The Dallas Cowboys just completed their first two weeks of practice and will have an off day Friday before returning to action this weekend. I will be fortunate enough to be in Oxnard over the weekend and catch a couple of practices. Before I get a closer look at the action, I wanted to give a quick update of what's happened, and how it could affect the team's final roster decisions.
Let's dive into this, shall we?
All eyes have been on Dak Prescott as he returns from a gruesome ankle injury. His mobility has looked great, and everything we've seen on the field indicates that the old Dak is back. Of course, now we have news of a muscle strain to his right shoulder, so we have something different to worry about. Personally, I'm not worried about his overally availability as he's proven himself extremely durable; however, I am slightly concerned about him playing while not being 100%. If that shoulder lingers throughout the year, it could impact his overall performance, but to be honest, it's way too early to be worrying about something like that.
I feel good about backup Garrett Gilbert. I liked what I saw from him last year in limited action, and I like what I've seen from him so far in camp. He should be a solid backup, so there's no need to panic and go out and sign a veteran QB. As far as Ben DiNucci, I'm not impressed in the slightest. He's raw, and I get that, but nothing that I've seen makes me feel any better about his future in this league.
Nothing really new to report here. Ezekiel Elliott is lean, and he looks like a player on a mission. Being in great shape combined with a healthier supporting cast should line him up for a bounce back season. Tony Pollard remains firmly seated as the team's no. 2 RB, and the only question that remains is whether Rico Dowdle can show enough to earn a roster spot.
Amari Cooper is unavailable due to an ankle injury, but hopefully he'll be back before too long. The guy always seems to be dealing with something, so the idea of him actually missing time isn't very worrisome. CeeDee Lamb has been balling out, so despite the Cowboys not having their top receiver, you wouldn't know it because Lamb looks every bit the part of the alpha wideout.
The team also has some good options down the depth chart. Both Cedrick Wilson Jr. and Noah Brown have shown why the Cowboys have kept them around, but there are some other receivers who look good as well. Keep an eye a couple UDFA in Malik Turner and Brandon Smith as those guys are my two personal favorites to challenge for a final roster spot.
Both Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin have looked good so far. The team is working Jarwin in slowly as he's returning from a knee injury, so that means more snaps for Schultz at the moment. Schultz is taking full advantage and his performance in camp continues to plead his case for being the Cowboys first-string tight end.
When Tyron Smith is healthy, he's an absolute beast and that is what we are witnessing as he is owning nearly every matchup thrown his way. Let's just hope he stays healthy. La'el Collins is also healthy after missing all of last season with a hip injury. He's stayed away from the fried catfish and looks considerably leaner.
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE
Initially, I thought Brandon Knight was going to be a player to watch as the team moved him inside from the tackle position. But so far, it's been Connor McGovern who has demonstrated that he's the team's top reserve guard. The Cowboys have even given starting left guard Connor Williams some backup reps at center, so the team appears to have a good plan to get the best players on the field should injuries strike.
Like Amari, DeMarcus Lawrence started camp on the PUP list, but there aren't any big concerns there. He continues to do work on the chords as he rehabs his back.
Randy Gregory has been the biggest story on the defensive side of the ball as he is just making play after play in camp. The young edge rusher has had a rough journey, but his mind is in a good place. Big things are expected from 94 this season, and if I were the Cowboys front office, I'd get him extended before he becomes too expensive.
It should be interesting to see what new defensive coordinator can do with the group of players he has. The coaching staff put an emphasis on length when it came to the players they acquired in the draft and free agency, and it's already paying dividends. The Cowboys DT's are batting down passes left and right.
Side note: Brent Urban is a lot bigger than I realized.
The Cowboys still have a lot of questions at the linebacker position. Leighton Vander Esch has looked good, and he should be the team's starting middle linebacker as long as he's healthy. I haven't been too impressed with free agent Keanu Neal as he's struggled in coverage. The conversion to LB experiment offers no guarantees, so that's something to keep an eye on. Micah Parsons is having a nice camp as his athleticism has been on full display.
This is the area of the defense that concerns me the most. Last year's rookie Trevon Diggs looks great and fans should feel completely at ease with him holding down one of the starting outside corner spots. As for the other, things get a little murky. Second-round pick Kelvin Joseph has shown nice athleticism; it's just going to come down to how long it's going to take before he's playing with enough consistency. Third-round pick Nahshon Wright started camp okay, but watching him still makes me uneasy. He's just so lanky, and any time he has to change direction quickly, he's been a step behind. I'm still not as optimistic on this guy as many others are.
One guy I am impressed with though is veteran Maurice Canady. He was signed as a free agent last year but opted out of the season due to COVID. He's back this year and is having a very solid camp. Don't be surprised if he snags one of the last corner spots.
This is another interesting position group. The team has no clear standout player, yet they have a plethora of guys who are all pretty decent. I like so many. Free agent Damontae Kazee looks healthy and is making plays. Free agent Jayron Kearse has done okay as well. And people are so quick to discount Darian Thompson, but that guy continues to be a solid player in the secondary.
Of course, we haven't even seen recent signing Malik Hooker yet. Regardless of how things shape out, the Cowboys appear to have so pretty good depth here.
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