Most NFL rosters have very few true position battles to settle in training camp. Most of the positions are already allocated to veterans who have been there, or high-round rookies from the draft. But, there are always a few spots where legitimate battles can be going on. This could be either for a starting spot, or for snaps in a rotation of players. Here are three battles that could intrigue at Cowboys training camp in 2022.
De Williams vs. Dorance Armstrong vs Dante Fowler (DE)
The departure of Randy Gregory left a gaping hole opposite of DeMarcus Lawrence on the Cowboys defensive line. The Cowboys scrambled to fill it, but they will have a spirited competition as the position for snaps in a rotation.
De WIlliams is the rookie with all kinds of physical talent. He might not be the starter coming out of the gate, but he will certainly be given a chance as a pass rusher. This is where he will have to make his mark in 2022, and if he proves he can get after the passer, his role will expand.
Dorance Armstrong was re-signed and feels like the safe backstop. If nothing else works, they can always run Armstrong out there and get competent play. But, Armstrong has shown a lot of improvement in his time in Dallas, if he can take another step forward he might prove he is ready for a permanent starting spot.
Dante Fowler is trying to resurrect his career by playing for Dan Quinn again. Fowler actually had his best season for a different coach but he has an affinity for Quinn and there is hope that the Cowboys defensive coordinator can get the most out of him.
Verdict: Coming out of training camp, Armstrong will be the clear winner in the competition and will hog the snap count. But as the season progresses, Williams will get more run time as he proves he can pressure the quarterback. Fowler will fade into the background.
James Washington vs. Jalen Tolbert (WR)
This is the Michael Gallup Sweepstakes as both players will look to be the primary replacement for Gallup as he works his way back into the lineup following his ACL recovery. CeeDee Lamb will obviously be WR1, but the Cowboys are looking for a competent WR2 as Gallup recovers. That player will then become WR3 once both Gallup and Lamb are on the field together.
James Washington is the veteran security blanket. He has been in the league for four years and has had one pretty good season. He hasn't lived up to his draft pedigree, but there have also been issues on offense when he played in Pittsburgh. He seems to have the tools, but needs to show it on the field.
Jalen Tolbert is the value pick for the Cowboys in the 2022 draft. If he had attended a bigger school, he might have gone much higher in the draft. It has been noted that he has some similar skills to Gallup, so could be a good fit.
Verdict: Both players will see plenty of time early in the year as WR2 and WR3, but it will be Tolbert who becomes Prescott's favorite of the two. Once Gallup returns, Tolbert will be the primary WR3 while Washington becomes a depth player like Cedrick Wilson previously was in Dallas..
Leighton Vander Esch vs. Jabril Cox (LB)
It has kind of been assumed that Vander Esch was re-signed to start alongside Micah Parsons, but he will be pushed by Jarbil Cox. If Cox is 100% after his ACL injury, he represents the Cowboys future at the position.
The Cowboys didn’t pick up Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year option, instead re-signing to a one-year deal that was much cheaper. By now, we all know what Vander Esch is as a linebacker. His 2021 season was pretty good, especially toward the end, but he has limitations, too. He is not the player that once showed so much promise early in his career, instead he is a competent starter and an excellent depth piece.
Jabril Cox was another one of those ‘value picks’ and his athletic profile had everyone excited in 2021. He tests out as the prototype for the modern NFL linebacker, but, of course, he has to show it on the field. He also has to overcome the ACL rehab that can slow players down for a while.
Verdict: Vander Esch holds down the starting spot due to his experience, but Cox gets plenty of run as LB3. By the end of the season, the roles will be reversed and Cox will get the lion’s share of the snaps as the Cowboys prepare to transition their linebacker corps for the future.