Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jersey

The only winners of the NFL preseason are those who emerge healthy.

The losers are everyone else.
End of story. Thanks for checking in.

Oh, so we’re really doing this? OK.

The dirty truth of the preseason is that you really can scrape together some insight from it, as long as you know where to look, and provided you resist the urge to draw dramatic conclusions. All that’s left now is the (extra) meaningless preseason Week 4. So come along, and we’ll give it a try together.

Winners

Jameis Winston hasn't had the greatest preseason statistically, but his star is on the rise thanks to "Hard Knocks."

Jameis Winston hasn’t had the greatest preseason statistically, but his star is on the rise thanks to “Hard Knocks.”

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback: Winston hasn’t really lit up the field, having failed to throw a touchdown pass in 69 attempts. But he is without question the breakout star of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and is arguably the most interesting and engaging protagonist in the history of the long-running show. I was moved by the detailed tour of his childhood home in the opening episode, and by the way his words personalized what could have been a cliché segment. His personality has been portrayed as overtly positive and personable, but without any sense that he is playing for the cameras. Winston entered the NFL under the legal cloud of a sexual assault allegation, which was settled in December 2016. Through “Hard Knocks,” the NFL world is seeing a fresh version of a still-developing player and man.

Mike Glennon, Chicago Bears quarterback: In the Week 3 game, Glennon provided what the Bears had been hoping to see all preseason. He was accurate and composed throughout a 134-yard performance against the Tennessee Titans, giving the Bears enough clout to (credibly) start him in Week 1 over rookie Mitch Trubisky — who has had a good enough preseason to enter that conversation. In his first two preseason games, Glennon threw a pair of interceptions and averaged just 4.2 yards per attempt. But no one should argue Glennon’s spot atop the depth chart now. Now the Bears have a better chance to insert Trubisky into the lineup when he’s ready, and not just because he is needed.

NFL social awareness: This preseason brought a mainstreaming of Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest, in spirit if not in replicated practice. The message expanded from a campaign against the treatment of black Americans by police to one of racial harmony and unity, featuring an important inclusion of white players and capped by about 30 Cleveland Browns locking arms. Some players kneeled or sat. Some raised their fists. Some simply embraced a teammate. As other leagues explore ways to handle this summer’s national unrest, it seems clear that the collective voice of NFL players is growing stronger.

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys quarterback: The Cowboys won’t be able to replace the playmaking of tailback Ezekiel Elliott, who is suspended for the first six games (barring a successful appeal). But don’t count out the possibility that Prescott will elevate his game to compensate. Quietly, he was exceptionally sharp in two outings, completing 18 of 22 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Consider the lesson of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s early career: No one knew Wilson could sling it so well until the Seahawks’ personnel required it. Based on what we saw this summer, it’s reasonable to expect a similar surge from Prescott early in the season.

Miami Dolphins: Imagine the nightmare of football nightmares. Your starting quarterback, the one who emerged from a seemingly endless march through his development to put you in position for a playoff berth last season, tears his ACL during a training camp practice. You trust your backup to make a few starts but are hardly enthused about making him a 16-game starter. You’re desperate. You call around and find … a guy who might be a better performer than your original starter? That’s a reasonable outcome for the Dolphins, who have replaced Ryan Tannehill with a still-young-enough Jay Cutler and appear no worse off. This is not the part where we project a Pro Bowl season from Cutler, who was prepared to work this season as a television broadcaster. It is to say, however, that Cutler showed enough in the preseason that he should at least pick up where Tannehill left off. That would be quite an accomplishment for any team that loses its starter in August.

Losers
Cleveland Browns: Sorry. I’m not aboard the DeShone Kizer hype train. The Browns named Kizer their starting quarterback after he completed 6 of 18 passes Saturday night against the Buccaneers. Kizer played better than those numbers, by all accounts, and those who have watched the Browns’ preseason know he is the best quarterback on their roster. But being the best quarterback on a roster isn’t necessarily the same as 1) winning a competition, and/or 2) being ready to start. The continued career spiral of Brock Osweiler and a disappointing sophomore showing from Cody Kessler had as much to do with this decision as anything. I’m not arguing with the verdict. I’m just telling you there aren’t many people around the league who think Kizer should be an NFL starter in Week 1.

The Minnesota Vikings’ offense: If you were hoping to be assured that the Vikings’ reconfigured offense would have more firepower than it did in 2016, well, this wasn’t the preseason for you. Perhaps offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was hiding his best stuff. Maybe the early camp injury to left tackle Riley Reiff, who has since recovered, delayed progress that is eventually forthcoming. But in 12 first-team possessions over three games, the Vikings punted 10 times, kicked one field goal and had one clock expiration. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook looked good, but not like a threat to score every time he touched the ball. Quarterback Sam Bradford was still finding himself under pressure, which was still forcing him to throw short, which was still leading to complete a high percentage of his passes (74.4) for a low average yards per attempt (6.74). Perhaps it could all change once the regular season begins, but the pattern seems familiar.

Los Angeles NFL fandom: Many have wondered whether the Los Angeles market would support two franchises after getting along just fine without even one for 21 years. How much interest would the Chargers generate in their debut season? And what about the Rams, whose weekly attendance had plummeted at the end of last season? The preseason numbers, at least, are gory. The Chargers drew 21,054 to their first game at StubHub Center (of a capacity around 27,000) and 21,197 for their second. The Rams reported attendance of 58,561 for a Week 3 game that featured both Los Angeles teams, at the Coliseum. (The Rams drew 62,880 in Week 1 when hosting the Cowboys.) It doesn’t help that neither team is projected to be among the league’s elite. But it’s fairly clear that the Rams’ honeymoon is over — and the Chargers might never get one.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars took a wild stab Thursday night at fixing their quarterback situation, at least in the short term. They elevated longtime backup Chad Henne against the Carolina Panthers and hoped he would look like something other than a longtime backup. He didn’t. So now the Jaguars are back to Blake Bortles, at least for Week 1. In essence, they have admitted they don’t have a starting-caliber quarterback on their roster. If anything, Bortles has gone backward since his technique-challenged performance of 2016. By all rights, the Jaguars should be done with him. But they’ve got no reasonable alternative. So here they are.

Amateur boxers: Early on an eventful afternoon at Nissan Stadium, Bears defensive linemen Jaye Howard Jr. and Titans offensive lineman Quinton Spain engaged in the kind of fisticuffs you often see in the trenches. Both players appeared to throw punches. Here’s where it got interesting: Referee Ed Hochuli swiftly ejected them both. The NFL rule book calls for an automatic ejection if a player is penalized twice in the same game for unsportsmanlike conduct, a penalty that includes punching. But it also allows for immediate ejection if the punch is “flagrant.” The guess here, and elsewhere, is that the NFL will consider nearly all punches “flagrant” this season in an effort to rid the game of even semi-violent fights. Former vice president of officiating Mike Pereira, now a Fox analyst, tweeted: “Not a good year to be throwing punches.”

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BEREA, Ohio — While proud of her husband for kneeling in prayer with his Cleveland Browns teammates during the national anthem, Erica Harris DeValve said the focus should be on racism and that he should not be looked on as a “white savior” Monday night.

Seth DeValve, a second-year tight end, knelt with 11 African-American players on Monday night in what they called a moment to pray for the nation in light of racial injustice.
“To center the focus of Monday’s demonstration solely on Seth is to distract from what our real focus should be: listening to the experiences and the voices of the black people who are using their platforms to continue to bring the issue of racism in the U.S. to the forefront,” she wrote in a post for TheRoot.com.

“Seth, as a white individual, never has and never will truly have to feel the weight and burden of racial discrimination and racial oppression. No white person does or will. But all white people should care and take a stand against its prevalence in this country. What I hope to see from this is a shift in the conversation to Seth’s black teammates, who realistically have to carry that burden all the time.”

Erica Harris DeValve is an African-American woman who will begin working toward her master’s degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary this fall, with a focus on the intersection of race and Christianity.

“Black players in the NFL cannot just turn their concern on and off in order to be able to focus more on football,” she wrote. “White players shouldn’t, either. Racism is a day-to-day reality, and I hope that, instead of holding Seth up on a pedestal, the response will be to do what he did: listen to the voices of the black people in your life, and choose to support them as they seek to make their voices heard.

“To the people who are looking at pictures of us and saying, ‘Oh, well, that makes sense,’ I offer a dramatic eye roll. People on Twitter have insinuated that it’s simply my appearance that inspired Seth to kneel with his teammates, or that I must’ve threatened Seth with leaving him or refusing to have sex with him if he didn’t join the demonstration. To even joke in this way is gross.”
Seth DeValve said he and his teammates — linebacker Chris Kirksey led the group in prayer — had not discussed whether they would continue kneeling at future games. Seth DeValve avoided social media since Monday, but said the reactions he received were mixed.
“Guys support each other on and off the field,” he said. “We care about each and each other’s lives. I myself care about this subject. I care about the guys that wanted to take a stand on this subject. That’s my role, first and foremost is to be an ally to them and play a supportive role.

“Like I’ve told some other people, the opinions on the topic of racism in America has been mixed for a couple hundred years. So it’s to be expected.”

Erica Harris DeValve wrote that her husband understands the issue and that it was the “responsible” thing to do.

“Seth understands how racism systematically oppresses people across this entire nation,” she wrote. “He understands that to be complacent about it is not just unacceptable as a ‘black wife’s’ husband; Seth supported his teammates because it was the right thing to do, it was the godly thing to do and it was the responsible thing to do. If I were white, he should have done the same, and I am confident that he would have.”

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Football has been a priority for Anquan Boldin. But after 14 seasons, more than 200 games and nearly 14,000 yards receiving, the veteran wide receiver now feels a higher calling, which is why he left the Buffalo Bills on Sunday after only two weeks with the team and plans to retire.

“Football has afforded me a platform throughout my career to have a greater impact on my humanitarian work, and at this time, I feel drawn to make the larger fight for human rights a priority,” Boldin said in a statement to ESPN.com. “My life’s purpose is bigger than football.”

Boldin, 36, has spent parts of the past two years on Capitol Hill fighting for criminal justice reform. His cousin, Corey Jones, was shot to death by a plainclothes police officer in 2015 after Jones’ van broke down on the side of a South Florida highway.

Since then, Boldin has sought to give a voice not only to his family but also to those who feel that their cries for justice and change are falling on deaf ears.
“No. 1, you want to hear that they hear you,” Boldin told ESPN in 2016 before a trip to Capitol Hill. “You want to make sure they understand the things that we, as an African-American community, are going through. I don’t think our community feels that way right now, especially when it comes to law enforcement and the way we’re being policed.

“Our neighborhoods are feeling hurt. No. 2, you want to see changes in policy, in terms of how we train our police officers. And lastly, you want to see accountability — that justice will be served for all — to make sure that the relationship between the African-American community and police can be better. There’s work to be done on both sides because there’s a huge mistrust there. I want to help close that gap.”

Boldin and his wife, Dionne, have been heavily involved in community work in their hometown of Pahokee, Florida. The couple, who have two young sons, have touched thousands of families by providing educational and life opportunities, and in 2014, they established an endowment that has supported 15 four-year college scholarships.

“We respect Anquan’s decision to retire from the NFL,” Bills GM Brandon Beane said. “We appreciate the time he gave us over the past two weeks. He is one of the best receivers to play this game and wish him and his family all the best moving forward.”

