During training camp, we tend to focus a lot on who will make the 53-man roster for the Dallas Cowboys. There is a lot more going on, of course, with installing plays and getting the players comfortable with who they will be sharing the field. Something else happens that is rather subtle. Many veteran players are going to be with the team as depth. Finding and fitting the right role is important for them. Here are some that have me, at least, intrigued.
WR Noah Brown
With Michael Gallup expected to miss several games at the start of the season, most are penciling James Washington in to join with CeeDee Lamb and rookie Jalen Tolbert as the three starting wide receivers in 11 personnel. Brown seems to be fairly secure as one of the other WRs to make the team. He was signed to a one-year contract, an overlooked move this offseason and perhaps why Stephen Jones seems content to sit and count his cap dollars rather than sign another free agent WR. That one-year deal means that Brown is not only competing for a spot, he is also looking to build a résumé for another contract somewhere next year.
However, he may have a real chance to be the WR3, at least pending Gallup’s return. He and Washington are competing for the role Cedrick Wilson played, which has been characterized as a Swiss army knife one. At 6-2 and 222 lbs, he is big enough to go up and fight for balls and should have the durability to mix it up in shallow crossing routes. While the $22 million contract Wilson commanded with the Miami Dolphins made keeping Brown over him a cap conscious move, hopefully the staff sees some talent to exploit. Tolbert also may need a bit of time to adjust to the NFL, so there could well be an opportunity for Brown to be much more involved this season than last.
OL Matt Farniok
The 2021 seventh-round pick is probably fighting for a backup role. The other likely options for the team are Connor McGovern, assuming Tyler Smith is ready to start at LG, and UDFA Alec Lindstrom. This looks pretty good for Farniok, who has the flexibility to be a backup at both center and guard. It all may come down to how many the team carries. If they go with three, Farniok should be one of them. If they just go with two, he should also have a leg up on Lindstrom, and might even be higher on the depth chart than McGovern. And if you take a long range view, the staff may have thoughts of grooming him to step in at center after Tyler Biadasz’s contract expires.
DE Chauncey Golston
This is one of the most interesting things to watch. Golston started to come into his own late last season. Most of the discussion around him is about being part of the group the team is planning on to replace Randy Gregory’s snaps from 2021. But he may be playing to become DeMarcus Lawrence’s primary backup on the other side. Dan Quinn likes to use a heavy rotation to keep his defensive linemen fresh. That means someone needs to spell Lawrence during games. Golston looks to have the tools to do so. His main competition for the LDE2 job looks to be Tarell Basham or Dante Fowler, but they will likely wind up on the right side most of the time.
S Donovan Wilson
He was a sixth-round pick, so just having a solid grip on one of the safety spots is not a bad accomplishment. Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker have the top two spots locked down. But Kearse spends a lot of time up in the box as a hybrid linebacker, which could give Wilson more reps on running downs. That is probably where he will see the most action. He’s in the last year of his rookie deal, so like Brown he is playing for a second contract somewhere. If he looks good but not too good, he may be an inexpensive signing with Dallas next year. In the short term, though, it would be better for the team if he winds up more like Wilson and generates a real market for his services.
CB Nahshon Wright
Dallas spent a third-round pick on him last season, and he did not do much to justify it as a rookie. Part of that may have been that Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis were just too good to have off the field so Wright could get more reps. That is hopefully not going to change, so Wright is going to have to do most of his impressing in practices and on special teams. He is not expensive at all, so he should have that opportunity.
Those are five veterans who may be trying to prove their worth to the staff while not seeing the field a lot during the regular season, although Noah Brown may wind up with at least a temporary starting role. Depth is vital in the NFL. Good quality is necessary, and all five of these will have a chance to fill that need.