Training camp is in full swing for the Dallas Cowboys and there are all sorts of storylines popping up. Right now, there is a lot to be excited about for this team. The offense is looking different than it has in years, filled with different personnel groupings, and the defense is ahead of the offense.
We probably mentioned the same thing about the defense at this time last year, and the year before, and the year before that, that’s how camp usually goes early on. For the Cowboys, though, there is extra juice on the defense because of a few pieces that have been added/upgraded in 2018. Each level of the defense has some players who could be elevating the unit to become one of the better defenses in the league.
Randy Gregory returns, sort of. Gregory is finally getting to put in some football work and the Cowboys have to be giddy to see him play. Jason Garrett wants to see Gregory on the field in preseason games, so we’ll get a nice look at the pass rusher in some capacity during camp before their first exhibition game. Gregory, quite simply, is the best natural pass rusher the Cowboys have. He’s got an explosive first step, has a natural bend and that feel for getting to the quarterback. Gregory was born to rush the passer and if he’s right, the defense has bookends who can terrorize quarterbacks.
Heeeee’s baaackkkk! This is why Jerry Jones had no problems using a second round pick on Smith, he’s special. All reports out of camp are that Smith’s back, or close to being back, to his playing days at Notre Dame. He’s shed the AFO brace and watching him in training camp, it looks like he’s more explosive and changing directions much better than he did last year. If Dallas gets the pre-injury Smith in 2018, this linebacker unit could be one of the best in the league. Watch out!
OK, look, it’s easy to see the Kris Richard effect and how he’s changed the look of this secondary. However, having guys that can implement what Richard is teaching is vital to getting the best result. And for the 1,000th time this offseason, Chidobe Awuzie’s name pops up as one of the most improved players on the team. The second-year cornerback is having an outstanding camp so far and it appears like he’s built to be a stud for the defense. Injuries hampered Awuzie’s development early on last year, but he’s currently fully healthy and he’s dominating the receivers right now. Dallas needs more production from their corners and Awuzie might just be the one to take his game to the next level.
Also in the secondary is another name we keep hearing, safety Xavier Woods. Richard continues to talk up this young safety and Woods is one of the reasons the team hasn’t attempted to trade for Earl Thomas recently. Woods brings the ability to be a versatile piece of the defense, he has the instincts and the tenacity to become a star for the Cowboys. It’s early in training camp and the real tests come in game action, but Woods is making a name for himself right now.
These are four pieces that can help make this Dallas defense a surprise unit this season. The improvement and return to form for these players could give the Dallas Cowboys the best defense they’ve had in years.
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