“Football has afforded me a platform throughout my career to have a greater impact on my humanitarian work, and at this time, I feel drawn to make the larger fight for human rights a priority.”
Boldin — who was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, where he played his first seven seasons — will be remembered as one of the game’s toughest wideouts if not players. He once returned in the season in which he sustained a broken jaw and played with it wired shut. He walks away from the game with 1,076 receptions for 13,779 yards and 82 touchdowns. He won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in the 2012 season. He also played for the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions.

“Anquan, on the field, was one of the greatest professionals and competitors I ever had the pleasure of playing with,” former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner told ESPN. “With all the great players I shared a field with, Q is one of top two players I would want with the ball in their hands and the game on the line. I am a better player for having played with him. But more importantly, he is one of the greatest people I was able to meet in my time in NFL. He has a heart to be a great husband, father and philanthropist — and is committed to making sure his legacy goes well beyond the [football field].”

Boldin won the NFL’s Walter Payton Award in 2016 for his charitable works off the field as well as his play on the field.

“Football in its purest form is what we all strive for as a nation,” Boldin said in his statement. “People from all different races, religions and backgrounds working together for one shared goal. The core values taught in football are some of the most important you can learn in life: to always be there for the guy next to you and not let your fellow man down. You do whatever it takes to make sure your brother is OK.”

Boldin now wants to help those beyond the football field, which is why he is walking away.

Pete Carroll said the Seahawks had thoroughly reviewed Tramaine Brock’s so-called domestic violence

RENTON, Wash. — Pete Carroll said Thursday that he was comfortable with the process the Seattle Seahawks went through to investigate cornerback Tramaine Brock’s alleged domestic violence incident in April.

The Seahawks signed Brock to a one-year deal on Thursday.

“What I would say to you is, I don’t know how anybody could have done a more extensive look into this,” Carroll said. “John [Schneider, the team's general manager] started this quite some time ago and followed it throughout to make sure we knew exactly what was going on. I’m not going to go into particulars for you, but we feel assured that we have done all of the homework that can be done and done a little bit past that and then maybe past that.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said the team is in a good place with Tramaine Brock, who was signed after charges from an alleged domestic violence incident were dropped.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said the team is in a good place with Tramaine Brock, who was signed after charges from an alleged domestic violence incident were dropped.

“We’ve really done our work here and feel that we’re in a good place with him.”
Brock, 28, was arrested on April 6 on suspicion of felony domestic violence and child endangerment after officers responded to a call that evening. Officers reported that an adult woman had visible injuries and was “in a dating relationship with the male suspect.” Brock pleaded not guilty to those charges. Charges were dismissed on Aug. 9. The Santa Clara District Attorney’s office said there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the case because the alleged victim declined to cooperate.

Carroll was asked if the organization spoke with the alleged victim as part of the process.

“I’m not going to go into that, OK,” Carroll said. “There’s a million questions you could ask me about that. We’ve done everything that you could do. All I can tell you is it’s been a comprehensive look into it, and I feel great telling you that. There’s too many aspects of it to go ahead and talk to you about it specifically.”

The 49ers released Brock on April 7, less than 24 hours after his arrest.

The NFL will investigate the matter under its personal conduct policy. The NFL can penalize a player even if he doesn’t face legal charges.

Andrew Luck progressed, but the first week of the state was still in the air

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay cannot “unequivocally” say that starting quarterback Andrew Luck will play in their Week 1 opener against the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 10.

Irsay, like general manager Chris Ballard, believes Luck will be off the physically unable to perform list before the start of the regular season. But playing against the Rams is still up in the air, especially because Luck needs practice time once he is taken off of PUP.

“I don’t want to act that it is a foregone conclusion that he’s not going to be starting out there [against the Rams],” Irsay said after his team’s 24-10 preseason loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday. “I mean, he could but also could not. We don’t see an extended delay, but we’re not going to put a timetable on it. We will not put any pressure on this decision.”

