OXNARD, Calif. – Cowboys owner Jerry Jones points this out the other day.
Head coach Mike McCarthy reinforces this notion again today, the first day of practice for Cowboys Training Camp 2023.
This is a "young" football team.
Yeah, I know, Dak Prescott turns 30 on Saturday, when he surely will be serenaded again by the fans during the Opening Ceremony at the River Ridge Sports Complex practice. And we know Zack turns 33 a month before Tyron Smith does, too.
But check this out. While putting ages or soon-to-be ages next to the projected starting lineup players, here is what I found.
On offense, there are just three players at least 30 years of age, and that's counting Dak. On defense there are just two prospective starters at least in their 30s.
That's it. That's young. And that's exactly what you want in your football team, some veterans mixing in with a bunch of talented youngsters. Because in this now 17-game season of the NFL the last thing you want happening is growing old for the game.
Six of the prospective offensive starters are no more than 27 years old. At 29, Brandin Cooks doesn't yet qualify as a grey beard. Of the 30-Somethings, just Dak, Tyron Smith and Martin.
On defense, only DeMarcus Lawrence (31) and Stephon Gilmore (32) are in their 30s. But seven of those projected starters are no more than 27. Add in safety Jayron Kearse at 29 and Malik Hooker at 28. The rest, a bunch of puppies.
"It's the natural dynamics that go on with every team, and frankly it's no different than family," McCarthy said Wednesday prior to how younger guys have a way of inspiring veterans. "(QB coach) Scott Tolzien showed a picture today in the quarterback meeting, I think his daughter is six months old and his grandma just turned 107.
"Youth energizes everybody. You see it all the time."
Must admit, saw this natural progression of life watching my 89-year-old mother-in-law on her death bed when one of her nieces came to visit with her 11-year-old and 7-year-old, juxtaposing this natural progression of life, one life about to end but two others blooming.
"You get old fast in this league," McCarthy said, going on to say of the youth, "it regenerates all of us."
Well, consider the Cowboys candidates for regeneration. Because of the 90 men today on this roster, 23 of them are no more than 27, and 57 no more than 25.
Indeed, youth shall inherit.
- Line Moves: When asked on Tuesday how the Cowboys will line up across the offensive line for the first practice, McCarthy said, "We'll start the way we finished," during the minicamp." True to his word, from left to right on Wednesday, it was Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Josh Ball (for the missing Zack Martin) and Terence Steele. Yes, Steele, probably a month away from being fully recovered from his surgically repaired knee, having torn the ACL, MCL and PCL early in December. And at least Steele is far enough along the Cowboys did not place him on PUP as they did Jourdan Lewis so he could participate, even if on a limited basis, in practice and with the coaching staff. Cowboys COO Stephen Jones seems to have confidence in reaching a contractual agreement with Martin, so really the only X-factor is Tyron Smith proving he's still capable of handling left tackle.
- Digging In: Always like to see the inside numbers on new contracts, like what the guarantees consist of. Well, of Trevon Diggs' five-year, $97 million extension, he received a $21.78 million signing bonus and guarantees on his 2023 and 2024 base salaries ($1.054 million and $11 million, respectively), along with another $9 million that guarantees the on fifth day of the 2025 season. After that, there are no more guarantees the final three years, totaling $54 million in base salaries, including the $20 million one in 2028 and $19.5 million in 2027. Diggs gets his money early and the Cowboys get a safety net late.
- Not Already: Didn't take long, even in this helmets, jerseys, shorts, non-contact practice for a few guys to leave the field, further qualifying Brad Sham's training map philosophy that "we go to training camp to find out who gets injured." Early in the practice safeties Donovan Wilson and Israel Mukuamu left practice. Wilson with an apparent cist on the back of his knee heading for an MRI and Mukuamu returning to the sideline in T-shirt and shorts. Also, the recently extended Diggs was limited in practice, KaVontae Turpin missing for the birth of his child and OL Matt Waletzko out with an apparent sickness.
- Not Again: Seriously, this didn't really happen, did it. In a 7-on-7, end-of-half drill, I'll be darned, Dak has a sideline pass bounce off the hands of Simi Fehoko and there was rookie corner Eric Scott Jr. coming in from the side for the interception. There is something about this Scott now. Remember, the Cowboys traded up to grab him with the first pick in the sixth round. That the ball seems to find this guy. At the time, he had rotated in to work with the first team defense at left corner.
- Camp Sightings: Hall of Famer Troy Aikman was at camp Wednesday watching practice, bringing back memories of the 1989 NFL Draft's No. 1 pick arriving in nearby Thousand Oaks for his first training camp, having waited on him for an interview outside the Cal Lutheran gymnasium the late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden was holding his annual youth summer basketball camp . . . This CeeDee Lamb is something else, snagging a crossing route seemingly overthrown for a one-handed reception . . . The Cowboys are wasting no time taking a look at first-round pick Mazi Smith, immediately working him at defensive tackle with the first-team defense alongside Osa Odighizuwa . . . During his 7-on-7 rep, backup quarterback Cooper Rush connected on a shot over the middle to tight end Sean McKeon, either having run a heckuva route or taking advantage of an immensely busted coverage in the secondary, for a walk-in TD . . . Oh, and in case you are wondering, the second team offensive line from left to right consisted of Chuma Edoga, Matt Farniok, Brock Hoffman, T.J. Bass and with Waletzko absent Alex Taylor-Prioleau.
Since we have so much content over the past two days, let's throw down several last words this week,
First from Stephen Jones when answering questions about the Cowboys de-valueing the running back position when unable to come to a long-term deal with Tony Pollard, and he basically said it twice for emphasis: "I'll say this about Tony. We offered him a long- term deal . . . we offered Dalton Schultz a long-term deal . . . Certainly we tried to make a deal with Tony, and it didn't work out for either of us."
Then this from head coach Mike McCarthy when asked about the urgency of improving on these consecutive 12-5 seasons, taking a page somewhat from a Bum Phillips quote back in the day when the Oilers couldn't get over the playoff hump, too, saying, "If you want to bang the door down you first got to be on the front porch," where certainly the Cowboys have been these past two years.
And finally, from Jerry Jones about his continued excitement for the start of his 35th training camp with the Cowboys, and how he still has the same enthusiasm for the start of this training camp as he had for the start of his very first one in 1989.
"Yes, yes, I appreciate the nuance in driving in and getting my room out here," Jerry said. "I think this is about 10-11 years in that room that looks less than my college dorm at the time, but it feels good to be in there. Now I go out the back door and sleep up here at the Biltmore, but other than that we're in good shape."
Oh that Jerry.