The Dallas Cowboys offseason will be coming to a close in a month as the league announced their start dates for training camp on Thursday. For this year’s Cowboys team, real football activity begins on July 26th as rookies and veterans report to camp.
The Cowboys are eager to prove they can do something they haven’t done since the 90s dynasty years, repeat as NFC East champions despite some major changes on the roster. With those moves comes opportunities for young players to step up, something the Cowboys have always rewarded as one of the most draft-dependent teams in the entire league.
On a bonus episode of our Hidden Yardage podcast, Mark Lane and I discussed several players we have for Cowboys training camp with Ehsan Asad from 1310 The Ticket in Dallas. Make sure to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys podcast network wherever you get your podcasts so that you can listen to this episode and all of our shows. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
Here is a deeper look at the paths those players face to grab playing time, or even make the roster of the 2022 team.
WR Jalen Tolbert
It’s hard to change the outlook for any position during OTA practices without pads, but the Cowboys were unable to move the needle at their receiver position this month. Rookie Jalen Tolbert and free agent signee James Washington were hardly a part of the practices, putting a hold on valuable reps they need in Kellen Moore’s offense.
This has only slightly put the brakes on the hype for Tolbert, a third-round rookie that came in with immediate expectations. When Tolbert did see the field with Dak Prescott during OTAs, the two began building their route chemistry, and special teams coordinator John Fassel also put the South Alabama product to work on punt returns.
The learning curve for Tolbert will be steep, as the Cowboys need a receiver to fill in for Michael Gallup at the start of the season, as well as a more long-term need in the slot. Tolbert’s skillset may be best as an outside receiver, but his long speed and fearlessness going over the middle make him an intriguing slot option as well.
DE Sam Williams
It may feel like a lifetime ago when Cowboys fans were celebrating the news that Dan Quinn would return as defensive coordinator, but that move still holds up as one of the biggest reasons this team may find success again in 2022. Quinn has yet another draft class to add to a defense with young stars like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs, with Sam Williams being his first choice in the second round this April.
Williams could help ease the loss of Randy Gregory to the Broncos, but the Cowboys also have Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler Jr. carved out for this role. DeMarcus Lawrence rarely comes off the field at left end, another position Williams could be used at.
All of this depth ahead of Williams makes his path to playing time a battle. Practice time for unproven players that need it the most is what gets noticed, and Williams being a personal favorite prospect of Quinn already means he’ll have plenty of teachable moments. What Williams does with them to carve out a role where he sees the field as a rookie could determine just how much the Cowboys increase their pass rush, with secondary play being harder to translate from year to year than a strong pass rush.
DT Neville Gallimore
Sticking with the defensive line, Gallimore is a bit of a known commodity, but injuries have held him back from realizing his full potential in Dallas. Gallimore reportedly added weight this offseason in an effort to hold up better at the point of attack, playing the all-important three technique spot in Quinn’s scheme.
Protecting the front of the pocket is a priority for any offense, with the Cowboys being no exception after using the 24th overall pick on Tyler Smith. A player that can disrupt from the interior is a valuable asset, and at his best that’s what the Cowboys have in Gallimore. For as much as the Cowboys will be relying on youth and inexperience, there’s still plenty of veterans that haven’t consistently played at their ceiling yet on this roster.
TE Peyton Hendershot
The Cowboys depth chart at tight end behind Dalton Schultz is a crater the size of Dallas-Fort Worth. Schultz has used this as leverage in his ongoing negotiation for a long-term deal. Dallas drafted Jake Ferguson in the fourth round this year, a similar player to Schultz to develop and add depth.
As far as proven depth, they also have Sean McKeon and Jeremy Sprinkle. While the passing offense would certainly change if either had to play extended snaps, McKeon and Sprinkle are dependable blockers that know how to exist within this scheme.
Then there’s Indiana UDFA Peyton Hendershot. Some off-field concerns pushed Hendershot out of this year’s draft class, but he was a team captain as a senior and first-team All Big Ten tight end. At six-feet and four inches, Hendershot is a seam threat with good movement ability down the field and solid hands.
While it’s fair to say most of the focus will be on who Dak Prescott is throwing to outside the numbers during these practices, a healthy Prescott should have plenty of throws in him. Finding some for Hendershot is the only way he’ll prove what he can do. Hendershot has a wide catch radius and can be hard to tackle in space, so the traits are there should the practice reps find him.
WR Ty Fryfogle
Sticking with Indiana UDFAs on the Cowboys offense, Ty Fryfogle has a similar opportunity to Hendershot in lining up at a position of need for Dallas. Tolbert and Washington may be getting the first crack at being the next receivers to start alongside CeeDee Lamb, but Cowboys training camp always features a heavy dose of one-on-one receiver/defensive back drills.
Fryfogle is the type of player that can thrive here, changing directions well and snagging catches away from his body even when defenders stick to him. If he does everything right, Fryfogle’s ceiling could be to push second-year receiver Simi Fehoko for a role in the slot. At worst, a solid showing from Fryfogle could make him an important enough depth option to get stashed on the practice squad.
SAF Tyler Coyle
With the Cowboys having more starting jobs than usual up for grabs at training camp, it bodes well for depth players trying to come in behind these starters and make an impact. Mike McCarthy has always noted the importance of having great depth on a championship team, and the Cowboys certainly aren’t there yet. They’ll need depth to come from last year’s draft class as well as their current one, and players that have some experience already should prove to have the edge.
Tyler Coyle appeared in one game as a special teams player and the week 18 game at the Eagles on defense last year. The UDFA out of Purdue, who transferred there after playing most of his college career at UCONN, isn’t challenging Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, or Donovan Wilson for starting snaps. Instead, Coyle has to look up at only Israel Mukuamu and fellow UDFA Markquese Bell (a pet cat of many).
Coyle is a natural mover that can cover a deep half of the field with good athleticism and ability to play the ball in the air. The Cowboys like the veteran presence they have at safety, but are one injury away from relying on a player like Coyle to see more snaps than anyone is currently expecting right now.