Training Camp is Approaching
With just seven days until Training Camp in Oxnard, California, the Cowboys and their fans are anxiously awaiting the start of the new season. The bitter taste of having a chance to win the division and get into the Play-offs for two consecutive years just can’t get out of their mouth. The remnants of defeat and disappointment linger. Training Camp is a chance to start fresh and slowly begin to prepare a new meal. A chance to wash out last year and earn a seat at the big boy table. If you want to have a good season, you must have a good training Camp. Training Camp sets the tone and foundation for your season. Every team is going into Training camp determining how they are going to approach the season and determining the roles for their teams. Captains will be chose, starters will be determined and team camaraderie is formed. When you look up camaraderie words like friendship, trust, solidarity, and familiarity are mentioned. A roster is a group of players, but a team is a group of players who are organized and work together for a common goal or purpose to achieve greatness.
In order for the 2013-2014 season to be great for the Cowboys, there are some things that need to be addressed. Now it would be easy just to say that we need to stay healthy, but dealing with injuries is something that every NFL team has to go through. The injury bug bit the Cowboys pretty hard last year, though. But even with the players back they still have a long way to go to accomplish their goals. The Offensive line, mastering the 4-3, youth development, and improving productivity on offense and defense are all things that are of extreme importance.
The offensive line played well at times, especially when ranking how some of them played independently; however, the Offensive line is a unit and is viewed as such. This unit needs to get stronger inside. The fact that the Cowboys spent their first round draft choice on a Center that was slotted to go in the second round speaks volume to how important upgrading the unit really is. Cohesion will be necessary so you can see how the players around you react to pressure and surprises. The more time spent together the better you all will perform. Watching film and understanding what areas you can improve and what part of your unit is weak can be a strength to you and the entire team. You can protect your quarterback better and provide holes and alleys for your running backs to run through. This leads to more yards, potentially less turnovers and more points on the board. A member on this Cowboys team said it best and this applies to the entire team: “As a player, you’re gonna make plays but you’ve got to look at the mistakes that you made and see what you can do to help the team and eliminate those mistakes.” That player was DeMarcus Ware.
The Cowboys have been in the 3-4 since 2005. Parcells brought the scheme in and Wade Phillips and Rob Ryan kept it. The personnel has been 3-4 all this time. With few changes to the roster, the Cowboys are making the switch back to the 4-3 in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2. How well will they acclimate to the change and what adjustments have the players made (or need to make) to get themselves ready for the season will be something to see. Former Outside Linebackers Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware are moving to Defensive End and have their mind set on meeting up in the backfield on destroying everything that moves. Training camp will also give us an idea of what our Defensive rotation will be. Questions about our tackles and who will be where are still out there. Training Camp will provide some answers. The Linebacking corp have new roles and responsibilities. How will they fit is not really a question since Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are amazing. They are such great students of the game and tend to make plays all over the field. The third linebacker spot will be likely manned by Justin Durant. Durant has been playing Strong Side Linebacker so he will not have to make a change in that regard. New system, new coach, new team. In some ways everyone in this group will have to adjust. The secondary will also have to adjust. Playing in Kiffin’s Cover 2 is different and asked players to do different things than what they have been doing. The key is being accountable and smart. You must think, play and react fast. Some do not think that the pieces fit perfectly in this new Defense, but fortunately we have training camp to get ready and provide a response to all the doubters.
One of the excitements around training camp is seeing which young players are primed to make an impact on the upcoming season. Last year it was Barry Church and the improvement of Jason Hatcher. We saw Cole Beasley take advantage of his opportunities and ended making the team and getting playing time. Who will develop into a play maker for us out of the young group of guys that we have on our team this year? Players who did not play last year like Danny Coale and Matt Johnson will look to show and prove that they belong and can make an impact on the team while players like Alex Albright, Jeremy Parnell, Tyrone Crawford and James Hanna will be looking to have an improved role. Comments about the window closing or shutting are still out there, but if players like these can improve and become play makers the future looks bright. The new crop of rookies are seeking to earn a name as well. High hopes are in place for all of our rookies. A couple will be slotted to play a large number of minutes. Players like Terrance Williams, Travis Frederick, B.W. Webb and Gavin Escobar will be asked to do big things for this team. How will they perform day in and day out when they have to perform against the veterans amidst a more competitive environment?
If you want to be productive, you have to prepare for it. Preparation, hard work and talent will take you anywhere. “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” Perhaps the most important thing about Training Camp is getting organized and finding a rhythm. Repeating what you do over and over until it becomes a habit. Determining what packages work and what formations fit your personnel, making sure everyone is on the same page, getting your timing down and understanding your individual role on this team (You have new players and new coaches finding their way and discovering what need to do for this team to be successful). How can the Dallas Cowboys be more productive this year? This team had a +/- of -13 in the turnover category. The Offense turned the ball over too many times and the defense did not force enough turnovers. This is something that will be inculcated into the minds of the players every week. The hammering starts now. The Cowboys were the third most penalized team in the NFL. These are things that has to change. It is hard to win when you are giving the ball away and putting yourself up against the wall in each game. The Cowboys have plenty of weapons, but they have to stop shooting themselves if they want to do damage this year. While the Cowboys offense racked up plenty of yards, they where in the middle of the pack when it comes to getting in the end zone. The more times you score the better chance you have of winning. Sounds simple don’t it? We have to find more ways to maximize the talent and opportunities that we have on both sides of the ball. Specifically on offense, Bill Callahan will be entrusted with the play calling and creating a balance. We can not do this without having an effective running game. We became predictable because we could not run the ball. With the talent on this team, there is no reason why we can not be more productive.
Last year brought forth many challenges, but it also made the Cowboys aware of what they need to do to get better. They have made several changes to get better and now they are ready to go to work. Keep in mind that the CBA has made it harder to on the coaches since they can no longer have two-a-days in full pads. Mentally, the players will have to be more focused. They shouldn’t need any motivation to be crisp and focused for the season. Seeing their rival win the division and earn a play-off birth, loosing that right again on the last game by their hands, and everyone asking does this team have what it takes should be motivation enough. Training camp is approaching. The fans are ready. Football is back!!!