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Cowboys stock watch: Risers and fallers from the first week of practices

It’s still early, but who’s making the right and wrong kind of noise in Oxnard so far?

Syndication: Ventura County Star JUAN CARLO/THE STAR / USA TODAY NETWORK

The first full week of Dallas’ 2023 training camp is in the books. Which Cowboys have been getting the most positive press so far in Oxnard, and who may be hurting their bids for a roster spot this season?

To be fair, we only have so much information on what’s happening at camp. Way more is happening on the practice field and in meetings than we get to see, so these impressions may not be consistent with the coaches' and front office’s feelings about certain guys.

Still, it’s rare that the eventual decisions at final cuts don’t align fairly well with the noise that does come out of camp. Between the media and a strong fan presence with their smartphones, there’s a lot of coverage happening in Oxnard. We tend to get a pretty accurate feel for who’s up and down.

Based on the first week, here are some guys who seem to have helped and hurt their job security so far.

Stock Up

WR KaVontae Turpin

Is the return specialist finally carving out an offensive role? Turpin has been noted on a few highlight plays, using his speed and agility to get open against man coverage and give Dak Prescott a target.

Watching Turpin work his defender reminds you of Cole Beasley, who emerged as a household name with Prescott from 2016-2018. Guys who can consistently create separation on shorter routes are gold for quarterbacks and can flourish in West Coast schemes, which Dallas is reportedly moving towards this year.

The Cowboys could easily keep Turpin on the roster for his special teams work alone. But if the former USFL MVP is now able to add more offensive value, he’ll be a virtual lock.

QB Will Grier

Multiple reports have Grier outshining Cooper Rush so far on the practice field. While we still need to see how that translates to preseason games, it’s at least a step toward a true battle for the backup job in 2023.

Grier’s potential rise isn’t that surprising. The former third-round pick is in his third season with Dallas and has a playing style suited to the West Coast scheme. Rush may need more time to adapt to whatever changes Mike McCarthy and Brian Schottenheimer are bringing to the offense.

While Rush’s experience and relationship with Prescott will always help his value, Grier could convince the coaches that he’s their best chance to win games if the backup QB is needed. What happens in the preseason will hopefully help make this clearer.

DT Mazi Smith

While Smith certainly wasn’t entering camp on a low as a first-round pick last April, there’s always that concern for how draft hype will manifest when the pads come on. So far, Smith has looked like the mauler that Dallas hoped for.

Smith’s raw power already appears to be special, with clips of him rag-dolling an offensive lineman and occupying multiple blockers generating excitement. He also seems to have the attitude you want in the middle of the trenches; something we haven’t seen much of from defensive tackles since the days of Jay Ratliff.

Stock Down

RB Ronald Jones

The veteran earned a two-game suspension from the NFL for violating the performance-enhancing substance policy. While he claims it was for a prescribed medicine for a heart issue, the guaranteed missing of two games certainly doesn’t help his claim for a roster spot.

If the decision-makers truly prefer Jones to other RB prospects then the suspension won’t matter. They can weather that storm for a couple of weeks and eventually move a guy like Malik Davis or Rico Dowdle back to the practice squad. But if Jones doesn’t distinguish himself from the younger guys, the suspension could easily be a factor that eventually costs him a roster spot.

WR Simi Fehoko

Arguably the worst clip so far from camp was on Fehoko; a tipped ball that led to an overly-discussed interception. Dak Prescott hit Fehoko right on the money and he just muffed it, allowing Eric Scott to pick it off and putting his QB in the crosshairs of the ignorant national media.

Of course, everyone makes mistakes and errant plays. But for a guy coming into camp on shaky ground as it is, Fehoko can’t afford many negative moments. With other receivers like Turpin and rookies Jalen Brooks and Jalen Moreno-Cooper on the right side of camp plays, Fehoko may be in trouble when the music stops.

OL Josh Ball

Ball has been getting first-team reps at right guard during Zack Martin’s holdout. So far, Ball’s looked inept in the role and only seems to be cementing the end of his run in Dallas.

When the Cowboys made Ball a fourth-round pick in 2021, he was seen as having Day 2 talent but his stock was hurt by domestic violence allegations from college. But instead of being a steal, Ball has barely justified a roster spot and forced Dallas to keep looking for more offensive line depth.

His use as RG1 over the last week was probably more out of typical veteran deference early in camp; he’s been here longer than most other prospects. But now that Matt Farniok and rookie T.J. Bass are reportedly getting more of those first-team reps, Ball’s opportunity to save his job is likely coming to a close.

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