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Cowboys news: Breakout players ready to prove themselves in OTAs

Dallas Cowboys news hot off the presses.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Football Team Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Predicting Cowboys’ Breakout Players at 2022 OTAs, Minicamp - Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report

As Jerry Jones put it, the Cowboys are happy with Dorance Armstrong and “the other guy” (Dante Fowler) as their replacements for Randy Gregory.

DE Dorance Armstrong

With Gregory off to join the Denver Broncos, there’s an opening in Dallas’ pass-rushing rotation—a rotation that will also include DeMarcus Lawrence, Fowler and second-round rookie Sam Williams.

While Fowler and Williams may make an impact this season, veteran defensive end Dorance Armstrong may actually get the first chance to be Lawrence’s primary pass-rushing complement. The 24-year-old has been with Dallas since 2018 and is coming off a career campaign.

In 2021, Armstrong played 56 percent of the defensive snaps and finished with 37 tackles, five sacks, 22 quarterback pressures and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Armstrong has logged a mere eight starts for the Cowboys in four seasons, but if he proves himself this offseason, he could shift into a starter’s role for 2022. The Cowboys saw glimpses of what Armstrong is capable of last season and should be eager to give him that opportunity.

Dallas also gave Armstrong a two-year, $12 million extension this offseason.

Expect Armstrong to shine in OTAs and minicamp as he looks to hold off Fowler and Williams heading into the preseason.

Cowboys’ Tyler Smith had to overcome a lot before being a first-rounder - Lauren Barash, The Landry Hat

Cowboys first-rounder Tyler Smith has an easy story to root for.

Coaches said he never missed a practice up until his surgery. After his procedure, Smith would wake up at 6 am before school for physical therapy so that he could be back to full training the summer before his senior year of football.

The surgery he underwent required doctors to essentially break his legs and put them in proper alignment so that they could heal properly. But, as Smith has admitted to the press in the past, he used his humor and positive attitude to get through the challenging time. He still takes it all in stride:

“I got some scars from where the bolts were. It’s not too bad. I still look sexy, so it’s all good… That definitely added to the chip on my shoulder. I’m not going to lie. When it comes to iron man football, there’s nothing I’m not willing to do. Whether it’s jammed fingers, broken thumbs, strains, it don’t matter because things like that pale in comparison.”

Because of his surgery, it was difficult for Smith to get offers from collegiate football programs. His coaches tried to explain that he was a Power 5 talent, but schools wouldn’t budge. However, an opportunity in the American Athletic Conference with Tulsa was all he needed. Despite getting little recruitment excitement out of college, his hard work led him to a spot on the Cowboys.

Why Cowboys Swing Tackle Battle Will Affect 2022 - and Beyond - Geoff Magliochetti,

The Cowboys depth at tackle has been tested in recent seasons, and they’re relying on potential over experience this offseason.

To that end, Dallas’ swing tackle battle could boil down to a hodgepodge of potential that’s not blessed with NFL experience. Of those assembled on the outside, youngsters Josh Ball and Matt Waletzko lead the way.

The Cowboys have hope for Ball, a 2021 fourth-round selection whose rookie campaign was wiped out by an ankle injury. Character issues have been the biggest concern for the Marshall alum, whose power and length have been lauded on the field. Ball has reportedly made progress in workouts this offseason and his year learning the Dallas offense could come up big if he’s faced with a training camp competition.

Dallas would later spend another late spring Saturday addressing the swing issue, taking FCS stud Waletzko in the most recent fifth round. Waletzko already holds a bit of a place in Cowboys history, as the pick used to bring him aboard was obtained from Cleveland for Amari Cooper. Standing at 6-7, the North Dakota alum drew concerns because of a relatively scrawny weight of 312, but he impressed with his athleticism and on-field smarts. Waletzko, who was responsible for only three sacks in his collegiate career, took most of the left tackle reps at rookie minicamp in Frisco.

The swing tackle battle will be one of the more intriguing showdowns over the rest of the Cowboys’ 2022 preparation. This issue could be one that not only partly defines Dallas’ offensive fortunes in the coming season, but beyond 2022 as well: perhaps no one wants to admit it, but the team could subtly be looking for a successor to Tyron Smith, who turns 32 in December and can hit free agency in 2024.

Wake Forest WR Jaquarii Roberson looks to impress Cowboys enough to keep him - Tyler Browning, The Cowboys Wire

There are a plenty of sleeper candidates at receiver to make the Cowboys roster.

Fit with the Cowboys:

To be frank, Roberson will be fighting for a practice squad spot with the Cowboys. They have added a number of free agents at wide receiver in the past and this year added four more. Of last year’s crop, T.J. Vasher and Brandon Smith remain with the club a year later, so there is precedent for Dallas to hold onto guys who show potential. The most famous Cowboys UDFA free agent of recent years is Miles Austin, who led the team in receiving multiple times.

Roberson will need to show massive improvements to his release package, contested catch ability, his yards after the catch ability and a number in a number of other areas during training camp is he hopes to earn a practice squad spot. If you’re not a speed threat in this game you need to be able to win in contested catch scenarios or by being able to separate, and those are two areas Roberson needs big development in.

Role Call: A Fresh Start For James Washington - David Helman,

Can the Cowboys rely on James Washington to start the season, with Michael Gallup still sidelined?

What’s next: This is a classic case of the Cowboys hoping to buy low and sell high. Washington was talented enough to go in the Top 100 of that 2018 draft, and he has 1,629 career receiving yards, highlighted by a 44-catch, 735-yard effort in 2019. It’s fair to say Washington didn’t live up to the expectations in Pittsburgh – but there are some within the Cowboys’ facility who wonder if he was truly given the chance to do so. He should have plenty of opportunity here. Michael Gallup is still recovering from the ACL tear he suffered in January, and Jalen Tolbert is a newly-drafted rookie. With CeeDee Lamb the only proven commodity currently in the starting lineup, Washington has a huge chance to re-vitalize his career as one of the Cowboys’ primary receiver options this season.

Bet you didn’t know: Washington won the 2017 Fred Biletnikoff Award, given to the most outstanding receiver in college football, off the strength of a 1,549-yard, 13-touchdown season at Oklahoma State. That makes him the fourth Biletnikoff winner to play for the Cowboys in the award’s 28-year history, along with Amari Cooper, Antonio Bryant and Terry Glenn.

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