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Saturday, July 26, 2014
Three thoughts on Day 3 of Cowboys camp

By Jean-Jacques Taylor

OXNARD, Calif. -- Three thoughts on Day 3 of Dallas Cowboys’ training camp:

1. One of the themes early in training camp revolves around how the Cowboys are going to fix a defense that yielded 415.3 yards and 27 points per game last year. Especially when you consider DeMarcus Ware (to the Denver Broncos) and Jason Hatcher (Washington Redskins) are gone and Sean Lee (knee) will spend the season on injured reserve.

The Cowboys believe they’ll be better because they’re going to play fast, fundamentally sound and rotate in a lot of guys. All of that sounds like Coachspeak 101.

What it really means is they’re focused more than ever in putting guys in positions to succeed -- even if it means fewer plays for some players. And they want every player to understand the playbook so well that they can play free and easy and react instead of think.

Some of that can compensate for inferior talent, but if the Cowboys don’t get better performances from several guys all the fundamentals in the world won’t matter.

2. The Cowboys will continue their quest to force more turnovers this season. Jason Garrett calls it the single more important statistic in football -- and he’s right.

The Cowboys were 5-1 when they forced at least two turnovers last season and they were 3-1 when they scored a defensive touchdown. The only loss? When Detroit rallied from 10 down in the final four minutes to win.

The Cowboys were tied for 13th with 28 turnovers forced last season. They did an excellent job stripping the ball, but you have to wonder how many passes they’ll intercept this season.

Interceptions are usually the result of quarterbacks making poor decisions under duress.

Defensive tackle Henry Melton is the only proven pass-rusher and he’s never had more than seven sacks. George Selvie had seven last season, doubling his career total.

But Melton is coming off torn ACL and Selvie must prove last season was no fluke.

3. In 2012, Dez Bryant caught two passes for 11 yards from the slot. Last year, he caught 11 passes for 209 yards.

Perhaps, we’ll see him in there a little more where he doesn’t have to deal with press coverage.

73
Tony Romo threw only 73 play-action passes last season, one of the league's lowest totals.

You would think having a better offensive line and using DeMarco Murray more this season would create more opportunities to throw play-action passes. Romo completed 43 of those passes for 572 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions. For what it’s worth, Peyton Manning threw 168 play-action passes.

He completed 116 for 1,971 yards with 18 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Player to Watch: Dwayne Harris
Harris has made himself the Cowboys’ best special teams player. Now, he’d like a bigger role in the offense.

To do so, Harris said he needs to become a more polished route runner. Harris has 11 punt returns of 20 yards or more in the last two seasons, among the league’s highest totals.

Garrett said he’s made himself a more valuable player by becoming more consistent in his work habits. Still, he's going to have to maneuver ahead of Cole Beasley to get more opportunities and that's going to be hard to do.