The Dallas Cowboys are done is in sunny California as they wrapped up their final practice in Oxnard on Wednesday. With the team heading on to the preseason, this is a good time to review what we have seen so far and hand out some training camp grades as we break down each position group.
Everything is as pretty much as expected at the quarterback position. Dak Prescott has had both good moments and bad moments, which is par for the course for him. Cooper Rush has been his unsexy but reliable self. Third-string QB Will Grier has been making some nice plays in camp and he’s even splitting second-team reps with Rush. The quality from the backup group should serve as effective arms to give us something meaningful to watch in preseason.
Both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard have looked fantastic so far in camp. If both can stay healthy, they will surely be one of the league's top dynamic duo running back tandems this year. Even Rico Dowdle has looked good from what little we’ve seen. The only thing that remains to be seen is how the team’s running backs will be used once real football begins.
The WR group took a hit after the James Washington injury, but they haven’t missed a beat. CeeDee Lamb has looked sensational. Rookie Jalen Tolbert looks miles ahead of schedule as he’s showing out in camp. Noah Brown looks ready to take a nice leap this year. Simi Fehoko is making some noise so that could be a thing now. USFL MVP KaVontae Turpin is now in the mix and has a firm hold on the return responsibilities. And we can’t forget how this year’s UDFA pet cat Dennis Houston is doing all the right things mentally where he could sneak his way on the team’s 53-man roster. While this group still contains a lot of uncertainty, there are certainly plenty of reasons to be hopeful.
Both the veteran Jeremy Sprinkle and the rookie Jake Ferguson missed some practice time with injuries. Sprinkle is dealing with an Achilles injury while Ferguson is recovering from a tweaked hamstring. Both the team’s top tight ends, Dalton Schultz and Sean McKeon, have looked good, and these two alone offer the team a nice pass-catching/in-line blocking one-two punch. but their depth just hasn’t had much of an opportunity to show itself.
The first hit this group took was when rookie Matt Waletzko went down with a shoulder injury that will likely require surgery. And the other unproven swing candidate Josh Ball has had some tough practices. Even Terence Steele hasn’t had the best showing so far in camp. All these things point to a very worrisome tackle position group unless something changes soon. On the positive side, Tyron Smith feels great so let’s hope that lasts or an already bad situation will become even worse.
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE
The rookie Tyler Smith has been as good as advertised as the kid has been seen overpowering his man as he’s flattened both Trysten Hill and Osa Odiggizuwa in practice. With each new day, the rook keeps getting better and better. Zack Martin is about as consistent of a player as they have on the roster. Even center Tyler Biadasz has added some weight and has looked okay in camp. It’s amazing how having maulers on each side can help your game.
The Cowboys' edge rushers have been dominating the offense so far in camp. Led by the ultra competitiveness of Micah Parsons, the pressure has been early and often. Dorance Armstrong is taking over the right defensive end spot vacated by Randy Gregory. He’s been relatively quiet with a pressure here or a pass deflection there, but that’s just how he rolls. Rookie second-round pick Sam Williams is off to a nice start and has even showcased some coverage ability in camp. With a healthy DeMarcus Lawrence, this looks to be a much more formidable edge-rushing group than some might expect.
INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE
This could be the strongest group of interior defenders the Cowboys have had in a while as the collection of young defensive tackles they’ve acquired over the past few years is starting to make noise. Neville Gallimore has looked great in camp, and other guys like Osa Odighizuwa and Chauncey Golston are performing very well. Even Trysten Hill has had his moments. While there is no star-level talent at the top of this group, the Cowboys appear to have some quality depth at the position.
The addition of free agent Anthony Barr has created some relief at the linebacker position and just like that the team has vastly improved its depth. Jabril Cox will be eased into action as he’ll be put on a rep count after the young linebacker continues to recover from a torn ACL from a year ago. With Leighton Vander Esch back and Parsons playing a hybrid role, the team is in good shape, and that doesn’t even factor in how they utilize safety Jayron Kearse at the line of scrimmage.
After a really solid year in 2021, Anthony Brown continues to show great improvement under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Brown is a player who has excellent makeup speed, but always seemed to live on the outer limits of either giving up too much separation or being overly grabby. In camp, it’s been none of those things as he’s anticipating plays a lot better and has added some suddenness to his footwork.
Anthony Brown is the best player in camp, & I’m positive we didn’t have that on our bingo cards. pic.twitter.com/8ggZeKVrJb— David Helman (@davidhelman_) August 8, 2022
All the starting corners are playing well despite last year’s All-Pro Trevon Diggs showing up in a bad light on a few plays, but that’s nothing that should be concerning. What is disappointing, however, is how Kelvin Joseph isn’t doing much to make a push for any additional reps. In fact, the other second-year corner from last year’s draft, Nahshon Wright, has shown greater improvement thus far.
Jayron Kearse continues to prove that he was worth the re-investment the team made in him this spring as he fits the defense of Dan Quinn and Joe Whitt, Jr. like a glove. His versatility has been exploited as they are playing him everywhere. Malik Hooker and Donovan Wilson haven’t made the same amount of noise as Kearse has, but they have been solid in the Cowboys' three-safety look. UDFA rookie Markquese Bell has performed well in team drills and has been applauded for his preparation as he makes a strong push for a roster spot.
Normally, we don’t allocate a spot for kickers because nobody wants to talk about them, and when they do, it’s probably not good. Unfortunately, that is the case here as the Cowboys find themselves in a bit of a pickle with their field goal-maker guy. The Cowboys started off with the rookie Jonathan Garibay as their only kicker on the roster only to bring in the veteran Liram Hajrullahu. Neither was impressive, but Garibay was so bad he kicked himself out of a job. Hajrullahu is now competing with Brett Maher, who the team signed earlier this week after a short workout. Maher’s time in Dallas was filled with its own zaniness, but he does own the Cowboys record for their three longest kicks. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out, but so far this is a big ol’ failure for the kicking game.