(Football season is finally approaching. After a long offseason, the Cowboys are set to depart for training camp on July 25. 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 2019.)
FRISCO, Texas – It happens every year. A player heads into training camp as an unknown, and he finishes the season as a Pro Bowler, or a fan favorite.
We definitely saw it play out last year. Leighton Vander Esch got to camp as a scrutinized first-round pick, and he finished his rookie season in the Pro Bowl. Antwaun Woods was an unknown name when he got to Oxnard, and he played his way into a starting role.
What will that look like in 2019? Who is going to elevate his level of play to the next level, or who is going to come out of nowhere and make people take notice?
That's the topic of today's question, as we look for an emerging star on this year's roster.
Mickey Spagnola: Let me give you two star candidates: Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins. The Cowboys like Quinn at right defensive end. No, check that. They really like Quinn, the ninth-year veteran they traded for this offseason. Remember, the guy did have 6.5 sacks last year, but consider playing opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, who is sure to attract marquee attention, along with those trio of linebackers needing attention behind him. That should provide him more one-on-one opportunities while rushing the quarterback. As for Collins, who is in a contract season, he's always been on the verge of breaking out at the all-important three-technique defensive tackle spot, only to be derailed by various injuries. From the looks of things in offseason practices, Collins is healthy, and if this guy stays healthy defensive coordinator Rob Marinelli might have just found him his next Warren Sapp. Sapp? No, seriously.
David Helman: I might be cheating a bit here, considering that Randall Cobb has been to a Pro Bowl. But I don't care – he's never played in a Dallas uniform before. Simply put, I think this guy is going to be amazing. He's got the quickness and the route running ability to work close to the line of scrimmage; he also possesses the straight line speed and play making ability to make things happen further down the field. He already has a good relationship with Dak, and he's got Amari Cooper, Zeke Elliott and Jason Witten to keep defenses from focusing on him. If he can stay healthy, I think he's going to be amazing in this offense.
Lindsay Draper: My star-to-be hails from the tight ends group, and it's not 82. Blake Jarwin stepped into his own last season in the absence of Witten, where his development came to fruition. I've been in the camp of hoping the Cowboys would draft a tight end in recent years, but Blake Jarwin is morphing into that big, athletic pass-catcher. Don't forget his phenom game in Week 17 of last season, where he hauled in three touchdowns. With Kellen Moore in the mix, I hope he channels Jarwin into this offense to be big threat this season, because he's shown he's physically capable of being a star.
Nick Eatman: Maybe this is because he was a projected first-round pick and fell to the second round last year. Maybe this is because I've seen him working out almost every single day this offseason and has totally transformed his body. Or maybe it's how he played against Aaron Donald in the last game of the season. Either way, I'm thinking Connor Williams takes a big leap here in Year 2 of his career. Who knows if he eventually moves to tackle, but Williams is going to play really well at guard this year. So well that I believe he will make it very difficult to switch positions in 2020. Can this offensive line have four legit Pro Bowlers? Maybe so, especially if Williams takes the leap that I'm projecting.