The Cowboys will play their first preseason game Thursday against San Francisco. With that in mind, here’s my list of the 10 players having the best training camp.
It doesn’t mean the players not on the list are having poor camps, but these are the players having the best camps:
1. Ezekiel Elliott: I have not seen him make a bad play at training camp. He’s running routes in the middle of the field as well as downfield, an indication the Cowboys are weaponizing him. He’s in great shape and he’s poised to have a huge year.
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2. Byron Jones: Sometimes, a player gets married to the perfect scheme and the perfect coach and it allows him to excel in ways that didn’t seem possible. Passing game defensive coordinator Kris Richard is having that kind of impact on Jones, who’s playing better than he ever has in training camp. He is using his size and athleticism to smother receivers.
3. DeMarcus Lawrence: He has been a beast in practice, setting the tone for the defensive line and every other player with the ferocity in which he attacks practice. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli gave Lawrence a tape at the end of last season that showed how specific drills and moves he worked on in practice led to specific sacks and big plays in games, driving home the importance of practice.
4. Anthony Brown: The reason we were not talking about Brown heading into training camp is that by his count he dropped seven interceptions last year. That gnawed at him, and he has spent the offseason grinding and doing everything he can to improve - and he has, which is why he is the starting slot cornerback right now.
5. Jaylon Smith: He says he is all the way back. So does vice president of player personnel Will McClay and coach Jason Garrett. Smith is moving well, he is running through offensive linemen and he Cowboys are going to put him in a positive to make plays by blitzing him. There’s no physical reason for him not to be a good player this season.
6. Zack Martin: He is so good that it is easy to take him for granted. He is dominant in practice and he is out there every day. The huge contract has not affected anything about his preparation or performance.
7. Chido Awuzie: He is been almost as good as Brown, the only real difference being Brown has intercepted more passes in practice. He is physical, and he is deflecting a lot of passes.
8. Cole Beasley: Dak Prescott has said Beasley is the receiver he trusts the most, which makes sense because he has caught more passes from the quarterback than anyone else on the roster. Beasley is running a variety of routes, including deep routes, and the Cowboys expect him to succeed as an outside receiver - not just in the slot.
9. Taco Charlton: He made one of the plays in camp with a spin move that resulted in right tackle La’El Collins flailing around as Charlton sacked Prescott. He is bigger and thicker than he was a year ago, and he stays in DeMarcus Lawrence’s hip pocket trying to improve.
10. Travis Frederick: Much like Zach Martin, he is just consistently good in practice. He does not have bad plays and he anchors the middle of the offensive line.