Garrett’s Ice Bucket Challenge, Terrell Owens appearance highlight final day at Cowboys camp

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Dallas Cowboys Training Camp 2014 – Story and Photos by Steve Kennedy

The yearly training camp session in Oxnard was winding down and a laid back atmosphere permeated the grounds. Following two spirited scrimmages with the Oakland Raiders and with the travel day back to Dallas looming ahead, the days schedule called for a no pads practice with some light drills and stretching.

The big news of the day was the appearance of former Dallas Cowboy and future Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens. Fan chants of “T.O.” and “Popcorn” filled the air and proved that Owens still has star power. He shook hands with players, chatted with owner Jerry Jones, signed autographs for fans and answered questions from the media.

The other big news of the day was Jason Garrett accepting the ALS ice bucket challenge. The team gathered around after practice and watched as he poured a full ice bucket of water over his head, an act normally reserved for coaches after big championship wins. He then issued the challenge to fellow coaches Chip Kelly of the Eagles and Jay Gruden of the Redskins. The ice bucket challenge has been raising millions of dollars to help fight and raise awareness about ALS.

Jason Garrett - Ice Bucket Challenge

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on the final day of camp. (Steve Kennedy Photo)

This year the Dallas Cowboys have been using new technology to monitor the players during training camp.

They have equipped players with fitness tracking devices to monitor player’s activity and gather data. This helps them better understand who uses more energy and which players can benefit from more structured exercises or who needs more rest in order to optimize performance. They also have started to use computer tablets on the sidelines during games. Coach Garrett reported that these devices are very useful and they have had no problems, such as glare, during use. The NFL is always on the cutting edge of technology and is always pushing the limits in their search for better results.

Dallas Cowboys - Brandon Carr selfie

Cornerback Brandon Carr takes a photo with a fan’s cell phone. (Steve Kennedy Photo)

Every year training camps bring eternal optimism with hopes of a winning season, division championships, playoff appearances and of course the Superbowl. Teams refuel their rosters through free agency and the ever popular draft. Players rest and recuperate their bodies and prepare their minds for another grind through the grueling NFL season.

The Dallas Cowboys have many questions facing them this season. There is always a mountain of pressure for them to meet the high expectations set for them by being one of the NFLs most popular teams. Having an owner like Jerry Jones, who likes to keep his team in the lime-light, only adds to this pressure.

This year’s major concern is their defense. The much “maligned” squad is not expected to be able to handle the wide open offenses of today’s NFL. According to Garrett, “the defense is in search of an identity.”

The loss of Pro-Bowl defensive end Demarcus Ware in free agency to the Denver Broncos, the current injury to Morris Claiborne and the big questions surrounding the defensive line and linebacker core could make this a long year for the Cowboy defense.

It will be up to defensive coordinators Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin to develop a scheme to limit penalties and give the Dallas offense a chance to win. One good note coming out of training camp has been the resurgence of Rolando McClain’s career at linebacker. He has been opening eyes and giving coaches hopes that he can be a defense e leader. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne will be expected to step up and slow down the speed-strength combo of today’s NFL wide receivers. It’s a gut check year for Claiborne who was a top ten first round draft pick out of LSU and is entering his third year. The secondary is the strength of the defense and will be tested in this 2014 season.

Dallas Cowboys - Dez Bryant

Dallas receiver Dez Bryant is one of the top performers in the NFL. (Steve Kennedy Photo)

The Dallas Cowboys will rely on their offense to win games.

The chemistry between Tony Romo and Dez Bryant is undeniable and explosive. The retooling of the offensive line over the last few years will reap rewards in the running game and pass protection. Left tackle Tryon Smith is renowned as one of the league’s toughest, and, with first-round draft pick guard Zack Martin from Notre Dame, the offensive line looks to provide control of the trenches.

New offensive coordinator Scott Lineahan, who previously worked with Jason Garrett in Miami, will have to develop a system with a power running game. The strategy of running the clock and keeping the pressure off of Romo’s passing game will help control the pace of the game.

Romo is coming off of back surgery and this could spell trouble if he is asked to carry this team with his arm alone.

DeMarco Murray is an explosive back with the ability to carry the load, but last season he got nicked up and couldn’t stay on the field the whole season. The Cowboys need a run game, but can Murray stay healthy? The Cowboys offensive is in the position to put points on the board with a strong O-line, explosive playmakers lead by Dez Bryant, Demarco Murray and future Hall of Fame Tight End Jason Witten.

Garrett will undoubtedly be in the hot seat this year.

Demands for a winning culture in Dallas will leave owner Jerry Jones finding it hard to keep his hand-picked coach if the Cowboys toil through an 8-8 season. The NFC East will be a tough road to navigate. The Eagles are the strength of the division and the Giants and Redskins are looking to be much improved. Most pundits have the Cowboys picked to finish 8-8 or less and the odds in Las Vegas for a Superbowl win are at 70/1.

The training camp glow of optimism may flicker and fade as the season grinds on.