5 Biggest Takeaways from the Dallas Cowboys' First Week of Camp
The Dallas Cowboys have wrapped up a busy and eventful first week of training camp. Without being able to watch the action like a typical Sunday gameday, it's hard to conceive of the amount of work that can be accomplished in a short period of time. Not only has a lot transpired, but this particular training camp has a completely different vibe to it.
A positive one.
The Cowboys are a franchise that's never short on news or happenings, and the first week proved true to form. After following countless hours of coverage, tweets, updates and play-by-play chat sessions, I was able to take away quite a bit as camp unfolded from my perspective.
At this juncture, there is no reason to be either overly excited or bitterly concerned about what's taken place. For the Cowboys, it's about grinding, getting through, staying injury-free and becoming a football team. With key questions that need to be addressed, this is the time to seek the answers. But even more importantly, the right answers.
Here is what I've taken away from the Cowboys' first week of camp.
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Bryant couldn't have picked a worse time or way to start off camp. With the revelation that he had gotten into an altercation with his mother, of all people, the general consensus was that he'd be preparing for court rather than the season. Jerry Jones even showed his dismay with Bryant, and judging by his comments, I'd say this is Dez's last chance.
However, Bryant has played with meaning, purpose and focus. He's been making plays on a daily basis, proving to be uncoverable and he's even introduced Morris Claiborne to the NFL by beating him at will. Did the light bulb finally go on? Does he get it? Are we getting a glimpse of the player who should be dominating games?
Not only do I think so, but I feel that Bryant has found solace in football. He's entering a crucial third season and it's time to unleash the player he needs to become. Bryant could be the difference maker this team needs.
Who's the No. 3 Receiver?
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Probably the biggest question heading into camp was who would replace Laurent Robinson. Apparently, that question has not been answered.
With Bryant and Austin firmly entrenched as the starters, the Cowboys are waiting on Andre Holmes, Cole Beasley, Raymond Radway, Danny Coale and Tim Benford to grab a hold of the position.
More importantly, is the No. 3 receiver even on this team? The likelihood of bringing in a veteran is slim, so someone from this group needs to emerge quickly. Beasley, who briefly left the team for personal reasons, still remains a favorite. Coale, the team's fifth-round pick, should finally see the field after breaking his foot, and he remains a favorite as well.
Holmes, who possesses intriguing size, needs to be more consistent, and the same is true of Radway. There is no runaway choice at this time and it's a little worrisome. But with the preseason on the horizon, things will get interesting very quickly.
The Cowboys need an answer.
Barry Church has been to the defense what Dez Bryant has been to the offense. All he's done is make plays on the ball, intercept passes, taken control of the position and cost Brodney Pool his job.
The youngster from Toledo has arrived to the dance. He's got great size and athleticism, he can play in the box or cover and he's come a long way from being a special-teams player.
Church should serve as an example to the other young players on this team that when opportunity knocks, you better answer the door. Will he be the long-term answer at safety? That remains to be seen—but so far, he's well on his way.
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The Cowboys dodged a major bullet when Morris Claiborne's injury proved to be minor. But the Cowboys have roughly 18 players injured and the majority of them probably won't play the preseason opener. I know it's camp but the amount of injuries have been staggering.
What's very troubling are the injuries along the offensive line. Management had to bring back Derrick Dockery and Daniel Loper just to provide some depth and preserve the healthy linemen. Mackenzy Bernedeau appears set to return that will give this unit a boost. In order to protect Tony Romo, the Cowboys are going to need this unit healthy enough to develop some cohesion among the group.
Injuries are the nature of the beast when it comes to training camp, but the key is to mitigate them with enough depth. The problem is that the salary-cap dictates otherwise. So when you see players like Claiborne, Miles Austin and a slew of others sustain them on a daily basis, it makes breathing that much harder.
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When the Cowboys signed Carr to a huge contract during free agency, there was some hesitation and second-guessing that accompanied it. But after tracking his progress for the last week, Carr is really cementing himself as the leader of the secondary.
He's locking down receivers, playing aggressively, displaying his ball-hawking skills and proving that Jerry Jones made the right decision in signing him.
It's hard not to get excited at the cornerbacks on this roster, and that starts with Carr. He's young, he's just entering his prime and his skill-set is a perfect match for Rob Ryan's defense. Once Claiborne gets healthy and up to speed, this tandem will be lethal. If Jenkins can get on the field as well, then this entire unit will make a lot of teams envious.
Training camp has been eventful thus far and a lot has happened in a short time frame. Although it's early in the process, the preliminary takeaways have yielded some mixed results. The story of the Dallas Cowboys' 2012 training camp remains unwritten, but somehow I like the way I think it will end.