OXNARD, Calif. — Nothing is written yet in regards to the WR4 role for the Dallas Cowboys, so when the bright lights fire up on Saturday in the first preseason game, it will mark the official start of the race for the spot, and Jalen Tolbert is a frontrunner to land the role.
Entering his second year with the Cowboys, and looking to formally put the struggles of his rookie season behind him once and for all, Tolbert is raring to get going in a game setting.
"It's surreal how fast it's come," said Tolbert after Wednesday's mock game in Oxnard. "I'm excited to go out and continue to get better, and continue to compete, and show my improvement from last season. I'm ready to go out and have fun with my brothers."
It's all mental at this point for the former South Alabama star, and he's currently brimming with confidence and his practice reps are as fluid as they are physical and impactful.
"I see a guy who's figured it out," said offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer of Tolbert in late July.
For his part, Tolbert says it all boils down to his comfort with playing at the NFL level and, unlike the 2022 season, he's entering this season with plenty of it.
"[My comfort level] is day-and-night," he said. "Obviously, once you do something for a year and have the opportunity to do it again, you'll be more confident and comfortable in what you're doing.
"Just coming out this year understanding what's required of me, what I need to do, where I need to be, and understanding the chemistry I need with Dak and the offense — being in the spot I'm expected to be in and making the play I'm expected to make — is what we worked on this offseason."
A large part of Tolbert's development this offseason lies in his preparation, something that's drawn praise from Schottenheimer and head coach Mike McCarthy alike. Schottenheimer made it a point for the media to ask Tolbert about said notebook when the opportunity was presented, and that's exactly what happened on Wednesday.
Tolbert's explanation of his handiwork was profound.
"I love art and I love to draw," he explained. "Even in college, I would go to the Art Fieldhouse and just draw up the plays. Being able to draw it up and being able to see the spots, and picture it, is a way that I learn. This past offseason, in my game room at my house, I got a dry erase board installed in there, so I was just drawing plays.
"… I made [the notebook] like it would be a dry erase board — drew up everything and highlighted, took pictures and side notes and had it all in my notebook, so I can just open and look at it when I need to."
And now, as his second preseason prepares to get underway, much like in his famed notebook, Tolbert is looking to turn the page on his young NFL career.