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2017 NFL preview: Can Dak Prescott build on 2016 for the Dallas Cowboys?

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We’re previewing the NFL heading into training camp, mixing and matching 49ers opponents and other teams. First up, the Dallas Cowboys.

NFL training camp gets going in three weeks, and that means the NFL regular season is only two months away. I imagine most of us will be focusing on our San Francisco 49ers during training camp, but it will help to know a little bit about the rest of the league. SB Nation’s 32 NFL sites are putting together basic rundowns of what their team has been up to this offseason.

Each explainer includes free agent additions and departures, trades, draft picks expected to contribute as rookies, biggest offseason addition, biggest storyline, underrated storyline, and notable injuries. The idea is to give you a quick but thorough background on each team. We’ll use these to look at 49ers opponents, but if we have time, I want to try and use all 32 to give us a nice look around the league.

We’ll start with the Dallas Cowboys, and our friends at Blogging The Boys. The two teams square off in Week 7, after facing off last season in Week 4. The 49ers took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, but the offense went in the tank from there, scoring three points the rest of the game. The Cowboys rookie offensive duo of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott shined. Prescott threw for 245 yards and two touchdowns, while Elliott rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown. It was a fitting end when on a drive that could have tied the game, Blaine Gabbert threw a three-yard completion to Torrey Smith on 4th and 6.

The big question is whether or not Prescott and Elliott will experience a sophomore slump. However, Dallas faces some off-field questions as well. Linebacker Damien Wilson was arrested earlier this week and charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He had the third most linebacker snaps for Dallas last season, and could compete for a starting role.

Ezekiel Elliott is currently being investigated by the NFL after being accused of domestic violence. A decision has yet to be made, but it is something that remains on the radar as training camp approaches.

With all that in mind, here is what Blogging The Boys had to say about Dallas as training camp approaches.

Notable free agent additions: DT Stephen Paea, CB Nolan Carroll, DE Damontre Moore, G Jonathan Cooper, OT Byron Bell, S Robert Blanton

Notable free agent departures: CB Brandon Carr, CB Morris Claiborne, S Barry Church, S J.J. WIlcox, OG Ron Leary, OT Doug Free, DT Terrell McClain, DE Jack Crawford

Trades: N/A

Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:

Round 1: Taco Charlton - The Cowboys hope the defensive end out of Michigan will help them create a pass rush, something the defense has been missing since DeMarcus Ware left.

Round 2: Chidobe Awuzie - A versatile defensive back, he could play corner, safety or some hybrid of both. The Cowboys are revamping their secondary.

Round 3: Jourdan Lewis - A cover corner out of Michigan, he could play the slot or outside in the Cowboys new secondary.

Round 4: Ryan Switzer - A slot receiver with punt return skills, he adds another weapon for Dak Prescott.

Round 6: Xavier Woods - A ball-hawking safety who the Cowboys hope can create turnovers in the secondary.

Biggest offseason addition: The top draft picks, the Cowboys didn’t spend much in free agency.

Biggest storyline heading into training camp: Besides everyone wondering about a sophomore slump for Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys are desperately trying to upgrade their back seven on defense. They are hoping that last year’s second-round pick, Jaylon Smith, has overcome his injury and can be a key piece of their defense at linebacker with Sean Lee. They let go of four players who played significant snaps in the secondary and are counting on a group of young guys and rookies to take over. The Cowboys secondary has done a poor job of getting interceptions and making splash plays, they need playmkers on the field. The offense is stacked, the defense needs to improve.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: The Cowboys are shuffling their offensive line, guard Ron Leary left in free agency and right tackle Doug Free retired. They think they have a good player to plug in at right tackle, La’el Collins, but there is an open competition at left guard. The Cowboys identity is built around their elite offensive line, so it’s a little bit of a gamble this offseason as they re-tool a bit.

Notable injuries heading into training camp: Jaylon Smith is trying to recover from his catastrophic injury in his college bowl game. He spent a year rehabbing, now we get to see if his knee has recovered enough to play effectively. DeMarcus Lawrence is getting over back surgery. Cole Beasley has hamstring issues.