(At long last, the NFL season is in sight. After a long offseason, the Cowboys are set to depart for training camp on July 24. During this final month before they begin practice in Oxnard, Calif., the staff of DallasCowboys.com is going to preview the 20 biggest questions facing the Cowboys heading into 2018.)
FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys are, admittedly, a young football team.
Only three players on the roster are age 30 or older: linebacker Sean Lee, long snapper L.P. Ladouceur and kicker Dan Bailey. Two of their stars, quarterback Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, are only two years out of college.
This year, the team will rely largely on young players to help them win games – including the rookies.
That's the next item in our preseason preview:
10) Who will be the most impactful rookie?
Lindsay Draper: This is FUN … I could probably give you a reason why four or five of these Cowboys rookies could be the most impactful. But I'm riding with Michael Gallup! Personally, my biggest point of interest going into this season is how creative, different and dynamic this offense is going to look. As a fan, I know you're excited about the potential. New faces, new youth, new pieces to the puzzle, new speed, new options. In the shuffle of all this change, Gallup is going to quietly and confidently ease right into the mix. I know our excitement about college accolades dies down from the time of the draft to training camp. But as a senior at Colorado State, Gallup was a Biletnikoff finalist, had a school-record 100 receptions for 1,413 yards and seven touchdowns, and a host of other accomplishments.
Rob Phillips: Since I basically pinned the Cowboys' playoff hopes on Connor Williams in yesterday's 20 Questions entry – a slight exaggeration – I'll go with the second-round pick. He's the only rookie who got pretty consistent first-team reps in the offseason, so for now, he has the best chance to contribute early. I just think he fits the Cowboys' philosophy for this line: quick, agile, able to get to the second level and make blocks. He might need a full offseason next year to get stronger, as most young linemen do, but word is he's a diligent guy and wants to learn quickly from the veterans in this group.
David Helman: Sorry if I'm a broken record, but it's got to be Connor Williams. For starters, I assume he's the only rookie that's going to be playing 100 percent of the snaps. Gallup will be competing with a ton of guys for playing time, and it's a good bet that Leighton Vander Esch will be sharing snaps with Jaylon Smith. Williams should be the starting left guard from Day 1, and he is an immediate talent upgrade at that position. Back during our draft coverage, Bryan Broaddus and I speculated that Williams might be a first-round pick – and the Cowboys got him at No. 50 overall. Playing between All-Pros like Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, I expect Williams to help the O-Line get back to its dominant form.
Nick Eatman: I've been all over the map with this question. I understand why Williams make the most sense because he'll probably start and play the most. But that doesn't mean he'll have a huge impact. I think Vander Esch and Gallup will both play and contribute. I think linebacker Chris Covington might actually play the most of anyone other than Williams. He'll make the team and be on all special teams units and has that speed and size to be a real impactful player on teams.