When it comes to roster turnover, the Dallas Cowboys are fortunate in that the majority of their starters on both offense and defense will be reprising their starting roles from a season ago. Heading into training camp this year they have very few starting jobs up for grabs, and even those already potentially have players waiting in the wings to take over.
Due to the significant trades Dallas made to bring in both CB Stephon Gilmore and WR Brandin Cooks, it could be argued the Cowboys have already upgraded their roster from a season ago. Those two players alone took care of their biggest offseason team “needs” and the other jobs up for grabs are expected to see players being promoted from within.
There are few concerns with all of the established veterans the Cowboys will have starting for them in 2023, however, the same can’t be said about some of the young players who are expected to be promoted from within the organization. Whether it’s their youth or inexperience, some of these first- and second-year players will need to prove their worth starting in training camp.
LB Damone Clark
Damone Clark was limited to just five starts as a rookie last season after undergoing spinal fusion surgery to repair a herniated disc. In those starts though he proved to be more than a capable starter in the league, however, what he has yet to really prove is his sustainability in the league and that’s hopefully something is able to accomplish in training camp, preseason, and throughout the regular season.
No. 33 is someone the Cowboys are highly dependent on this season. Starting experience is scarce at LB right now. Clark has more starting experience than any other LB currently on the roster not named Leighton Vander Esch or Micah Parsons. That’s a pretty big red flag heading into the 2023 season, which is why the second-year LB needs to prove his worth as a sustainable starter this year.
TE Jake Ferguson
Jake Ferguson has some tough shoes to fill. Replacing one of Dak Prescott’s favorite targets in the passing game the past few years, Dalton Schultz, Ferguson will have to prove he’s up to the task in training camp and preseason. In 16 games with eight starts as a rookie he showed flashes of someone who is capable of being a starting tight end in the NFL, but as of yet, hasn’t done it as a full-time starter.
The second-year TE will not only have to hold off Luke Schoonmaker, Dallas’ second-round pick this year, but also proven he’s capable of being Dalton Schultz’ full-time replacement as the starter. That’s no easy thing to do, but something that will be much-needed considering how much the Cowboys offense utilizes the tight end position. That’s a lot of pressure on No. 87 heading into 2023.
DT Mazi Smith
The Cowboys decided to make the former Michigan Wolverine DT Mazi Smith the first defensive tackle they’ve drafted in the first-round since 1991 when they selected Russell Maryland No. 1 overall. As a first-round pick there are certain expectations that go along with that draft status, the least of which is to become a significant contributor early on in his first-year in the NFL, perhaps more.
At 6’3”, 337-pounds, Mazi Smith is expected to immediately upgrade Dallas’ run defense, however, there is a belief he can be more than just a run stopper. His strength, physicality, and athletic ability for a player his size should also help him as an interior pass rusher as well. While expectations are certainly high for him as a rookie, he’s still unproven at the NFL level as of right now. Proving himself starts in training camp.