One day does not make an entire training camp. Players who struggle in one practice are not destined to be cut at the end of camp, and players who show out are not guaranteed a roster spot. But the 2022 Dallas Cowboys’ season starts now, so we are finally gaining a glimpse into who will improve and which players could regress.
And Tuesday’s padded practice was no different. Some players fell short of expectations in the second practice of the week, but others surprised fans and the media. Here are a few standout and struggling performances from the sixth camp practice.
This might feel like a given because Parsons could be listed as a standout whenever he walks onto a football field. It is not bold to say that Parsons has been the best defender on the team.
But there is a reason he is a standout from today’s practice. Parsons looked exceptional in 2021, and a lot of what made him exceptional was his pass-rushing ability. If he was bullying the Cowboys lineman and getting to Dak, he would not have been a standout. Everyone knows the lion-backer can get to the QB.
The reason that Parsons is a winner is due to his improvement in finishing tackles. Parsons is arguably the best LB in the NFL, but this is an area where he could improve. Obviously, “improve” comes with an asterisk; he was amazing at finishing plays but not perfect.
For example, Parsons finished 2021 with the same amount of missed tackles as Leighton Vander Esch. He played nearly 250 more snaps than LVE, so it is reasonable, but nevertheless, an area he could improve. And he has been bringing the boom lately.
The camera interrupts the shot, but Micah Parsons just took the soul of Christian Sam in ball carrier drill. Every media member stunned after the embarrassment. pic.twitter.com/qmepwn8EN3— Shan Shariff (@1053SS) August 2, 2022
Add in the fact that he has also worked on his lateral quickness, and things start to get scary.
Watch Micah Parsons close on Tony Pollard in a sprint down the sideline pic.twitter.com/EHp5WxwStc— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) August 1, 2022
If we just evaluate Parsons’ improvement based on today’s practice, he could be a faster, more aggressive version of himself without losing a step in the pass rush. That combination is DPOY material, so it would be an error to leave Parsons off this list.
This could be expanded to say the entire defensive line impressed in today’s practice. By all accounts, they were making Prescott’s time today miserable (we will get to that). Sam Williams and Demarcus Lawrence both could have been listed as individual standouts. But Trysten Hill deserves his time in the sun.
Hill was all over the field today. Is Prescott trying to get off a clean throw? Hill has different plans. Put in Cooper Rush to change things up? He is going to be scrambling for his life while Hill chases him. Does Ezekiel Elliott want a chance to tote the rock? Hill is already waiting in the hole.
Trysten Hill, active today, going after Dak Prescott and next play DeMarcus Lawrence almost with a sack. Prescott was incomplete on both throws.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) August 2, 2022
Brandon Smith with fantastic focus to finish this catch, after Trysten Hill chased Cooper Rush out of the pocket. pic.twitter.com/PsVqveQnVm— David Helman (@davidhelman_) August 2, 2022
I spy Trysten Hill shedding & meeting Zeke in the hole. pic.twitter.com/MALSs6tyQS— David Helman (@davidhelman_) August 2, 2022
This is big news for a defensive line with question marks at the defensive tackle position. As of now, few, if any, defensive tackles should be considered safe to make the cut, and the starters are still in question. So, for Hill to have this big of a day after his ACL injury last season is great news.
Cowboys WR Depth
In one of the more surprising storylines from Tuesday’s practice, the wide receiving room might be okay. In the first outing after James Washington fractured his foot, the remaining WRs impressed. And CeeDee Lamb won’t even be included in this discussion.
KaVontae Turpin is evolving into the player the Cowboys signed him to be. When he gets the ball into his hands, he is nothing but speed and agility. Granted, this is during a portion of camp where defenders are not giving 100% to make a tackle. But the arrow is pointing up for Turpin.
Man, Kavontae Turpin has got some juice. Just seems like he vanishes on would-be tacklers, sometimes. Obviously it’s still early on, and there’s not a ton of true tackling going on… but he just oozes evasiveness.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) August 2, 2022
And then, if you want to dig even deeper, Brandon Smith made a few impressive catches on the day. Dennis Houston, another UDFA, seems to have formed an early connection with Prescott. Two receivers, both questionable to make the final 53-man, looked solid while everyone panics about WR depth.
Jalen Tolbert hauled in a deep ball from Dak, and Dalton Schultz capped off a “mojo moment” with a touchdown catch while two seconds expired off the clock. So, it was a solid outing all around from a position group that is now in question.
Listing Prescott as a struggling player should be contextualized first. By all accounts, Dak had an excellent day during the first practice of the week. But he followed up a solid practice with a poor performance on Tuesday.
The receiving group is listed as a winner partially because they had plenty of opportunities to make impressive catches on errant passes from Prescott. And CeeDee wasn't listed in the WR discussion because Prescott kept missing him deep when he was wide open.
Dak missed CeeDee in the intermediate deep area for the 3rd time today while open. Not throwing it great today.— Jeff Cavanaugh (@timeforjeffrey) August 2, 2022
Dak looking for CeeDee, but misses high pic.twitter.com/0mZQhxrf6v— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) August 2, 2022
Overthrowing receivers on deep passes seems to be the story of the day for Prescott. While he was able to hit Schultz for a TD after he escaped the pocket during today’s mojo moment, that was really the only positive.
Part of this is due to the defensive line impressing in today’s practice. But for the most part, the offensive line looked fine. It was just a down day for the Cowboys’ signal caller and fans should not place too much stock in it.
Things are starting to get ugly. Because while Lirim Hajrullahu and Jonathan Garibay have been rotating, one looking decent and the other looking abysmal, the wheels fell off for both kickers today.
Lirim Hajrullahu & Jonathan Garibay both just got the chance at 3 attempts from long range, in front of the team. Mojo Moment setting.— David Helman (@davidhelman_) August 2, 2022
Combined 1/6, with the lone make coming from Hajrullahu.
We just witnessed the most consecutive missed kicks that we’ve witnessed in 11 years out here @1053thefan— Shan Shariff (@1053SS) August 2, 2022
After the first kicking competition, Hajrullahu appeared to have the upper hand. Yesterday, Garibay was slightly more impressive. But today, it was just horrible for both parties. It is getting to the point where a veteran addition is desperately needed.
Maybe one of these two kickers figures it out. Maybe both of them starts performing under pressure. But right now, the kicking situation seems dire, and if the Cowboys started the season tomorrow, the real source of panic would come from special teams. It has not been pretty, and it only seems to be getting worse.
It was not a perfect day of practice by any means. But if you disregard the kicking ills and missed passes, today was a solid outing. A standout that could have been listed is “energy” because every player seemed hungry to get after it today.
This is the most fiery we’ve seen practice yet. Trevon Diggs is talking trash. The coaches are talking trash. The intensity is amplifying, play after play.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) August 2, 2022
There are still nearly two weeks remaining until the Cowboys' first preseason matchup. The road to the final 53-man roster is long and will assuredly come with a few twists and turns. So, do not put too much stock in performances from a single practice, but it is worth keeping an eye on. Because if Dallas needs to fix an issue, they better start now.