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Cowboys training camp: CeeDee Lamb vs. Stephon Gilmore is a perfect iron sharpening battle

The Cowboys established WR1 has brought out the best in veteran CB Stephon Gilmore.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Individual matchups in team drills are always one of the highlights of training camp, and the Dallas Cowboys are no stranger to having top notch competition on both sides of the ball. Some position groups that have been a strength on the team for a while make these competitions seem routine. There’s one new competition this year though that helps show why this team could be different, and it’s between WR CeeDee Lamb and CB Stephon Gilmore.

Lamb is the established WR1 that’s helping the Cowboys solidify a position they’ve been trying to find some consistency at, while Gilmore was an early sign this offseason the Cowboys weren’t afraid to make an unexpected move and add to an existing strength. The way a team can field a consistent winner is to double down at their best position groups and make them an overwhelming strength, compared to going for star power at as many positions as possible. The Gilmore trade was a clear sign of this from the Cowboys, putting him in Dan Quinn’s scheme across from Trevon Diggs to give Dallas one of the best cornerback tandems in football.

So too was the Cowboys move for Brandin Cooks, who along with Lamb have already helped make the deep ball a more consistent part of Dak Prescott’s game in highlights from Oxnard. Lamb said “it sucks” having to regularly line up against Gilmore, but he is embracing the level of competition that will prepare him for seeing every opponent’s top defensive back as well.

Lamb’s practice routine includes route-running exercises, doing so both out wide and out of the slot to find space and make splash plays with the ball in his hands. It’s a great sign that Gilmore, in his 12th season, is up to the challenge of sticking with the shifty Lamb, and the other Cowboys receivers, creating competition from a cornerback that hasn’t been seen in practice in some time.

For a team that wants everything they do this season to be viewed through the lens of progressing in the playoffs and winning a Super Bowl after bowing out in the Divisional Round last year, the cohesion in the secondary is the next step for this defense staying elite. Veterans like Gilmore and Diggs, paired with up-and-coming talent in Daron Bland, Eric Scott Jr., and safeties Malik Hooker, Jayron Kearse, and Donovan Wilson, will have the support of an already established defensive front led by Micah Parsons, meaning that only the linebacker corps is in question this season.

The Cowboys own defense should be one of the best their offense goes against all year, all while installing a new scheme under Mike McCarthy. There’s plenty of places to look on the fields at Oxnard to see these camp battles in action, but the best place may just be Lamb and Gilmore, a sign this team has all the pieces to do more than just reclaim the NFC East from the Eagles.

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