The time is quickly approaching when the Dallas Cowboys are going to start training camp, and with a new coaching staff in place, players that are closer to the bottom of the roster have a new chance to shine. If they don’t shine, they risk being cut in favor of other players who are either new, or haven’t gotten a real chance yet with the organization. Let’s take a look at some battles that will occur once training camp opens up.
Might as well start with the elephant in the room, the battle for the starting center position.
Joe Looney vs. Tyler Biadasz
The hole that Travis Frederick left once he announced his retirement was huge; luckily for the Cowboys they have two huge men to plug and play. During the 2018 season Joe Looney showed that while he wasn’t as gifted at center as Frederick, he held the role down and played well during Frederick’s season on IR. The Cowboys running game was in the top 10 statistically according to Pro-Football Reference, but had a big fall off in pass protection that ended up leading to quarterback Dak Prescott being sacked 56 times over the course of the season.
Looney is going to have to get better in recognizing blitzes and anchoring down to hold off the young and talented 2020 fourth-round pick, Tyler Biadasz. Sure, the two Connors could get in on the action, but we’re betting in the end it will be between Looney and Biadasz.
Biadasz was once considered the top center in the 2020 class and a potential first-round pick by ESPN’s Todd McShay. He had a disappointing 2019 season thanks in part to a hip injury that hampered his ability to get to certain blocks in games. Biadasz says that he’s now fully healthy and ready to show the Cowboys they’ve found their center of the future.
If Biadasz is truly healthy then it will be a battle of experience vs. raw talent to see who will making the calls for the offensive line in 2020.
Next on the list.
Darian Thompson vs. Donovan Wilson
The Dallas Cowboys once again decided to pass on taking a safety high in the draft and instead re-signed Thompson and brought in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. And while Clinton-Dix is penciled in as the starting safety opposite Xavier Woods, Thompson is going to have to battle to keep his third-string spot. Thompson has had his bright spots but not enough to confidently hold down his position. He is a very good special teams player, but he isn’t always in the right spot when playing safety.
Thompson is going to have to pick up a more complex defense quickly to hold off Donovan Wilson.
Wilson is somewhat of an enigma, we’ve only seen him play significant time during the preseason last year and special teams. He played well in the preseason showing he has a nose for the football coming up with three interceptions in limited action. Wilson may be exactly what new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is looking for. If Wilson can also show that he has the ability to cover players with more consistency than Thompson, the position could be his to lose. If neither prove worthy, the Cowboys have floated the idea of Chidobe Awuzie moving over to the position.
Next is a battle of the big boys.
Trysten Hill vs. Neville Gallimore
If you’re looking for a camp battle that has two players with similar skills, then look no further than the battle between Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore. Both interior defensive linemen possess off-the-ball quickness and power to disrupt an offense, those traits made them high draft picks in 2019 and 2020. Normally Hill would have the upper hand since he’s been in the league for one season, but even though he was the Cowboys highest draft pick in the 2019 draft, he failed to play significant minutes in games and was inactive far too often.
Thanks in part to his attitude and immaturity, Hill never got the chance to show his talent on the field. That failure opens the door for Gallimore to step in and be the run-stopping and pass-rushing impact player up front that the Cowboys had hoped Hill would be. Gallimore was also known to be a leader in the Oklahoma locker room leaving little doubt about the attitude and maturity he will be bringing to the team.
It will be interesting to see if Hill has learned his lesson and grows up, because if he hasn’t Gallimore will be waiting and ready to step up and fill his position.
The last competition could have a bigger impact on the defense than many could imagine with the health of our starting linebackers.
Joe Thomas vs. Luke Gifford
Joe Thomas is a player that head coach Mike McCarthy knows from his time in Green Bay so that works in his favor, for now. Thomas has played well on special teams and has also flashed when given defensive snaps, though a lot of it was due to injuries last season to Leighton Vander Esch. Thomas is going to need to continue to flash for new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan who wants his linebackers playing fast and attacking the ball. If not he is going to have to hope McCarthy values the fact that he drafted him.
Unfortunately that may not be enough as the young linebacker Luke Gifford showed promise in his first preseason but lost the momentum due to an ankle injury. The Cowboys kept him on the roster, and he would eventually make his return though mainly as a special teams player. Now with a full season under his belt, Gifford has the chance to jump up the depth chart thanks to a new coaching staff and a front office that is now willing to let veterans ride the bench or let them go all together.