1. Five things I’m curious to see at Dallas Cowboys mandatory mini-camp next week:
The offensive line battle: I go more in depth later, but the major players for the final two sports are starting to shape up and their work next week will be key in setting the pecking order at training camp.
Jaylon Smith: We won’t see any hitting next week, but we’ll likely see the Cowboys try to expand his work in team drills, if his work with the second-team defense at the end of OTAs is any indication. More on Smith below, as well.
Rookie roles: Where are the Cowboys’ top four picks in the rotation right now? I’m interested to see where DE Taco Charlton, CB Chidobe Awuize, DB Jourdan Lewis and WR Ryan Switzer fit in by the end of mini-camp. It’s not necessarily an indication of where they’re expected to be when training camp begins. It’s more about progress from May to this point.
Damontre Moore: Our Mike Fisher reported this week and Moore is rounding into an interesting option at right defensive end. Can he keep the momentum moving forward heading into mini-camp?
The DB dilemma: The Cowboys have a lot of options and versatility to sort through. Plus they have a player they’re likely to lose for a couple of games in CB Nolan Carroll. I’m most interested to see how the Cowboys package their different options in base packages and specialty (nickel, dime) packages. They need, at minimum, five good pass defenders. They have a lot of guys that can do a lot of different things. How do they fit together?
Oh, and then there's that. Read Fish's Premium Cowboys story for the motivation behind the tweet.
2. Just a reminder ...
The best and most complete Cowboys coverage you’re going to find led by Mike Fisher, who is as plugged in as any Cowboys watcher around. And with mandatory mini-camp this week, you don’t want to miss a thing. Pennies a day for complete access. Why wouldn’t you? Are you doing anything with those pennies?
3. With two open spots on the offensive line, things are getting interesting going into next week’s mandatory mini-camp. La’el Collins appears to have dug in a little bit at right tackle. Collins has been working out there pretty much exclusively the past few weeks, even though the Cowboys reserve the right to change their minds. I don’t think Collins has the job yet. But he appears to be making the Cowboys more comfortable and confident that he can handle being Doug Free’s successor. Plus, it sounds like Collins is taking mentorship from All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, if their post-practice habit of walking off the field together is any indication.
Left guard is a little more murky. Fish reported this week that Chaz Green was getting some work at the left guard spot, where Jonathan Cooper had been working out previously. Martin, meanwhile, has been working out as the backup center in recent practices. I don’t believe those developments are necessarily related. The Cowboys have to find a backup center for Travis Frederick. Whoever it is won’t measure up to Frederick, though.
But that’s not really the point. The Cowboys have to have someone that can swing into that position if something happens. The Cowboys don’t typically have a dedicated backup center. In fact, most teams don’t. It’s usually a guard that can swing into that position when called upon. You might recall that, a couple of years ago, Mackenzy Bernadeau, a guard by trade, slid into that position for a few games due to injury. It actually helped extend Bernadeau’s shelf life with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys have three dedicated centers on the roster — Frederick, Ruben Carter and Ross Burbank. Unless Carter and Burbank have flexibility at guard, they’re roster goners. One of the guards on this roster will have to be the backup center on gameday. Whichever one of Green or Cooper proves to be more versatile will be the one that wins a roster spot — and the other could be on the bubble.
4. This week on Starcast, Jamie Horton and Mike Fisher discuss Demarcus "Tank" Lawrence and what fans should expect from the defensive end. As the Dallas Cowboys try to get him healthy and then try to figure out which side of the line Tank will be rushing the passer from, Fish sat down with Lawrence at The Star in Frisco with Lawrence as they discussed his expectations.
Meanwhile, Jaylon Smith looks amazing on social media (as detailed here), but social media isn't an accurate litmus test. We don't encourage anyone to bet against Jaylon, but we caution Cowboys Nation to be wary of fool’s gold in the sense of expecting too much/too soon.
Is Dak Prescott eligible for sainthood? Like, seriously, it's as if the young man can do absolutely no wrong. Is he an absolute positive influence within his locker room? Yup. Is he perfect? No. Does the audio Fish provides from Dak and Zeke in the locker room prove the theory that as a football player he’s working to be pretty darn close? Absolutely.
It's good stuff ... And it's all right here on this edition of 'Cowboys STARCast' ... and below, click on more important Cowboys links! And remember, you can download the Cowboys Sports Radio app on your phone for iOS/iPhone and Google Play/Android. ... Come on inside!
5. Ryan Switzer, “The Office” fan? Well, aren’t we all? But here’s how we found out and it, oddly, starts with one of the show’s stars, Jenna Fischer. You know Jenna, right? Office manager extraordinaire Pam Beesly Halpert? Well, if you follow Jenna on social media (and I do, because I’m a big “The Office” fan as well), then you know that Jenna, who grew up in St. Louis, is a big Cowboys fan (because they are America’s Team, after all). For some reason, however, she felt compelled to tweet out information on the National Fantasy Football Championship:
So, wait. Jenna is not only a Cowboys fan, but she’s a fantasy football fan, too (I’m assuming)? I’m starting to think Jim Halpert outkicked his coverage when it comes to TV marriage and that I have a new dream girl. But, I digress.
