Dallas Cowboys football is back! The boys in blue and silver have landed in Oxnard, California, meaning training camp is officially underway. This is an exciting time for Cowboys Nation. We will finally get some answers to some of the unknowns surrounding this year’s team, while also putting months and months of speculation to rest.
Today, we will take a look at a handful of things we’d like to see from the Cowboys in training camp. Accountability from both the coaching staff and players arguably sits atop the list after the way the 2021 season played out, but that’s difficult to judge in practice and preseason. For now we will put that on the back burner, but here are a few other things we hope to see come to fruition.
Finally use Tony Pollard to his full potential
To say Tony Pollard has been underutilized in his first three years with the Dallas Cowboys is an understatement. Yes, we all know he’s playing second fiddle behind Ezekiel Elliott in the running game, but even that’s no excuse for not increasing his workload after the way he’s performed when given the opportunity. It’s time for that to change.
Entering a contract year, the Cowboys have one last chance to finally utilize No. 20 to his full potential. Pollard is a versatile playmaker whether it’s as a runner or receiver out of the backfield, and its way past time to use him as such. He should see a significant increase in touches in 2022 and hopefully we start seeing that happen in training camp.
Tyler Smith cement himself as the sure-fire starting left guard
With Connor Williams gone via free agency to the Miami Dolphins, the Cowboys need someone to step into that vacant left guard spot to help solidify the offensive line for the upcoming 2022 season. While Tyler Smith was primary a left tackle during his time in Tulsa, he was drafted in the first-round to hopefully be Williams’ replacement from the get go.
Smith has a pre-required skill set (size, agility, athleticism) to become a top-notch starting caliber offensive guard, but kicking inside to a new position he’s not too familiar with is a lot to ask for a rookie. He will be given all the help he needs to settle in as quickly as possible at left guard and hopefully that’s what we see from him early on in training camp.
Malik Hooker healthy and active on the backend of Dallas’ secondary
The Cowboys are known as a team who don’t mind gambling on certain players and Malik Hooker is the latest. They decided to re-sign him in the offseason to a two-year deal, and as things stand right now he’s the best starting option they have opposite Jayron Kearse for the upcoming 2022 season.
The former Top 15 pick is as talented a free safety as the Cowboys have had in recent memory, but his well documented season-ending injuries raise big red flags. If he can remain completely healthy throughout the season he can be a true difference maker on the backend of Dallas’ secondary, but if not, he’s a liability. Hopefully, now being two years removed from his season-ending Achilles injury sees him return to that Top 15 form.
Leighton Vander Esch plays like his former Pro Bowl self
In Micah Parsons the Cowboys have an absolute superstar in the making, but behind him things are a little bit up in the air on the depth chart. Leighton Vander Esch is expected to play a more significant role in 2022, however, his known injury history raises concern due to the lack of a starting experience and playing time behind him.
The Cowboys really need No. 55 to pick up where he left off in the latter part of the 2021 season. He played much more like he did in his rookie season in 2017 when he last made the Pro Bowl. That’s the player Dallas’ defense needs this year and the player we hopefully see show up in training camp practices and preseason games.
Someone emerges from the pack at WR and DE
Here’s a kind of two-for-one deal for all of you. When it comes to both the wide receiver and defensive end positions for the Cowboys, they absolutely have to figure out the depth chart behind their only sure-fire starters, CeeDee Lamb and DeMarcus Lawrence. While they have intriguing depth at both positions, someone has to emerge from the pack.
Dante Fowler, Tarell Basham, Dorance Armstrong, Chauncey Golston, and Sam Williams will be competing to replace Randy Gregory opposite D-Law at right defensive end, but who’s the favorite to win the job is anyone’s guess right now. And the same goes for WR with James Washington, Jalen Tolbert, Noah Brown, among others who need to step up.