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Cowboys training camp: Maybe the kids are alright at WR

Jerry said they liked their guys.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp
The rookie is just one of the inexperienced WRs having himself a camp.
Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

While the Dallas Cowboys finally did something to address depth issues, it was at linebacker with the signing of Anthony Barr. That still leaves a few other areas of concern. One of the most talked about is wide receiver, where the experience level took a big hit with the injury of James Washington. As you may have heard, that leaves the team with only CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown who have ever caught a pass in a regular season NFL game until Michael Gallup is able to return from his injury. Lamb is only in his third season, while Brown has seen very limited use so far in his career with a grand total of 39 catches over four seasons, none of them for a touchdown. With a stated approach of having no urgency to sign another veteran receiver, the plan seems to be to roll with those two plus a third-round rookie, a second-year player who saw no real game action last season, and a whole bunch of current and former UDFAs. The odds seem long that it will work out.

Well, the staff seems to be channeling Han Solo in not wanting to hear the odds. And during Thursday’s training camp practice in Oxnard, those receivers were doing everything they could to prove they were ready for the challenge.

And working a shorter route was T.J. Vasher, who already has the catch of the camp under his belt.

Could the Cowboys pull this off? Healthy skepticism is still warranted. These are just camp practices. The preseason games may tell a different story, much less the regular season. But this hardly looks like a botched receiver by committee situation such as Dallas tried to work with in 2018. That, of course, was so bad that they had to trade away their 2019 first-round pick to bring in Amari Cooper to salvage things. Ironically, the decision to trade Cooper away for a pittance was a major factor in causing all the concern at receiver. They also elected to not try and keep Cedrick Wilson, who might be contending for a starting job were he still on the team.

Jerry and Stephen Jones have both said words to the effect of “we like our guys” when asked about the wide receiver situation. It is worth noting that the names mentioned above, except for Tolbert, all are players who have been with the team for at least one season, even if not on the field for games. Coaches have some idea of the players and their work ethic that may have inspired some confidence in the bunch. The leading 2022 UDFA appears to be Dennis Houston. He did not show up in the chatter Thursday, but has been getting a lot of work with the ones and twos previously and has done well.

The real key will be the top three WRs until Gallup is back in the mix. Lamb is the unquestioned WR1. Jalen Tolbert is having an outstanding rookie camp and probably has a starting job all but locked down. And it looks like Brown will fill out that trio.

So if they have those three and a couple of good backups, probably two of Simi Fehoko, Vasher, and Houston, this may be a viable set of targets for Dak Prescott.

Further, wide receivers are not the only ones who have a role in the passing game. Dalton Schultz makes plays every practice, and is usually the one Prescott looks for when he has to improvise under pressure. We all hope that Tony Pollard gets more involved as a receiver to utilize his skills and talent. Even Ezekiel Elliott was getting into the act with a play that would be very nice to see crop up in the regular season.

There’s even a wild card in KaVontae Turpin. He was acquired mainly to give the team another option for punt and kick returns, but he is also showing some impressive ability when used as a slot receiver. He also could be very dangerous on jet sweeps, sort of an adjunct to the passing game.

Again, we’re just talking practices. But all of these players have run good routes and hauled in most of the balls that get close. They look the part of NFL receivers, something that was sorely lacking during the failed 2018 experiment. With some creative help from Kellen Moore, the team just might make this work, and work well.

Reserve some judgment until the games start to count. We can still admit that things are looking a lot better than we imagined just a couple of weeks ago.

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