Luck originally injured his right shoulder in Week 3 of the 2015 season. He played through the shoulder pain until he finally had the surgery in January. Irsay said they waited as long as they could before deciding on surgery and wouldn’t do things any differently.
“There’s no mystery to it, and that’s the good news about it,” Irsay said. “There hasn’t been one surprise to [the shoulder] from our standpoint. We always knew it was going to be a borderline thing. We wanted to be sure before we did the surgery. Once we were committed to doing it, things couldn’t have gone more successfully.”

Luck, who has missed 10 games the past two seasons, has admitted that his patience has been tested throughout this process of not being able to practice or take part in offseason workouts. Irsay had to remind his franchise quarterback that he has to think about his long-term health and not let his “competitive juices” get the best of him.

Ballard said during the preseason television broadcast on Sunday that Luck’s “strength levels are probably better right now than they were in the last season that he played.” Luck has started the throwing process, but the Colts have restricted how much he’s doing it to avoid a setback.
“It’s a progression where he’s not throwing the football as strong as he wants to because we won’t let him,” Ballard said. “He can throw it a lot stronger than he’s throwing it. This is our future that’s 10, 12, 14 years — who knows? We will not deviate from being disciplined in our process on how the doctors feel and how Andrew feels. He said it best to me. He said, ‘Jim, I know I’m going to be an even better quarterback than I’ve ever been before. I just don’t know when.’ That could be Sept. 10. It could be Sept. 20. We’ll see.”

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck has been battling shoulder issues since 2015.

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck has been battling shoulder issues since 2015.

Scott Tolzien, who has been the starting quarterback since Luck went down, hasn’t shown the consistency yet that is necessary to believe he can lead the Colts on a regular basis until Luck returns. The Colts discussed the possibility of bringing in another quarterback but decided to stand pat with Tolzien for the time being.

“We came semi-close to bringing in a mid- to late-30s guy,” Irsay said. “We had a number. The guy wanted more than the number. It wasn’t [Colin] Kaepernick. It didn’t work out, so we moved on. We like some things, like some guys that are on the roster.”

Source: Colts C Ryan Kelly is on foot due to foot injuries

INDIANAPOLIS — Colts center Ryan Kelly suffered a foot injury in practice Thursday that will sideline him, a source said.

Kelly injured his foot during the Colts’ joint practice against the Detroit Lions. Colts coach Chuck Pagano said after practice that he didn’t see the play on which Kelly was injured.

The injury isn’t believed to be severe enough that Kelly will miss the regular-season opener against the Los Angeles Rams, but it will cause him to be out for the time being, a source said.

Kelly, the Colts’ first-round pick in 2016, started every game during his rookie season.

Deyshawn Bond, an undrafted free agent from Cincinnati, replaced Kelly at center Thursday.

The Colts now are without their starting center and quarterback, as Andrew Luck remains on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

Brock Osweiler starts the QB in the Browns preseason

Brock Osweiler will have the first chance to be the Cleveland Browns’ preseason starting quarterback.

Coach Hue Jackson said Monday that Osweiler will start Thursday’s game against the New Orleans Saints. Rookie DeShone Kizer will be third in line, after Cody Kessler.
“A lot goes into our evaluation, but it’s always going to be about efficiently and effectively running the offense,” Jackson said in a statement released by the team. “You want your starter to be able to do that despite any circumstance. Brock hasn’t really gotten any first-team reps, and this will give him that chance. We look forward to seeing what he can do with this opportunity throughout the week and against the Saints.”

Brock Osweiler's work regimen has impressed Browns coach Hue Jackson during the offseason, and the quarterback will get the start for Thursday's preseason game.

Brock Osweiler’s work regimen has impressed Browns coach Hue Jackson during the offseason, and the quarterback will get the start for Thursday’s preseason game.

