Dallas Cowboys Training Camp: Week 1 Stock Report
We’re already approaching one week of Dallas Cowboys training camp in the books, and there have been plenty of reports regarding which players are excelling and which are leaving something to be desired. So how much do early training camp results matter?
The answer is simultaneously "a lot" and "not very much." Early training camp play doesn’t matter because it’s such a small sample of a player’s ability. In the same way that we shouldn’t judge the quality of a player by a single game, we shouldn’t label him one way or the other after a week of practices.
Nonetheless, these practices have the ability to matter a lot for certain players because they’re going to influence coaches’ opinions. There are only a limited number of preseason games in which players have an opportunity to impress the coaches, so practice time matters a whole lot for fringe players. There aren’t that many weeks left before the start of the regular season, so each week of training camp is a big one for the players who don’t have a roster spot locked down.
Regardless of a player’s status with the team, though, we always want to see quality play to start training camp. Here are six players/positions that are either trending upward or downward through the early stages of camp.
Stock Down: FS Matt Johnson
I’ve gone on record as saying that free safety Matt Johnson will make the Cowboys’ final roster, but I’m very close to changing my mind. My prediction was based on math; if Johnson is a good bet to make the team if healthy, you’d think he’ll be on it if he has a greater than 50 percent chance of remaining on the field. Even with his injury history, I thought that was a good bet.
Maybe not, as Johnson is now day-to-day with yet another hamstring injury, according to Rainer Sabin Dallas Morning News. Said Johnson, “They don’t have confidence enough I am going to stay healthy so I want to prove that to them. Then, I want to prove I can be a playmaker.”
Johnson might have playmaking potential, but you can’t like the odds of him making it through camp at this point.
Stock Up: Defensive Tackles
Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com has been raving about the defensive tackles since camp began, specifically undrafted rookie Davon Coleman:
As good as Henry Melton and Tyrone Crawford looked Saturday on the defensive line, rookie Davon Coleman was right there with them. Coleman had been lining up all over the line but in this practice he saw the majority of his action playing as the three technique next to Terrell McClain. McClain spent most of his time as the one-technique after taking majority of his snaps during the spring at the three in place of Melton. Coleman physically looks much wider and stouter than he does tall when you stand next to him. There were several times during the practice where he would beat a block on the front side and end up in the backfield near the ball or use a spin move on a pass rush to throw the blocker off balance, working his way to the quarterback.
It wasn’t the first time Broaddus hyped up the tackles—Tyrone Crawford has gotten a lot of praise too—and David Helman also saw Coleman as an early standout. This is really good news for Dallas, as the interior pass rush has the potential to help this defense in an unbelievable way.
Stock Down: RB DeMarco Murray
I think we’ll see kind of how his year goes and go from there. . .Running backs, that’s kind of evolved in this league. It’s tough for running backs to have a lot of longevity. But there’s ones that do. DeMarco is a leader. He takes good care of himself. I think his best football is ahead of him.
The truth is that as well as Murray played last year, the Cowboys shouldn’t give him a contract extension. Even if you don’t factor in the lack of running back longevity, it’s simply an extremely replaceable position. In any marketplace, the scarcest resources demand the biggest bucks, and Murray isn’t scarce because his production can be fairly easily replaced (and by someone cheaper).
Stock Up: LB Kyle Wilber
Bryan Broaddus has liked what he’s seen out of linebacker Kyle Wilber:
A linebacker that showed up when the pads came on was Kyle Wilber. For a player that, at this time last season, didn’t appear to have a spot on the defense that suited his game, Wilber has found a home as an outside linebacker for Rod Marinelli. I like the way he played with body control and balanced both run and pass. It appears that the coaches are going to use him in this scheme with his hand on the ground as a rusher, as well.
That last sentence is an important one, because I believe Wilber is best utilized as an undersized pass rusher. There are all sorts of ways the Cowboys can use him on third down—he could even play as a pass-rushing 4-3 outside linebacker in the same sort of mold as Von Miller in Denver—so it’s good to see he’s taking on different roles early in camp.
Stock Down: Backup Offensive Tackles
Broaddus’s take on the Cowboys’ backup offensive tackles:
If there was a position that I was not impressed with, it had to be the start for offensive tackles Jermey Parnell and Darrion Weems. I thought (Parnell’s) initial quickness off the snap was solid but his contact balance and body control was really off. There were snaps where he was too high and straight legged which didn’t allow him to adjust to handle the rusher. Like Parnell, Weems struggled with some of the same issues when it came to his balance and positioning, but his was due mainly to over extension. The quickness out of the stance was a strength -- but it was after that is where he broke down. The wider he kicked to engage his man, the wider his base became and that put him in a position where he could not adjust back inside to the rusher.
The hope is that right tackle Doug Free plays well enough that we won’t need to see much of Parnell or Weems for Dallas this year. The offensive line isn’t a weakness for Dallas right now, but I think it’s a pretty fragile situation since there isn’t much depth behind the starters. If Tyron Smith were to get injured, for example, that has the potential to be really devastating to Dallas—even more so than for other teams—because they might need to shuffle around a few positions.
Stock Up: CB Morris Claiborne
By every account, cornerback Morris Claiborne is a different player this year. Specifically, he seems to have a lot more confidence. Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas said Claiborne has a new demeanor, Bryan Broaddus said “his movement is back, as well as his confidence,” and the Dallas Morning News observed some good battles between Claiborne and wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Every NFL player needs confidence, but I think it’s true for cornerback more than any other position outside of perhaps quarterback. Cornerbacks are lined up out wide by themselves, and when they mess up, it’s very obvious what happened. It’s much more difficult to recognize poor defensive lineman play, for example, than to know that a cornerback who just got beat for a touchdown didn’t do his job.
The fact that Claiborne seems to be confident right now is huge. I still think he’s going to struggle some this year because he’s not an elite athlete, but he can still help Dallas if he’s playing to the best of his ability.