Cowboys can benefit from young roster that still has experience

FRISCO, Texas -- Tyrone Crawford sounds old even if he isn’t. The Dallas Cowboys defensive end is just 28 and entering his seventh season, but as he looks and listens around the locker room, he sometimes is confused.

“There’s music I’ve never even heard of, and you can’t understand it either,” Crawford said.

Crawford was a third-round pick in 2012. Only six other Cowboys have been on the roster as long or longer than Crawford: wide receiver Cole Beasley, left tackle Tyron Smith, linebacker Sean Lee and specialists Dan Bailey, Chris Jones and L.P. Ladouceur.

“There’s changes as far as in the locker room, the music I hear, the talking that’s coming out of guys’ mouths,” Crawford said. “But these guys go out and work and you can’t deny that they’re ballers.”

The Cowboys are a young team. They have only one every-down player in his 30s (Lee, who is 31). Ladouceur (37) and Bailey (30) are the only other players in their 30s.

“That means we have 87 guys who are in their 20s and a lot of those guys in the 20s are 22, 23, 24,” coach Jason Garrett said. “That’s the nature of rosters in the NFL. There is turnover every year. You really have to do a great job this time of year of laying the foundation for your football team.

“What I mean by that is laying out the expectations for how you want to do things, introducing your schemes and really holding them accountable to learning each and every day because it goes quickly.”

The Cowboys conclude their organized team activities Wednesday. The offseason program ends following next week’s three-day mandatory minicamp, although the rookies will stay around for more conditioning work.

The Cowboys’ first training-camp practice is set for July 26 in Oxnard, California. Before you know it, the Cowboys will be starting the season on Sept. 9 against the Carolina Panthers.

The OTAs and minicamp are important for the coaches to teach new techniques and for the players to get used to new voices.

The Cowboys made eight position-coach changes, although only five did not have ties to the team before their hiring: offensive-line coach Paul Alexander, receivers coach Sanjay Lal, tight-ends coach Doug Nussmeier, passing-game coordinator/secondary coach Kris Richard and assistant special-teams coach Doug Colman.

“I think coaching is always important. We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t think it was important, but there’s some different challenges you have when you have younger players,” Garrett said. “You’re trying to introduce to them how we do things and what we do and then how we want them to do it. That’s a daily pursuit for us as coaches, position coaches making sure their guys are getting it done the right way. You certainly rely on the examples of your more veteran players, guys who have been here, but you certainly have to coach details every day.”

The Cowboys have a young team, but that doesn’t mean they are inexperienced.

Of the projected 24 regulars on opening day, only six have not started at least 16 games. On offense, the projected regulars have played an average of 55 games with 40 career starts. On defense, the projected regulars have played an average of 40 games and 26 starts.

Whoever wins the tight-end job will be young and inexperienced, with Geoff Swaim, the projected starter in June, having just nine starts and 28 games under his belt. Second-round pick Connor Williams projects to be the starter at left guard. On defense, the Cowboys have Jaylon Smith (16 games, six starts), Xavier Woods (16 games, four starts), Chidobe Awuzie (10 games, six starts) and first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch.

Youth won’t be an excuse. The Cowboys hope it will be a reason why they succeed in 2018.

“From Day 1 with the guys, they’re so receptive and open to it just because maybe we’ve got new guys and young guys,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “It’s really actually a lot of fun.”