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Training Camp | 2023

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Highlights from McCarthy's Monday presser


OXNARD, Calif. — The Cowboys are back at training camp for their final week in Oxnard before returning back to Texas to finish off the preseason, as the team moves forward from its preseason opener against Jacksonville on Saturday.

Head coach Mike McCarthy spoke to the media on Monday to provide updates on the team going into the second week of the preseason. Here are the highlights from that press conference.

Don't expect to see veterans until week 1

McCarthy said in the postgame press conference that he didn't expect to play any veterans during the preseason, and he reiterated that sentiment on Monday.

"I think it's from experience," he said. "I think where your team is, what you think of your team, we feel very strongly about our roster. I've always looked at roster development from the back forward. We have a really good understanding of the guys that we have here and have established themselves in the locker room. This is really the best format for roster development. This format here is really, really good."

Injury updates to defensive pieces

Along with Viliami Fehoko Jr. (shoulder) who did not play on Saturday, Malik Jefferson (foot) and Nahshon Wright (foot) were added to the list of injury concerns after going down during Saturday's game.

"I think Malik has a chance to go this week," McCarthy said. "Nahshon, he'd be hard-pressed to go this week."

In talking about Fehoko, there is hope from McCarthy that he can return to the practice field and eventually the game field on Saturday night in Seattle.

"I hope so. I hope to get him back."

Turpin's mistake is in the past

To the surprise of some, Pro Bowl returner KaVontae Turpin did indeed get a punt return rep during Saturday's preseason opener, but it ended in a fumble after roughly 15 yards of return yards. Although the plan for that return was much different, McCarthy said he'll be back in the same role on Saturday in Seattle.

"The goal was for him to fair catch it for him to get out there and handle the ball and so forth," McCarthy said. "I think his competitive juices took over, obviously, and then the result was definitely not what we were looking for. We'll do the same this week, I still want him to handle the football, but I also want to look at the other guys returning the ball."

Deuce Vaughn, Rico Dowdle and Malik Davis each had one kick return against Jacksonville while Turpin hauled in the lone punt return of the game for the Cowboys.

From an offensive perspective, McCarthy saw high and low lights from Turpin's performance as a receiver.

"There's some things he can learn from," he said. "Just like anything, there's details at every position, especially in the passing game. I thought he had a big catch on that fourth down. He's just got details to work, and that's why he's in there."

Respectable debut from Mazi Smith

Rookie defensive tackle Mazi Smith saw his first game action on Saturday, and he earned praise from McCarthy on what he was able to put together to clog the interior.

"I thought he did some really powerful things in the A gaps, which is what I'm looking for from an anchor," he said. "It's been obvious when him and [Johnathan Hankins] are in the game and they're together, it's different. Your run defense is definitely a little different. Mazi definitely falls in the category of being a young player in his first game, he had his ups and downs. I thought he did some really nice things."

Davis and Dowdle reviews

Deuce Vaughn stole the show in the running back room on Saturday night, but McCarthy also liked things that he saw from both Malik Davis and Rico Dowdle.

"I thought they did some really nice things," he said about Davis and Dowdle. "Rico did some really nice things. He had the kickoff return, obviously the play that he has to potentially score a touchdown ended up being a fumble. He's got to protect the ball there, that's clear-cut."

The running backs were heavily utilized throughout the preseason opener, which allowed McCarthy and the staff to get a lot of data points on the position group moving forward.

"I like the way they played and the new emphasis on what we're trying to do," he said. "I think the illustration of the backs touching the ball 31 times is a reflection of that. I thought they ran the ball the right way and we had ten passes go to the backs. Protection first, checkdown awareness, I thought we got off to a good start there."

Jalen Tolbert on the way back

Despite a controversial offensive pass interference call that wiped out a big reception down the sideline, Jalen Tolbert had a strong preseason debut as he carried his solid training camp onto the field early on in 2023.

"I love it," McCarthy said. "I'm just so happy for him. What he's done out here being transformed to the field Saturday, he did a lot of good things. He's doing the little things. He's sticking his nose in there on the blocking assignments and that's the stuff that he needed to improve on from last year. I really like what JT's done."

Tolbert finished with two receptions for 29 yards and one touchdown.

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