Although Osweiler will get the first chance as the starter, Jackson emphasized that any of the team’s quarterbacks could earn the starting spot for the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

On Thursday, Jackson explained the rationale in possibly starting Osweiler.

“One, we have a veteran player that’s played in games, knows how to win, and I need to give him an opportunity to demonstrate that,” Jackson said Thursday. “And No. 2, we still have some young quarterbacks that need to play a lot of football. You know if I stuck one of those other guys out as the starter, they weren’t going to play a lot of football. Because they’re probably going to come out with the other vets. When you sit down and think through it all, you think what’s best for our football team; it’s best for me to trot Brock out there, see if he can go lead this offense and lead the team, and in the process keep getting these young guys more reps of playing football. They just need to play.”

Osweiler said Monday that he isn’t taking any gratification from getting to start a preseason game, and that he needs to take advantage of the opportunity.

“Bottom line, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” he said. “I think this football team knows that. Obviously, Coach Jackson is preaching it every single day. He is telling us that. This is just one step. There is a lot of chemistry to be built. There are a lot of fine details that need to be cleaned up through meetings and more practice sessions.”
Kizer, meanwhile, called himself a competitor and said he will continue to work on his development in his first NFL training camp.

“It’s my ultimate goal to be out there playing,” Kizer said. “We put in a lot of work into what we do. I would love to be the guy who’s stepping out there as the starting guy. But until then, this is still part of the process.”

Kessler said being the second quarterback up Thursday won’t affect his mindset.

“Whether you are going first group, second group or whatever it may be, you have to prepare like a starter,” Kessler said. “That is something I have been doing since high school. Nothing changes no matter what the rotation is or where you go, but it is still another opportunity.”

Jackson said Saturday that although the decision for the preseason opener was about who could score points and help win games, it also would involve “a feeling of who I think can be the guy.”

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Browns’ starter at quarterback for the first preseason game has started Week 1 of the regular season each year since 2004.

It’s quite a progression for Osweiler, whom the Browns accepted in a trade from the Houston Texans in March solely so they could acquire a second-round pick. He received reps with the starters on Monday for the first time this offseason. In Friday’s scrimmage and Saturday’s practice, Osweiler moved the ball better than the other quarterbacks.

In the Sonny Gray’s debut, the Yankees a bit biased

CLEVELAND — All night, Sonny Gray kept adjusting his new New York Yankees cap. Nearly after every batter, he would end up on the side of the mound, trying to center his hat, which kept shifting to the side. Everything didn’t fit exactly right in Gray’s opening night as a Yankee, including his cap, which was a bit too big.

Gray pitched well, just not as well as Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber. Not many people do.

Gray threw well enough to win, even if a line that starts with six innings and four runs usually doesn’t indicate such. Only two of the runs were earned, and Gray gave up just four hits while striking out six and walking four.

Of the four runs Sonny Gray gave up in his first start as a Yankee, two were unearned.

Of the four runs Sonny Gray gave up in his first start as a Yankee, two were unearned.

There wasn’t really a lot learned from Thursday night’s 5-1 loss to the defending American League champions, except that the ace known as “Klubot” may still be October’s most intimidating presence. If you watched last fall, you probably already knew that, too.

But if the Yankees are going to keep playing as long as the Indians did last year, these are the types of games they will need to win. Kluber is the type of ace they will need to beat. As for Gray? He will basically have to pitch like he did in his Yankees debut. Just with more help.

His cap kept shifting to the side, unintentionally sort of like the man he replaced — the injured Michael Pineda — but Gray’s pitches were pretty much just right. He allowed two unearned runs because the Yankees exhibited the worst defense in these parts since the Cleveland Browns’ season ended.

They made three errors in the first with first baseman Chase Headley and second baseman Tyler Wade unable to handle grounders, while right fielder Clint Frazier airmailed a throw into third. Gray was forced to pick up five outs instead of the usual three. It resulted in two earned runs.

