The Stack is here with another special post for this Sunday as we wind down with our final two NFL trainin camp previews as well as some thoughts from the day in the Olympics. Let's get right to it for "the stack" for today, Sunday, July 29:
Dallas Cowboys get training camp underway
The Dallas Cowobys are once again splitting time to make sure to practice in front of throngs of fans across the country, in both Oxnard, California, where they've practiced many times before and back at team headquarters in Irving, Texas. Last year the Cowboys had a chance to win the NFC East and make it to the NFL playoffs, but lost to the New York Giants on the road. The Giants as you know wound up to win the Super Bowl. Plenty of pressure is on big D this year. How will they hold up?
Camp battle to watch: Wide receiver has some issues that need to be worked out. So to does the linebacker position, but the battle I'm most interested in is the offensive line. There are a couple of positions that are up for grabs and the Cowboys may be doing some shuffling of players on the offensive line. A couple of players need to step up and take those starting spots by the horns and lock them up.
Storyline #1: How improved the defense will be. Rob Ryan's defense struggled last year. Part of that was due to a new system and the lockout. With a full offseason and a few new additions including rookie Morris Claiborne, the defense should be way better and there will be a lot of eyes and pressure on the defense to perform.
Storyline #2: Pressure on Tony Romo. Was thinking of putting Dez Bryant here, but Romo needs to be put up here. The past few years, it seems like there is always pressure on Romo to get the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl and this year is no exception. But the patience of Cowboys fans is wearing thin. Romo knows there is pressure to win right now and he will say that, but sometimes how he looks when he says these things is what sticks with fans more. If the Cowboys don't reach the playoffs this year, Cowboys fans will be clamoring for the team to move on from Romo.
Can't miss fantasy player: Tony Romo. The offense is expected to do big things and Romo should put up some gaudy numbers. Take him as a number one quarterback if he is still there in the third or fourth round.
Stay away from: Dez Bryant. Too many off-field problems this offseason may lead to a suspension from the team and he is prone to some injuries. Draft with caution and use him only as a three receiver.
Oakland Raiders training camp
There is a new regime in Oakland. With the passing of the late Al Davis, the Raiders now have a new general manager in Reggie McKenzie and a new head coach in Dennis Allen. They'll get Oakland in the right direction. Will it be this year though?
Camp battle to watch: Offensive line. The Raiders will have numerous position battles throughout training camp, but the offensive line is the most intriguing one. This group seems unsettled and they need a solid group to protect quarterback Carson Palmer. There have been a lot of pieces moving in and out over the years. Once the Raiders can solidify this line, the team will be a heck of a lot better.
Storyline #1: Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden. Palmer looked very rusty last year. That was to be expected after he had prepared to sit out the entire year with the Bengals before being traded in the middle of the season. With a full offseason, how he looks will be very interesting. As for McFadden, is he fully healthy? Last year's foot injury proved to be far more serious than the team let on and McFadden has had issues staying healthy during his career. For the Raiders to make strides in the division, McFadden must return back to his explosive self and he must stay healthy the entire season.
Storyline #2: Can the Raiders compete in the AFC West? Yes they can and they should. The Raiders have some good parts in place and though the division is tougher with Peyton Manning, the Chargers and the improved Chiefs, the Raiders should still be able to play right up there with all of them. McKenzie and Allen have the Raiders moving in the right direction and while I don't think the Raiders will win the West, they won't be a pushover.
Can't miss fantasy player: Darren McFadden. When healthy, McFadden is an explosive running back. He can run and catch and in a blink of the eye, he's gone. Draft him with caution in the fourth round. Assuming he stays healthy, you have a steal.
Stay away from: Carson Palmer. As a starter. As much of a risk as McFadden is, Palmer needs to show that he can lead this offense and put up big numbers. We know what we'll get with McFadden, but with Palmer, there is a question. His numbers were dropping the last few years in Cincinnati. He's worth drafting as a backup, but not a starter until he proves himself.
Day 1 Olympic thoughts
The first true day of Olympic competition wrapped up in the books yesterday and there were a number of intriguing results and storylines. Among them include:
- The men's archery team winning silver after upsetting South Korea in the semifinals. They lost to Italy in the finals by a point, 219-218. Heartbreaking to say the least after that great upset over South Korea.
- Michael Phelps lost in the 400 IM yes, but considering he had only been training for the event the last nine months while teammate Ryan Lochte had been training since the '08 Olympics ended for this event, we shouldn't be shocked that Lochte won and Phelps didn't. Then again, for Phelps not to place at all, is a little stunning. Still, with I believe four events left, Phelps will win at least one gold in that if not more. Don't expect another race where Phelps doesn't win at least bronze.
- China's men's gymnastics team struggled in qualifying rounds, haha. They placed sixth in the first qualification, meaning they are most likely out of medal contention if I am correct. And they were the favorites or the squad that would have given the USA men the biggest run for their money. The US men finished first. They have a strong squad that should bring home gold.
- In women's basketball, team USA struggled against Croatia for three quarters, before pulling away in the fourth, winning 81-56. I'm sure it was just some first game jitters, but they need to be focused from the get go the rest of the way out.
- In soccer, team USA beat Colombia 3-0. Not a surpise there.
- The duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings had a tough test against Australia, but were able to pull through in two sets. They have yet to lose a set in the Olympics. This was a tough match. It wouldn't be shocking to see them struggle a little bit more this Olympics than in previoius ones and even lose a set. Having said that, I do expect them to win gold.
Many other events and storylines happened yesterday not just for team USA, but for other nations and other sports. Check it all out at http://www.nbcolympics.com/index.html.
Coming up Monday: More Olympic highlights plus other top stories from the weekend