, July 15, 2014, Kyle Orton is no longer on the team, giving way for Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie to battle it out for the No. 2 job.
DeMarco Murray is the sure-fire starter at running back, and all signs point to third-year man Lance Dunbar being his backup. After that the door is wide open for guys like Joseph Randle, free agent addition Ryan Williams and undrafted rookie free agent Ben Malena. For what it’s worth, I think that J.C. Copeland beats out Tyler Clutts for the lone fullback spot on the team.
Dez Bryant is in the last year of his contract, and I expect that the Cowboys will find a way to extend him during training camp. Behind Bryant, young guys like Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Devin Street and Dwayne Harris will be battling it out for the No. 2 and No. 3 receiver duties. Jason Witten will hold down the starting TE position with Gavin Escobar as his primary backup.
Highlighted by the play of Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith and second-year man Travis Frederick, and the addition of G Zack Martin, the Cowboys offensive line should be one of their strengths in 2014. The Cowboys are also hopeful that G Ronald Leary continues to develop and that RT Doug Free doesn’t regress.
Aside from Henry Melton playing the 3-technique, every position on the Cowboys’ defensive line is up for grabs. I expect that DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford will be the starting defensive ends and that Terrell McClain will be the 1-technique, but you never know. The good thing about this year is that the Cowboys added far more depth to the defensive line than they did a year ago.
Following Sean Lee’s season-ending ACL tear, the Cowboys linebacking corps is a mess. I’m not sold on Bruce Carter, nor am I sold on Justin Durant playing MLB. Fourth round pick Anthony Hitchens doesn’t appear ready to step in and be an every down player, and the team still doesn’t know what to do with Kyle Wilber or DeVonte Holloman.
Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick will be the starting cornerbacks, and Barry Church will be the starting strong safety; aside from that, every other position is up for grabs. Morris Claiborne hasn’t done anything, and I don’t know that he every will. B.W. Webb wasn’t ready for the NFL last season and is in danger of not making the team. J.J. Wilcox, Jakar Hamilton, Jeff Heath and Matt Johnson will be battling for the spot opposite Church.
Dan Bailey and L.P. Ladouceur are possibly the most underrated special teams duo in the NFL. Overall, the Cowboys need to improve their punt and kick off coverage, and must figure out if they’re going to go with Chris Jones or rookie Cody Mandell at punter. Dwayne Harris has the return duties locked up.
The Biggest Camp Battle will be the battle(s) at linebacker. Who will step in and fill Sean Lee’s shoes? Will it be Bruce Carter, DeVonte Holloman, Anthony Hitchens, Justin Durant or Rolando McClain? Maybe it will be one of the other guys like the William Smiths of the world. Nonetheless, every linebacker spot is up for grabs, so this should be fun to watch.
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