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Cowboys news: 5 things we learned during Dallas’ rookie minicamp

Your Wednesday edition of news on America’s Team.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Rookie Minicamp Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

5 things we learned during Dallas Cowboys rookie minicamp - Staff, Dallas Morning News

Some takeaways from the Cowboys recent rookie minicamp.

Left guard it is for Tyler Smith. Cowboys’ first-rounder Tyler Smith practiced at left guard for the first time since 2018, back when he was a senior at North Crowley High School in Fort Worth. He didn’t expect his return to go quite the way it did.

“I felt like today I really rose to the challenge,” Smith said following the first workout of rookie minicamp. “Of course, there is more to improve upon. I even realize that, just the way that I step, it’s all different. … It felt good. I won’t even lie. You surprise yourself sometimes.” Smith focused on left tackle during his three years at Tulsa.

The Cowboys plan to give him practice reps at left tackle at some point this offseason, but there is no set date for that. How he develops technically at left guard will determine how much the team puts on his plate and when. Positional versatility would allow Smith to replace Tyron Smith should Tyron be unavailable this season for whatever reason. Tyron has missed at least three games each of the past six years, mostly because of injury.

Speaking of rookies...

Problem Spots: Does This Team Need LB Depth? - Staff, DallasCowboys.com

Linebacker could be a problem spot for the Cowboys.

What's The Issue: There doesn't seem to be a problem on paper. The reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year is a heck of a foundation for your linebacker corps. Behind Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch is back for a fifth season, with 49 career starts to his name. Throw in a couple athletic draft picks in Jabril Cox and Devin Harper, not to mention Luke Gifford, and things look pretty good. The main issue is that these things rarely go according to script. Cox is rehabbing an injury after missing 10 games of his rookie year with a torn ACL. Vander Esch did play all 17 games last season, but he has missed significant chunks of time in two of his four years in the league. If, heaven forbid, the Cowboys' linebacker depth is tested this season, they may find themselves lacking.

Who Can Fix It: The biggest variable in all of this is Cox, who is one of the most intriguing young players on this roster. The former North Dakota State and LSU standout was seen by many as one of the steals of the 2021 NFL Draft. Widely considered a second-or-third-round talent by draft analysts, it felt like a sizable upset that Cox slipped to No. 115, where the Cowboys eventually snagged him.

Alexander contract will influence Trevon Diggs’ future with the Cowboys - Tom Ryle, Blogging The Boys

The Cowboys cornerback is about to earn a big payday.

Alexander is coming off a season cut short by injury, only playing in the first four games in 2021. However, he was a Pro Bowler in 2020, and was a PFF All-Pro while being named to AP’s second team. He has the credentials for his big, new deal. We can now expect Diggs to see a second contract for even more. The question is how soon he gets a new deal done, and with whom?

Logically, when a team has a young All-Pro player at one of the “money” or high value positions, the management should be ready to work hard to come up with a way to retain him. Doing that early rather than letting deadline pressure build is also smart. Dallas’ recent history may foretell a rocky road.

It is illustrative to look at the case of former Cowboys first-round pick Byron Jones. After the staff moved him from safety to cornerback, where he should have been all along, he also made the Pro Bowl and AP’s second-team All-Pro list. But after exercising their fifth-year option on him, Dallas let him sign with the Miami Dolphins. Jones was a lot like Alexander. He was very solid in coverage, often shutting down the opponent’s best WR. He also seldom got interceptions, another similarity. It is an open question how the staff and particularly the ownership view Diggs. He obviously excelled in coming down with the ball, but at times game up some big yardage in games. That is a more aggressive style. The gains made by the players he covered might be deceiving as well.

Why the Cowboys Should Sign WR Chester Rogers - Rocky Garza Jr, Inside The Star

Dallas could certainly use another wide receiver.

While I could have ended the discussion by saying you still have Lamb, I remembered that Lamb is now the club’s bonafide WR1, so it doesn’t make sense to put him at risk. My next thought was to jump to Pollard, but if you look at his career stats, you find out that he has never been involved in the punt coverage. And if you ask me why? That’s beyond my pay grade, you would have to ask the coaches.

Now stuck trying to decipher who could fill Lamb’s role, the one player that came across my mind (only because I was looking at my old fantasy team) was former Titans WR Chester Rogers. And before fans jump on me since he’s not the sexiest name to go after, hear me out.

According to The Football Database, Rogers averaged 9.77 yards per punt return last season, which ranked 5th-best in the league. Comparing that to Lamb or Wilson’s stats, Rogers was a few yards off Lamb’s (9.97 YPR) and smoked Wilson’s YPR (3.27) by a mile.

Comparing Dak Prescott to other NFC East quarterbacks ahead of 2022 - Terence Watson, The Landry Hat

How would you rank the NFC East quarterbacks?

Accuracy in 2022. Hurts – 78.2% of his passes were on target and 14% were considered bad throws. Jones – 76.1% of his passes were on target and 18.4% were considered bad throws. Prescott – 77.3% of his passes were on target and 14.7% were considered bad throws. Wentz – 73.7% of his passes were on target and 18.8% were considered bad throws

We continually hear complaints about how accurate Prescott is compared to others around the league. While some of it is deserved, it’s more of a perception than reality. But how does he stack up in his own division? Surprisingly, based on last season’s numbers, it was Hurts and not Prescott who was the most accurate of the group, though not by much.

This could be thanks to the stronger running game from the Eagles last season compared to the lackluster output by the Cowboys running game towards the end of the season. Either way, Hurts was the more accurate of the two, and that number might rise even higher for Hurts with the addition of A.J. Brown, while Prescott’s could fall with the loss of Amari Cooper. Wentz and Jones both had disappointing seasons. But out of those two, Wentz played worse and had better-receiving targets and a stronger running game.

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