With unique access comes unique perspective, so with a Week 1 date looming, Panthers.com went straight to the source. Lindsay Cash Draper, a reporter for DallasCowboys.com, answered five questions about the team she knows so well.
1. How has the offense looked without Jason Witten and Dez Bryant? What's the confidence level in their replacements?
There's no denial over here – things look incredibly different this year than they have in some time. The entire tight end group as a whole has nine total catches in the NFL. The Cowboys have new receivers Allen Hurns and Tavon Austin. Cole Beasley will be in the slot, but he lined up out wide at camp, too. Oh yeah, add draft pick Michael Gallup in the mix. His first NFL (preseason) catch was a touchdown. How exactly they'll all be used is yet to be seen – the joys of going into Week 1! But overall, the confidence seems to genuinely be there with the quarterback. Dak Prescott said early in this offseason that one of the goals for this year is to stretch the field more. When I caught up with him during the preseason, he felt they were making great headway.
2. How big a loss is Travis Frederick's injury given his role as leader of the O-line?
It's a huge loss, without a doubt. His brute strength in combination with his insane IQ for the game will absolutely be missed by Dak and the rest of the offensive line. Losing a link in the chain is never good. That being said, Joe Looney is a professional backup. He's one of the funniest, most laid-back players in this locker room, but when it comes to preparing for this role in Week 1, he's as serious as can be. He tells us he's spent ample amount of time with Frederick in his ear, and it's worth noting that Frederick is present at everything. Traveling with the team, workouts, practices, meetings, and everything in between.
3. In what ways is Dak Prescott aiming to improve entering his third season?
After a 13-3 rookie campaign, followed by a 9-7 disappointing season, Dak is ready to have everything in order again. And that starts with Ezekiel Elliott being ready and fresh for the season. With all the headlines and movement last season, people tend to forget that Elliott only played in 10 games in 2017 and rushed for 983 yards and seven touchdowns. He also wasn't himself mentally. He also is what makes this entire offense fall into place. So, I think Dak is honestly just looking to get all his weapons back in front of him so that he can steer this offense with confidence, strength and decisiveness.
4. Is Jaylon Smith back on a path to stardom after overcoming his severe knee injury?
If you asked people around here that question LAST year – media, fans, personnel, coaches – they'd say "anything Jaylon can do is truly a win." Ask them this year? They'd say – winning. Back on a path to stardom is an absolute yes. There was one play in training camp where Smith ran the length of the field covering Cole Beasley, one of the quickest cats in the game. I spoke with his brother, Rod, a running back for this team, during the preseason game against Arizona, and he said it best: "If you've been at camp, and see him out there now, he's moving like nothing ever happened."
5. Which defensive back has stood out most during camp/preseason?
Such a great question, but I'm so definitive in my answer. Chidobe Awuzie has looked mighty fine for year two, and part of that may be because he wasn't healthy last camp, and now he's had a full camp to prime and prepare. But the combination of adding a fiery Kris Richard as the defensive backs coach to a very young group has yielded a pretty fun product to watch. Chido certainly looks ready for a big workload in year two.