Cowboys’ Oxnard mission is incomplete

Posted Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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galloway So what did it all mean here for the last three-plus weeks?

The immediate answer, after the Dallas Cowboys packed up and left town Friday afternoon, was a quick side trip to Arizona where the Cowboys play exhibition game No. 3 against the Cardinals on Saturday afternoon.

And then it’s on to the house, arriving back at D/FW tomorrow night, and training camp becomes a home-schooling process at Valley Ranch.

Oxnard, however, gave us some preliminary guidelines on this team. Three-plus weeks in a faraway training camp becomes akin to a three-month mental and physical grind. Which, by the way, is not necessarily a bad thing.

But while the top objectives the club wanted to accomplish in Oxnard had some plus factors attached, the big picture has to be judged as a failure.

And if “failure” comes across as being too negative, let’s agree, and say it’s too early to be negative.

The Oxnard bottom line, however, is this:

The goal here for nearly four weeks was to develop a better running game and to protect the passer.

In that regard, the Cowboys appear to have solid depth in their running back stable, with DeMarco Murray, if healthy, a potential star, and somewhat exciting potential from the likes of Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle.

Without doubt, more depth than in years at wideout has also surfaced, and that’s without rookie Terrance Williams, who has yet to have an impact because of injuries. But he’s talented. And Dez Bryant, of course, has the “star” tag already.

The irony of Oxnard, however, is that even with those developments at running back and receiver, the offensive line is so devastated by injuries, particularly at guard, any question about reaching the camp objectives has gone unanswered.

There is no way a contending team should be more than halfway through training camp and still have a monster sweat about its offensive line.

Actually, some camp insiders are saying the defensive line issues are just as severe as the offensive line. I don’t believe that, but it depends if Jay Ratliff and Anthony Spencer, both injured, can step on the field in September and play at a high level.

The first-day camp loss of young defensive end Tyrone Crawford had the Cowboys scrambling for depth from the start. More than three weeks later, that scramble remains prevalent.

Go back to the April draft, and the Cowboys also hailed the new rookie class as providing immediate help. But as Oxnard closed down Friday, that statement seemed far-fetched.

Travis Frederick will start at probably center, and has not disappointed at all.

After him, however, the second-round pick, tight end Gavin Escobar, definitely appears to need a year, mainly because his blocking ability is not close to NFL standards.

The third-round pick was Williams, the WR out of Baylor. With not much to go on so far, he’s still capable of being the third receiver, but let’s see him healthy first.

Safety J.J. Wilcox was also a third-round pick, and he’s regarded as being as year away at an extremely thin position.

B.W. Webb was a small-school fourth-round pick at cornerback. He looks lost at the moment. But running back Randle is worth watching, although Dunbar and Tanner, with NFL experience, are far ahead of Randle at the moment when it comes to giving Murray a breather.

DeVonte Holloman, the final draft pick, is interesting at linebacker, but as a prospect.

The draft class should not be considered of the bust variety, but at the moment it doesn’t appear to be providing all that much immediate help.

On a positive note, the Cowboys did make some gains in NFL free agency, as opposed to the disasters of a year ago. With nine years in the league, Will Allen, previously of the Bucs and Steelers, is welcomed as a starting safety, a very iffy position.

Six years into the league, Justin Durant, previously with the Jaguars and the Lions, will either start at linebacker, or be a counted-on rotation linebacker.

The under-the-radar camp surprise, however, has been defensive tackle Nick Hayden, five years in the league, and formerly of Carolina and the Bengals. Depth remains a defensive line issue. Hayden has given indications he can help solve that issue.

A good camp in Oxnard? No, not really. A bad camp in Oxnard? No, not really.

But the best news is there are three more weeks for the Cowboys to attempt to get it right.

Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

Randy Galloway, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @sportsdfw

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