Gray, 27, is very good, but he is not at Klubot’s level. Kluber is almost not human, as he showed most of October last year. The Yankees don’t need that from Gray, but he just has to keep on doing what he has been doing.

After Thursday’s game, Gray is 4-3 in his past seven starts, but his ERA is just 1.59. With the Yankees’ bullpen, that should win a lot of games. That is, if the Yankees can score.

The offense is becoming a concern. Yankees manager Joe Girardi put Aaron Judge, Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier on the bench on Thursday because all three are struggling. It was a kind gesture, as few hitters become healthier at the plate against Kluber, who has struck out eight or more batters in 12 consecutive starts, an Indians record.

The thought of facing Kluber in October is not a good one for the Yankees. When Progressive Field is rocking and Kluber is on the mound, the Indians are a pretty unbeatable team.

Gray is part of the reason the Yankees should make it to the postseason, but they need to be a little better than they were on Thursday. It was the Yankees’ fourth loss in five games and they are now two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.

Even with Gray on board, everything isn’t just fitting right, yet.

Suspension of damage Cowboys’ pass, but open the opportunity

OXNARD, Calif. — Football coaches like to say that injuries present opportunities for other players. While that is true for the Dallas Cowboys, suspensions also present opportunities.

Randy Gregory is out for the season because of multiple violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. David Irving will miss the first four games of the season after violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Damontre Moore will miss the first two games because of a substance-abuse policy investigation.

Tyrone Crawford and Taco Charlton each could see their responsibilities increase given the suspensions across the Cowboys' defense.

Tyrone Crawford and Taco Charlton each could see their responsibilities increase given the suspensions across the Cowboys’ defense.

Gregory’s suspension might have led to the Cowboys adding Moore in the offseason as a free agent, but all three would have been valuable parts to a defensive line rotation in 2017.

Gregory played in just 13 games in his first two seasons, mostly because of suspensions. He has recorded just one sack, but the Cowboys had hoped things would eventually work out to where the former second-round pick would get a chance to play again. Nobody knows for sure if that will happen. The team can have only minimal contact with him during the suspension. (He is eligible to return after the season.)

The Cowboys knew Moore’s suspension was a possibility because of an arrest last December when he played for the Seattle Seahawks, but Irving’s suspension was a surprise.

“I winded up taking some products that had a banned substance,” Irving said. “The substance wasn’t listed on the bottle. It happens, and it happened to me. You live, learn and move on.”

Moore apologized for his mistake

“I made my bed, and I’ve got to lie it in,” he said. “I just wanted to apologize to the Cowboys organization and the fans for my past even following me. I also want to show them by coming here and working hard each and every day that I’m here to make the best of this opportunity.”

Gregory is not allowed at training camp, but Irving and Moore can practice and play in preseason games. Starting the first week of the season they will be banished. And that has created opportunity.

So far in camp, Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence have lined up as the starting left and right defensive ends. Benson Mayowa, who led the Cowboys in sacks last year with six, has been working at right defensive end in the nickel defense. The Cowboys drafted Taco Charlton in the first round to help the pass rush immediately. With the suspensions, they will count on him even more.

Charles Tapper did not play as a rookie in 2016 because of a back injury. The Cowboys hope his speed can help them get to the quarterback. Lenny Jones, Lewis Neal and Richard Ash may not have had the cleanest routes to making it at the start of camp, but the losses of Moore and Irving open a spot on the roster, if not two.

“I like our depth that we’ve got in the defensive front as far as some of the guys that won’t be with us early there,” team owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “That’s promising.”

But the Cowboys don’t have that “war daddy” he craves so badly.

“Let me say this, there’s parts of one out there, I know that,” Jones said. “Now it may take three of them to get him, but he’s out there. I’m talking about the rotation of the numbers. I like our numbers. I see how we can play. Some of the greatest successes that I’ve had with the Cowboys was when we’ve had a defensive line rotation. I’ve always looked for the promise of that.”