For the second time in two years, the Dallas Cowboys are fresh off a season where they just missed the playoffs. Dallas had a chance to win the NFC East in Week 17, but came up short against the Washington Redskins and instead watched the playoffs from home for third straight season.
The salary cap-strapped Cowboys were quiet in free agency, but it was still a busy offseason for the organization. Coaching changes, contract extensions and an eventful NFL Draft were just part of the happenings. Now, the Cowboys enter training camp with plenty of questions, including guaging the temperature of head coach Jason Garrett's seat.
With limited salary cap flexibility, the Cowboys weren't able to make many moves in free agency. Instead, Dallas' biggest changes came on the coaching staff. The Cowboys have many of the same pegs as last season, but will now attempt to fit them in different shaped holes.
The biggest change was the shift at defensive coordinator where Dallas goes from Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme to Monte Kiffin's 4-3, Tampa-2 scheme. The shift means DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer will move from rushing outside linebackers, to defensive ends. How well both adjust to their new roles, despite not being natural fits at defensive end, will likely be a key factor in how Dallas' defense performs next season.
Victor Butler, Felix Jones, Marcus Spears, Mike Jenkins and others are gone with linebacker Justin Durant and safety Will Allen the two biggest free-agent acquisitions. The Cowboys traded down in the NFL draft and selected center Travis Frederick in the first round. Tight End Gavin Escobar, wide receiver Terrance Williams and safety J.J. Wilcox were also added during the first three rounds.
Training camp location and schedule
While many NFL teams hold training camp at the team facility or a nearby college today, the Cowboys still take their show on the road. After a few seasons in San Antonio, Dallas will head back to Oxnard, Calif., for training camp this season. Temperate weather conditions and the ability to practice on grass are two of the reasons Dallas heads to California.
"We really like everything about it," Garrett said, via the Dallas Morning News. "[The weather] allows you to get more work in and the players are more focused on what we're asking them to do instead of the Gatorade or the water jug behind them. We got a lot of football plays run every day out here."
Dallas' practices are open to the public and there is no admission charge to get in. Here is the complete training camp schedule via Blogging the Boys:
|Date||Time / Action|
|Saturday, July 20th||12:00 p.m. - Camp Opening Press Conference|
|Sunday, July 21st||10:30 a.m. - First Walk-Thru|
|Sunday, July 21st||12:00 p.m. - Jason Garrett Press Conference|
|Sunday, July 21st||4:00 p.m. – First Team Practice|
|Monday, July 22nd||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Tuesday, July 23rd||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Wednesday, July 24th||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Thursday, July 25th||No Practice|
|Friday, July 26th||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Saturday, July 27th||2:30 p.m. – Practice|
|Sunday, July 28th||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Monday, July 29th||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Tuesday, July 30th||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Wednesday, July 31st||No Practice|
|Thursday, August 1st||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Friday, August 2nd||5:15 p.m. – Practice|
|Saturday, August 3rd||Team Travel to Canton, OH|
|Sunday, August 4th||No practice – Preseason Game –Dallas vs. Miami (7:00 PM CST)|
|Monday, August 5th||No Practice|
|Tuesday, August 6th||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Wednesday, August 7th||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Thursday, August 8th||Team Travel to Oakland, CA|
|Friday, August 9th||No practice – Preseason Game –Dallas vs. Oakland (9:00PM CST)|
|Saturday, August 10th||No Practice|
|Sunday, August 11th||5:15 p.m. – Practice|
|Monday, August 12th||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Tuesday, August 13th||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Wednesday, August 14th||4:00 p.m. – Practice|
|Thursday, August 15th||5:15 p.m. – Practice|
|Friday, August 16th||Break Training Camp|
|Saturday, August 17th||No practice – Preseason Game –Dallas @ Arizona (3:30PM CST)|
|Tuesday, August 28th||Kickoff Luncheon @ Cowboys Stadium (11:00 am CST)|
The Cowboys may not have made many roster changes, but they still have several spots up for grabs in training camp. Here is a look at a few of the key position battles.
Safety - The Cowboys had serious issues at safety last season and still have holes to fill heading into 2013. Barry Church started three games before suffering a season-ending Achilles' injury. He played some linebacker earlier in his career, but does a solid job in coverage, making him a likely option to start if he's healthy. At least three players will battle for the other starting job as rookie third-round pick J.J. Wilcox, second-year man Matt Johnson and free-agent signee Will Allen will be in the mix. Allen has some experience in a Tampa-2 defense, while Johnson had issues staying healthy as a rookie last season.
Center - The Cowboys drafted Frederick with the 31st pick in the draft, but he isn't guaranteed to start as a rookie. Ryan Cook started 11 games at center last season, while Phil Costa started 19 games over the last two seasons. The three will compete for the starting job, with the losers shifting to backup roles, or possibly other spots along the line.
Right tackle - Doug Free is the incumbent at right tackle, but after a tough campaign last year, Free doesn't have a stronghold on the starting job. Fourth-year man Jermey Parnell began to see more time at right tackle late last season and could challenge Free for the starting job. Once the future at left tackle, Free took a significant paycut to remain on the roster this offseason.
Dallas' complete roster can be found on the team's official website.