Switzer caught this on Twitter and retweeted with a comment and request:
I’m having visions of Jim, Pam and Michael Scott in Jerry’s suite during an Eagles game. Chris Christie is there too. It’s weird. But funny. And then it’s weird again because Michael’s giving Chris a Dundee for “Best Performance by a Governor in a Bridge Scandal.”
That led to this reply to Switzer:
Switzer then replied, I think speaking for just about every “The Office” fan on the planet:
Now we’re not fully down the rabbit hole just yet. A member of our CowboysHQ family, Jordan Ross, chimed in after seeing this chain of tweets. And he has us all beat.
Pam/Jenna is in the bottom left-hand corner with Jordan.
Jordan, smartly, did the @ thing with Switzer, compelling this response:
Which brings us to the whole point of this exchange. This is the first time in recorded history that a professional athlete has ever been jealous of a sportswriter. Ryan will figure out that isn’t proper behavior, of course, and all will return to normal soon.
And, as a bonus, now that the NFL has relaxed its touchdown celebration rules — thanks in part to Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett — might we expect this when (OK, IF) Switzer scores this season?
Group celebrations are now allowed, after all.
See, Twitter can be fun. It doesn’t always make you wanna drive your head through a wall.
6. Let’s discuss Jaylon Smith for a bit. I was at the Notre Dame-Ohio State Fiesta Bowl game where Smith got hurt. I was a fan that day sitting in the upper deck. Even I could tell from that vantage point that the injury Smith suffered was not your garden variety knee injury. But here we are about 18 months later and Smith has spent this entire offseason teasing the Cowboys and the fan base with his overall speed and athleticism. He did it again earlier this week.
Now, the fact that Smith can do these things at this point is a minor miracle given the injury he suffered. Most players, when they have a knee injury, don’t have to deal with nerve damage. Smith even did some time with the second-team defense earlier this week, which is a nice step in the right direction.
But I’m with our Mike Fisher on this one. The game isn’t played in shirts and shorts. It’s played in pads, it’s violent and it requires physicality and strength. Now, Smith has all of those things, plus a sunny, optimistic attitude to boot. But until we see him in pads at training camp, in the preseason and even in the regular season, it’s impossible to project what kind of career he’ll have and at what level of his previous talent he’ll rise up to. Will he be 90 percent of what he was? Or 80 percent? Or lower? No one knows and anyone who says they do doesn’t understand the nature of the injury or the NFL.
We’re going to have to sit back and watch it develop like everyone else. I expect setbacks. But that’s actually not a bad thing. Smith doesn’t seem the type that is easily deterred. But the Cowboys need this to work. They’ve already swung and missed on too many second-round picks of late.
But Smith’s progress is like a lottery ticket. If all the numbers hit, well, the Cowboys are rich. But, if say you only get five numbers and you get a portion of the jackpot, that’s not all that bad, either.
7. Dr. Dak Prescott? The second-year Cowboys QB expressed an interest in getting his doctorate in philosophy earlier this week during a radio interview. You probably saw that and thought, “Well that’s going to take a while.” Well, actually, Prescott has a Bachelor’s in Education Psychology and a Master’s in Workforce Leadership. He earned both while he was still playing football at Mississippi State. And you thought all college football players did was, you know, play football?
It’s proof Prescott is cut from a different cloth when it comes to balancing football and life.
He’s not the only NFL player working on a doctorate. Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel is working on a Ph.D. in Mathematics from MIT. That’s the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Smart people go there, people smarter than you and me, I assure you. And you know who Urschel is. He’s that guy trying to teach Texans DE J.J. Watt how Bose headphones work in those Bose commercials you see during football season.
Oh, and if you act now you can capitalize on Dak’s Doctoral Dreams.
Wow. Jerry doesn’t miss a damn thing, does he?
We'll have more on The Education of Dak on Monday.
8. Tweet of the Week
Just so we’re clear, Lynda Carter has been throwing up the ‘X’ since the 1970s. Just sayin’.
9. This week’s “Great Moments in Headline Porn?” “Ex-NFL Player: The Cowboys will fall because Jason Garrett is not a good coach” from dallasnews.com
In this case the headline porn is an actual quote from former NFL defensive back Eric Davis, who is of the belief that Garrett is not a good coach. Certainly has a right to his opinion. But if you’re looking at that 4-12 season, there were more issues than just Tony Romo not playing. DeMarco Murray bolted in free agency. Dez Bryant played nine games. Greg Hardy was, at times, useless. Rolando McClain only played 11 games. Randy Gregory missed several games. The list goes on. They didn’t just “lose the quarterback” that season.
10. One More Thing ….
I haven’t been writing as much the past month or so, but for good reason. I’m working on wrapping up the 2017 College Football America Yearbook, of which I am editor-in-chief. We’re really excited about this year’s book. We’ve gone in a slightly different direction with the cover (see below) and we’ve found a new publisher, Ingram Spark. What that means to you as a consumer that we’re able to offer our quality college football yearbook at a much lower price than in the past. It makes us more competitive with the annuals you’re used to seeing and we hope you’ll give it a chance. We think the CFA Yearbook is important because we cover all levels of college football, not just Division I. I’ll keep you updated on the release date and where to get it. With our new relationship with Ingram Spark, it will be a lot easier to find.
Wanna talk Cowboys? Head for the CowboysHQ.com message boards or hit up Postins on Twitter at @PostinsPostcard or Mike Fisher on Twitter @FishSports.