The Dallas Cowboys officially started training camp on July 30th in Oxnard, California, with lots of story lines to follow, but a lot of the focus will be on the defense.
The Cowboys made a lot of offseason moves focused on improving their defense, which was very middle-of-the-pack last season (16th in points allowed, 14th in yards allowed). There should be an interesting battle in the secondary, as free agents Brandon Carr and Brodney Pool battle with Orlando Scandrick and rookie phenom Morris Claiborne. So far, the corners on the first team workouts have been Carr and Claiborne, but it’s still very early in camp.
“We’re going to push each other each in practice,” Carr said of first round draft pick Claiborne. “Training camp’s going to be good for him because he’s been out of OTAs and whatnot. He’s here working and eager to learn, and he’s challenging receivers.”
“Competition makes everybody better,” defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “Some people don’t want it. They don’t want that. But this is going to make us all better. We’ve got great coaches in here to push these guys and it’s going to be great. This isn’t a one-man show at all.”
DeMarcus Ware is coming off a superlative 19.5 sack season last year, and Ryan is focused on making the rest of the defense better, which should also benefit Ware. Ryan commented, “We have some things that will help DeMarcus.”
For his part, Ware is excited to be back and feels like the team is in a good place moving forward.
“We’ve been through that turmoil of having the lockout and then not having a good season,” Ware said. “Now guys are ready. We feel very close to each other. We had the offseason. We had the OTAs, we had the minicamps where you can build that team camaraderie.”
“I feel like this team is a totally different team than it was last year.”
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The Cowboys didn’t exactly fly out of the gates as three players failed their initial conditioning test. Running back Felix Jones, wide receiver Andre Holmes and safety Brodney Pool all failed their initial tests, but finally passed on Wednesday so will be able to practice for the first time in Friday’s practice (they have Thursday off).
“We have to be conscious of it being their first practice,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “We’ll keep rotating through with reps. But it’s good to have them back out there.”
Holmes was figuring to compete for the number three receiver job, behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, but he faces serious competition now. Pool figured to have the inside track at free safety, but his absence may open the door for Barry Church, who has been playing with the first team.
There is so much to be answered with the Cowboys and other teams around the league. Stay tuned as training camp progresses and I bring you insider access on what’s happening for Americas Team.
By Blake Novacek