With training camp a little less than a month away for the Dallas Cowboys, it’s time to look forward to the season. There have been plenty of changes since the 2016 season and there is an influx of young talent looking to make their mark on the team.
In preparing for 2017, the Cowboys will also have a number of sophomore players who made an impact last season and should be even better in year two. The league calls it “the jump,” from year one to year two, and it’s when players usually make their biggest gains. After looking back at what some of the rookies did last year, it would mean some serious stars are ready to takeoff in Dallas.
Here is the yearly ‘Jump’ article from Cowboys Nation:
Let’s start with Dak Prescott, who is ready to take another step. Despite most media clowns calling for a regression, all reports on Prescott this off-season have been glowing. As the coaching staff has mentioned, Prescott is well above his training goals and continues to put the work in to improve. Dak also is reported to be taking on more of a leadership role as the quarterback of America’s Team with Tony Romo no longer around. Only haters, fools and the lazy would predict a regression for Prescott, who is a very different player than most.
Ezekiel Elliott was already mentioned as one of the top players in the game last year and he will only get better. We saw last season that it took him a little time (very little) to get used to the NFL, but once he got rolling it was scary. Zeke admitted he left yards on the field last year (meat on the bone anyone?) and wants to be a bigger part of the passing game this season. Elliott is still an ascending player and getting better in 2017 is a frightening proposition for the rest of the league.
Maliek Collins is another player who had a good rookie season and is someone to keep an eye on. The 22-year old collected five sacks last year despite missing virtually all of training camp and was one of the team’s best defensive linemen as a rookie. With a full off-season under his belt and an eye on the famed starting three-technique for Rod Marinelli, Collins is going to be awesome to watch this season.
Anthony Brown is the last of the big-time contributors from last year’s draft class and there are some who think he might already be the Cowboys’ best cornerback. While we can debate that issue, we can’t argue that Brown’s play was a pleasant surprise, tying for third on the team in passes defensed with eight in 2016. Brown has always had the speed and athleticism, now he gets an off-season to learn and grow.
These were the big four in Dallas for the rookie class and they saw a ton of time on the field last season. The forgotten four also can develop after being around the team for a year.
Most eyes will be on linebacker Jaylon Smith when camp opens. Smith got a full year to get healthy and spent plenty of time working on his body preparing to play this season. We still don’t know what to expect from Smith, but the optimism continues to bubble over his progress. If he hits, a BIG IF, the Cowboys will have another stud from the 2016 draft. Any jump from Smith would be a big help.
Charles Tapper is another player coming off an injury who seems to be ready to go. After a back issue sidelined him for the entire year, Tapper is “champing at the bit” to get after the quarterback. Tapper has reportedly reshaped his body in preparation of playing outside in the Cowboys’ scheme, where the team feels he can be the most effective. He’s is certainly someone to watch in camp.
Kavon Frazier didn’t see much time on the field last season, but he will get the chance to prove his worth. With the buzz building over rookie Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath continuing to gain legendary status in OTA’s, Frazier is the forgotten man. Even as a role player or on special teams, Frazier has an opportunity to make a leap in his second season.
Then there’s Uncle Rico, tight end Rico Gathers. The hype train for Gathers and how he’s grown this off-season is full-speed ahead. The Cowboys didn’t add a tight end this off-season, a sign they are happy with the progress the former basketball player has made. More than anyone, the jump for Gathers might be the biggest, considering he had the farthest to go. But if he’s a player this season, the Cowboys will be borderline impossible to stop on offense.
Not every player improves by leaps and bounds in their second year, but the Dallas Cowboys have a list of players who were already pretty good in year one and any marked improvement would mean another great season is coming. There are also four others who have the potential to break out playing their first extended time in the NFL.
The Jump might be vital to Dallas’ success, considering how important some of these players are to the Cowboys.
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