It seems like just yesterday the Cowboys 2016 season ended in heartbreak, after a Mason Crosby game winning field goal in the divisional round of the playoffs. Now here we are, moments away from the highly anticipated 2017 season to get underway with the first of five preseason games for the Dallas Cowboys. On Thursday night the Cowboys will play in Ohio against the Arizona Cardinals in the Hall of Fame game. Last year the game was canceled due to field conditions, I highly doubt America’s team will suffer the same fate. Many may remember this week as Jerry Jones crowning moment of immortality as he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. However, for these three players, this week could be the start of making their case to earn the star for the 53 man roster.
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Rod Smith RB/FB
One of the most notable names of the 2017 training camp for the Cowboys is Jaylon Smith as he is practicing in pads for the first time since his final season with Notre Dame. Jaylon has turned many heads but so has his older brother Rod Smith. The running back depth chart could be shaken up tremendously before week one depending on the status of Ezekiel Elliott and the play of Darren McFadden/Alfred Morris/Rod Smith/Ronnie Hillman. So far Rod Smith standing at 6’3 and 235 pounds has shown more upside than Alfred Morris at Cowboys training camp. With Elliott playing limited snaps in preseason, the bulk of carries will go to McFadden and Smith. I predict McFadden’s workload will be small in the preseason just due to his age and injury history. Therefor Morris, Smith and Hillman will be getting their fair share. Smith needs to show they would not be losing a step with playing him over Morris. The ability Rod Smith has to play special teams could be the deciding factor in taking a roster spot from Alfred Morris. If the Cowboys do indeed decide to part ways with Morris they will save just under 2 million dollars.
Noah Brown WR
The love for former Ohio State players continues. One of my favorite picks of the Cowboys 2017 draft class was their second to last selection, Noah Brown. You may remember Brown from his catch of the year against Oklahoma in 2016. In camp two of the stars of the receiving core have been Brown and Andy Jones. With Lucky Whitehead now gone, it leaves an opportunity for one of the young wide receivers to make the roster. When training camp started Brice Butler seemed to be on the bubble, however he has had one of the best camps of any Cowboy. There are reports Butler could be competing for the number two spot. I feel as if the Cowboys have five receivers who are locks to make the roster. Could they keep six? Brown needs to give them a reason to. Brown is on a cheap rookie deal that could be intriguing to the Cowboys front office. Brown needs to perform well with Kellen Moore and newly signed third string quarterback Luke McCown which could be his biggest challenge to make the roster.
Rico Gathers TE
All offseason we have heard a lot of love for former Baylor basketball standout Rico Gathers. The love turned into hate as Gathers was taken off the field Sunday after getting into a fight with Noah Brown and Kyle Wilber. The fight started due to Gathers block on Wilber to protect Dak in a drill. Wilber was pushed into surrounding players watching which caused the scuffle. The Cowboys will be searching for a replacement for Jason Witten, after they let go of Gavin Escobar who was suppose to overtake Witten when drafted. With James Hanna, Geoff Swaim and Gathers the spot for the number two tight end will be interesting to watch all preseason. Gathers has all the measurables standing at 6’6 and 290 pounds, he could be the next Antonio Gates. Gathers was nowhere close to being ready to play football competitively last year, it’ll be fun to see his development after a year on the practice squad.