FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys opened training camp in Oxnard, California, with issues and they returned to their new practice facility, The Star, with issues. Some are old. Some are new. Some have been answered. Some haven’t.
Rolando McClain and Randy Gregory
They remain on the reserve/did not report list. As of late last week the Cowboys have had zero contact with McClain. Gregory, according to sources, is at a treatment facility. The approach from the coaching staff and locker room has been out of sight, out of mind. Two years ago the Cowboys needed McClain in a bad way, so they bent over backward in dealing with his idiosyncrasies. With accountability being one of the themes of this year’s camp, there doesn’t seem to be any longing for McClain’s return. So why is he on the roster? Jerry Jones is the last holdout. If something were to happen later in the season, the Cowboys could always see if McClain is in shape to play football after his 10-game suspension ends. There appears to be more in-house sympathy for Gregory, but some of that may be due to the team’s questions about the pass rush.
Good problem at running back
The Cowboys have too many of them. Constructing a 53-man roster with five tailbacks does not make much sense, but it is doable. Ezekiel Elliott will be the starter. Alfred Morris has shown to be a great fit for the scheme. Lance Dunbar, who was activated off the physically unable to perform list Sunday, can be a third-down back. Rookie Darius Jackson has shown the ability to play in this league. Darren McFadden has yet to practice because of a broken elbow suffered in June. He is on the non-football injury list, and the hope is he will be ready for Week 1. But if he’s not, the Cowboys could delay a decision by keeping him on NFI, which would mean he’d miss the first six games. That’s one way to solve a puzzle with too many pieces.
On Friday night, Griffin had two runs in a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. On one, he rolled right, faked a throw and took off for 14 yards. Before anyone could touch him, he slid. On the second, he ran the read-option around left end and gained 22 yards, then slid again.
Whether he said anything on the field isn’t known or material.
Because when Cleveland coach Hue Jackson saw those slides, he smiled. Griffin was doing exactly what the coach wanted him to do. On each run, Griffin’s speed and quickness could have gotten more yards. But they also would have led to hits, exposing himself to potential injury.
“Sometimes,” Jackson said, “more is not better.”
Of the many criticisms that dogged Griffin in Washington and followed him to Cleveland, one was his refusal to slide. Time and again, coaches would tell him the wise thing was to slide and avoid a hit. Time and again, he would take a hit. Griffin has had two major injuries to his knee, a concussion and a fractured ankle, all on plays when he improvised, none on designed runs.
Griffin emphasized that he never wanted to give up on a play, so he was reluctant to throw the ball away or to slide. When he tried to slide, it looked as if he had never been taught how to do so.