clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cowboys training camp always reminds us we don’t know what we don’t know

Fans and even the media often see through a glass, darkly.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
An unexpected shout out.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

We always learn things during Dallas Cowboys training camp. This is true across the league, but because there is so much focus on Dallas year round both for the media and their fans (and haters), it seems more pronounced for them. While we all know about some of the main questions to be answered, the fun things, the entertaining trivia so to speak, are details emerging about which we had no idea.

In his Saturday presser, head coach Mike McCarthy dropped one of those.

OK, put your books down. Time for a pop quiz. How many of you had even heard of his name before? Maybe some remember him getting an interception in preseason last year, but for those who knew his name, how many were aware he was on the practice squad last year? I’ll concede you have to be really into details and minutia to know things like that. That’s the only reason I knew his name, because those facts and snippets are part of finding story ideas. Still, even though I am in the small subset of people who review the roster, including the PS, on a regular basis, I had no idea he was going to get a very nice mention from his head coach in front of the media.

It’s kind of significant that it came from McCarthy and not Dan Quinn or one of the defensive assistants. That means he is getting talked about among the staff, and standing out on the field. He might be running with second- and third-stringers, but that was how he made it on the practice squad in 2022. That is often the best path for UDFAs and late-round picks to at least get a foot in the door of NFL locker rooms. They are professional football players on the PS, too. The pay is not great compared to making the 53-man roster, but for them, it probably beats the heck out of whatever else they would have to do to earn a living. It can lead to promotion to that game day roster, and it lets them build connections that can help them down the road even if the pro football dream never really blossoms.

It also sometimes can put them in the right place at the right time, and being a backup safety for the opening days of Cowboys training camp is a golden opportunity. Both Donovan Wilson and Israel Mukuamu are out temporarily. That means more reps for the depth players, including some with the first team, the best place to learn and sharpen your skills. It is likely one reason McCarthy brought him up, since filling in during practices for the banged up Wilson and Mukuamu was certainly a topic of discussion in staff meetings. It cannot be overemphasized how important depth is to survive the long, violent NFL season. That is another way the practice squad should be used, to coach and develop its members, then bring back the promising ones to see how they fare in the next camp. Thomas was one of the first players the team signed to futures contracts after the end of their season in January.

Still, in the run-up to camp, most outside the organization saw him as having little to no chance to make the 53-man roster. Obviously, the view of him within the Dallas staff is quite different. And unforeseen, or at least not hoped for, circumstances have given him a great opportunity to try and fight his way onto the team. At the least, he is greatly increasing his chances of being signed to the PS again, and the coaches likely will have a lot of faith in him if he has to be called up at some point. It could be much more than that depending on how things shake out between now and the cut down.

Thomas’ journey is a reminder that the staff of the team know so much more than we do. They interact with the players, and the evaluation is constant, not just during the practices. Another great example was this information about Jalen Tolbert from offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

There were many that had already declared Tolbert a bust after his almost invisible first season, but once again, the coaches see things we have no idea about. Not just how the players perform and conduct themselves on the field, but their work ethic, preparation, and character. While they seldom speak negatively about any of them, pay attention to the praise. It can be telling.

We all can get excited about the emergence of UDFAs like Jalen Moreno-Cropper or John Stephens, but the returning players can be just as fun to watch. We see them grow and develop. While the top part of the Cowboys roster looks loaded with talent, depth is often the determinant for a successful season. Watching Thomas and other returning players down the depth chart make their climb in camp is quite entertaining. The fact that we didn’t see these things coming is just a reminder of how little we actually know about the inner dynamics of building the team for 2023.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys