OXNARD, Calif. -- So much to wonder about as the Dallas Cowboys enter their third week of training camp in Oxnard, California.
Mostly it’s about the jobs available in training camp.
Here are this week’s Five Wonders:
** In the spring, Rod Smith was the third tailback option behind Ezekiel Elliott and Darren McFadden. For most of training camp, he was the third option as well. So why did Alfred Morris take over for McFadden after a couple of series in the Hall of Fame Game? I wonder if the Cowboys are showcasing Morris for a potential trade down the road. Morris ran hard and ran well. He hit the hole and made good, quick decisions. Morris can be a starting back in the NFL. With the Cowboys, however, he is limited behind Elliott and McFadden. (No, I don’t wonder if he could beat out McFadden for the No. 2 job.) He doesn’t play many special teams. He is not the best in passing situations. But he can run the ball well. He is a back who is better in carries 12-15 than 1-5. If Elliott does not get suspended, then Morris might go on the block.
** With Chaz Green bothered by a shoulder strain, I wonder if the Cowboys will give Byron Bell a look in the left guard competition with Jonathan Cooper. He split some first-team work in Monday’s practice. Cooper started the Hall of Fame Game and played a couple of series, but Bell played a lot. He missed last season due to injury, but the Cowboys like his versatility -- he can play tackle -- and experience. The easy thing to say is a team doesn’t need to worry much about who is between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, but defenses can create one-on-one matchups. Bell has the size and strength to hold up in the interior but maybe not the movement. I remember Tony Romo saying he would rather be as stout as possible up the middle because he could deal with outside pass-rushers easier. If there was no pocket to step into, then he was in trouble.
** Sam Irwin-Hill really doesn’t have a chance to make the Cowboys roster because of Dan Bailey and Chris Jones, but what he did in the Hall of Fame Game was pretty impressive. He handled kickoff, field goal and punt duties. He punted five times for just a 36.8-yard average, but that was mostly because of a 20-yard punt late in the game. He had two touchbacks on kickoffs. He made field goals of 23 and 43 yards and connected on both PATs. With roster spots at a premium, showing the ability to handle all three spots will help Irwin-Hill somewhere, just not with the Cowboys.
** I wonder if Cooper Rush has done enough to secure a spot on the practice squad. He completed 9 of 18 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown in the Hall of Fame Game. He also ran twice for 23 yards. His work in practice had been a little spotty. Like most rookie quarterbacks, he needs to see the receiver open before delivering the ball. But in the game, he showed a feel for the position and situations. It wasn’t too big for him. There’s a tendency in some of these camps to get carried away with a third quarterback. Matt Moore comes to mind when the Cowboys let him go so many years ago. In reality, there will be a Cooper Rush-type next year just the same way there have been guys like Richard Bartel and Dustin Vaughan. Romo is the undrafted exception, but Rush might be worth keeping around.
** I wonder if Gil Brandt will be the next Cowboy to make the Hall of Fame. With Jerry Jones earning induction this year, it’s hard to see a way in which Brandt would be one of the selections from the contributor’s category for 2018. But there’s no doubt Brandt should be in the Hall someday. Along with Tex Schramm, he helped revolutionize the way teams did everything in the NFL. Brandt remains a revered figure in NFL circles and still works like crazy. At draft time, he knows everything about every player.