It is a long and still undetermined time until the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL start training camp. We know that OTAs and minicamps are not going to happen, and there is still only speculation about when staff and players will even be able to come into the team facilities. The surprisingly well run NFL Draft was very successful for Dallas according to almost all observers.
But with the long, dry spell ahead, let’s preview the coming camp battles. This starts a series of posts that will break down all the position groups, identifying the roster locks, the maybes, and the probable camp bodies.
He’s the starter. His new contract will be done before the start of the season. It will elicit many complaints and criticisms about how much they are paying him. He will be worth every penny.
He is not a lock to stick with the team as a backup, but the odds are actually in his favor. Yes, the Cowboys invested a seventh-round pick in a developmental quarterback, but the new guy would have to do something extraordinary to supplant Rush, who has two years experience with the team and, perhaps more importantly, Kellen Moore. It is a contract year for him, so he is going to be fighting hard to show that he is worthy of a roster spot not just this year, but the next as well - even if it’s not in Dallas.
Mike McCarthy loves to draft quarterbacks to constantly look for a hidden gem. This small school product (with some big school experience) is exactly that.
It is worth mentioning here that the game day roster will now include two extra players called up from the practice squad each week, which for all intents and purposes means that that it expands to 55. That is an argument for keeping DiNucci on the roster unless they want to move him to the practice squad. One way or another, he is also very likely to be with the team in some capacity this fall.
Enjoy your time at training camp.
The only question during whatever preseason games are played is whether Elliott will see the field at all, or if he will stay on the sidelines to protect him for the regular season.
He is arguably the only actual draft pick from 2019 to pay off for the Cowboys, and that was in a limited role. He’ll be here in the regular season, and McCarthy’s offensive approach indicates that his role could be much larger this season.
He’s back after spending most of last season on the practice squad. He keeps showing just enough to have hung around the past two years after being signed as a UDFA in 2018. The Cowboys only carried two RBs on the roster for most of 2019. Chunn will be fighting to push the team to carry three. And he has quite a bit of competition as well.
The trio of UDFAs from this year’s crop will all be trying to supplant Chunn. They can also hope that camp performances could earn them a PS job. With Elliott usually idle, they will get plenty of opportunity in the preseason, but the possibility of a shortened slate of those games would not do them any favors. Expect this to be an unusually heated camp battle, because the Cowboys have more RBs on the roster at this point than in the past few years.
*could be a fullback, see below.
The only fullback on the roster last year, Olawale has been under-utilized in the minds of many. He is another player who should be encouraged by McCarthy’s history, because he has been much more creative with the position than the team ever was during the Garrett era. But there has also been some talk that the Cowboys may view Olonilua as more of a fullback candidate, so Olawale likely faces his own competition, despite still having an option year in 2021 they can exercise.
He’s the new TE1. Expect to see him get mentioned as a potential breakout player for the Cowboys this season. He no longer has to compete with Jason Witten for snaps, and he was already a better receiver than Witten.
Schultz comes into camp with a leg up on the other tight ends because of his experience. He has, however, been more of a blocking tight end. That raises the issue of just how much that role will be used in what is expected to be a much more explosive and creative offense. To improve his odds of sticking for another year, he needs to show more as a target for Prescott.
Probably the biggest competition for Schultz. It is not certain that the Cowboys will carry three tight ends on the roster, although it is more likely than not. It all depends on just what Moore plans for the offense. There is a real possibility that the team will basically abandon three tight end sets, and greatly reduce the use of two on the field.
A long shot at best.
The addition of two UDFA TEs might argue that the Cowboys will carry three or even four on the roster, but it is probably more about a lack of solid options to back up Jarwin. This is a position where there is certainly an opportunity for one of these two to at least make a real case for the practice squad, or even force their way onto the roster.
Already, there are intriguing camp contests shaping up at all positions. Backup jobs are wide open. It is also interesting to note that the Cowboys did not use any draft picks on the RB or TE positions. The analytics crowd rejoices.
In the next installment of this series, we’ll break down the wide receiver and offensive line groups, where the Cowboys added some real talent in the draft plus some fun UDFA prospects.