(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 – In late April, as Stephen Jones walked the hallway to the press conference room following the team’s final pick of draft weekend, the Cowboys’ chief operating officer reflected on the state of the current roster.
“We were just talking about how this could really be one of our better, if not the best, competitive camps that we’ve had in a long time,” Jones said.
With eight draft picks and several undrafted signings who had draftable grades, the Cowboys indeed have added more competition to several positions on the roster.
Which is the most intriguing camp battle we’ll see when the Cowboys get to Oxnard, California? That’s the next installment in our 20 Questions series.
Nick Eatman: I don’t know if it’s a battle yet, but I can promise you we’ll be watching the kickers much as more than we did last year. And by that, I mean plural – kickers. We were all surprised that Brett Maher was even competing with Dan Bailey until the veteran was shockingly cut at the end of camp in favor of Maher. Now, even though his on-the-roster backup – Kasey Redfern – is more of a punter, we will definitely be tracking all kicks by both of them. Especially keeping an eye on Maher, knowing that if he has the Cowboys even somewhat concerned, that there could be some other veterans on the street that could be coming in for a workout.
Lindsay Draper: Not only are they a good change of pace during the monotony of camp practices, it’ll be a necessity to watch the wide receiver group to know how this team will take shape. Beyond Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, and possibly Allen Hurns – who’s next? Noah Brown and Lance Lenoir have spent some decent time competing, and shown flashes, but there needs to be a big one at training camp. And what does Cobb’s signing mean for Tavon Austin? How many receivers will the Cowboys end up carrying this year? I’m both excited and hopeful to see Michael Gallup’s progress this training camp. It seemed like every game last year, he made some sort of improvement to his game. Not to mention, I chose Dak Prescott as my training camp MVP, so let’s see how all this summer chemistry building translates in August.
Mickey Spagnola: Not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but not many, if any, battles for starting positions should be going on during training camp, health provided. One spot, maybe, would be the three-technique DT spot. Returning starter Maliek Collins should be the front-runner, but assuming Robert Quinn becomes the three-down right defensive end, that would spare Tyrone Crawford to compete for snaps at defensive tackle. And then there is second-round draft choice Trysten Hill, a guy the Cowboys are expecting big things from immediately. That would be the makings of a battle. At nose tackle, the Cowboys really like Antwaun Woods, but keep an eye out for Christian Covington and whoever is not in the top two at the three-technique DT to provide a challenge. The other true position battle will center on wide receiver, not for the top three spots (Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb), but which two or three receivers after that make the 53-man roster, and there is a slew of candidates – nine to be exact. The truest head-to-head position battle should be for the backup quarterback responsibilities between Cooper Rush and Mike White. The winner obviously makes the 53-man roster, the loser just might not if the Cowboys decide they just can’t keep three QBs on the roster again.
Rob Phillips: My colleagues really covered all the bases well. Mickey’s right – there aren’t a lot of starting jobs open, which speaks more to the team’s overall talent level. My favorite part of camp practice might be watching defensive backs coach Kris Richard work with the young players, so I’m also curious how the rest of the secondary shakes out. With Pro Bowler Byron Jones rehabbing from offseason hip surgery, there likely will continue to be extra camp and preseason snaps at cornerback. The Cowboys have brought in a lot of intriguing DBs with unique height and range for the position, just as Richard prefers. Donovan Olumba, who spent last year on the practice squad, stood out in those final OTAs and minicamp. Can he take another step? Rookies Mike Jackson Sr., Donovan Wilson and Chris Westry will have opportunities to impress.