Training Camp | 2022

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Mick Shots: Holding Their Breath While Polishing Up

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FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys couldn't finish the final practice before Friday night's final preseason game soon enough.

For late in Wednesday night's practice out here at Ford Center, Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith went down in a heap without any physical contact taking place, the following MRI revealing a torn hamstring tendon at the knee in need of surgery.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, appearing on ESPN's _First Take_ live on set at The Star's outdoor plaza, confirmed the seriousness of the injury, saying, "It's a setback . . . but you got to take what you're dealt and go on with it."

Though the Cowboys have made no official announcement of the injury, this would leave them with just 17 days before the Sept. 11 season opener against Tampa Bay searching for answers at starring left tackle, knowing none of their current roster choices have any NFL experience at left tackle, with the exception of Terence Steele starting three games last year, though he is the starting right tackle where he is better suited to play.

And now this is where things get more complicated. The Cowboys have first-round draft choice Tyler Smith competing for the starting left guard job with fourth-year lineman Connor McGovern. With Tyler Smith out the past two practices nursing a sore ankle, McCarthy said of the competition while pointing out no final decision has been made, that "if we started today, Connor would start."

OK, but now, how about Tyler Smith moving a few steps to his left working as the starting left tackle, his natural position and where he played in college? Certainly a possibility, though McCarthy pointing out he'd still like to play McGovern 10-12 snaps at fullback. OK, but then who's at left guard if Tyler Smith is at left tackle? McCarthy also has McGovern taking snaps at center, searching for a backup there, and points out McGovern was to start at center Friday night

Oh, to further complicate things, the Cowboys basically have two draft choices currently competing for the backup swing tackle job who might have to now be starting candidates, too, last year's fourth-round pick Josh Ball and this year's fifth-round pick Matt Waletzko. Of Ball, McCarthy said after Tuesday's practice, "He has grown each week."

And then Waletzko, looking good Tuesday and Wednesday returning to pads after missing the last three weeks with a shoulder injury, McCarthy saying he is ready for some snaps Friday night, the Cowboys hoping they can delay the surgery he seemingly eventually will need.

All these questions in need of answers.

But after seeing Tyron go down, this becomes unquestionable: Absolutely for sure Dak Prescott ain't playing Friday in that final preseason game against Seattle. In fact, they might go sit him in a suite so no one runs into hm on the sideline.

No preseason game snaps for your quarterback? Well, let's remember Dak didn't play in any preseason games last year out of an abundance of caution following his recovery from ankle surgery and a sore shoulder, yet came out to throw for 403 yards three touchdowns, one pick, with a 101.4 QB rating in the opener against Tampa Bay, the Cowboys putting up 29 points.

As for other head scratchers . . . .

The competition for the backup quarterback job between Cooper Rush and Will Grier is on. Head coach Mike McCarthy says of Grier, "We want to see as much of him as possible."

As for how soon wide receiver Michael Gallup might be available to play coming back from his February ACL surgery and missing all of training camp, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, "We don't want to put him in any sort of category that wouldn't get him to the first game," which sounds like the Cowboys might not start him off on PUP, which if they did would mean he must miss the first four games.

As for rookie Jalen Tolbert, McCarthy said of his Tuesday night workout at Ford Center, "I thought Jalen had his best practice last night."

And as for Micah Parsons' competitive motor, McCarthy said after watching his Tuesday practice performance "He doesn't have an off switch," and tell you what, the way he practiced on Wednesday he was even giving Tyron Smith a hard time.

That prompted McCarthy to say of Parsons over-the-top practice Tuesday, "He emptied the bucket. He had a big night."

And finally, and no one had to say this, but from my view, I'll take this shot, saying KaVontae Turpin had two of his better practices as a receiver in both of these Ford Center workouts.

  • Final Chance: Friday night's final preseason game against Seattle will be the final game audition for the backup quarterback duel between Cooper Rush and Will Grier. Both should play extensively. Grier has been putting on quite the push during camp trying to earn the Cowboys trust, since Rush has that Minnesota win from last year in his back pocket. Grier does have some moxie to his game, willing to take shots down the field. The Cowboys could try to manipulate the decision since Cooper, going into his fifth season, would not have to go through waivers if released as would Grier. Then Rush could be re-signed to at least the practice squad until a spot on the 53 opens up. We'll see.
  • Final Chance II: And for those who think these preseason games are useless, go ask Seattle quarterbacks Geno Smith and Drew Lock. Those two are dueling for the Seahawks starting job Friday night at AT&T Stadium after Seattle traded away franchise QB Russell Wilson in the offseason. Maybe my University of Missouri bias, but still believe Lock can play in this league and that he was treated unfairly in Denver. Another we'll see.
  • Still Kicking Around: Sounds as if the Cowboys decided to go with an NFL experienced kicker, having moved on from the two kickers they brought to training camp, first rookie Jonathan Garibay and now first-year kicker Lirim Hajrullahu, to hand the job to fourth-year kicker Brett Maher. Think this came down to a trust factor, since Lirim has never kicked in the NFL (CFL only) and Maher previously had put in two years with the Cowboys and then eight games with the Saints last year, going 16 of 18 on field goals and 10 of 12 on extra points. When Maher won the four-man kickoff tryout during training camp, McCarthy said his kickoffs were the difference, and repeated that reason for going forward with Maher now. Keep hearing Maher is the "kicker for now," but when looking at what's currently out there, there is not much to choose from. Had one of the young kickers prevailed, the Cowboys would have saved nearly $300,00 against the cap, going from a rookie minimum of $705,000 to Maher's current fourth year minimum $965,000.
  • By The Way: When the Cowboys worked Wednesday night on field goals/field goal block, Maher hit on nine of 11 attempts between 33 yards and 58 yards. After making four straight from 33, 34, 40 and 43, Maher missed from 46 wide left, and then hit from 48, 49, 50 and 55. He banged his first attempt from 58 off the left upright and then connected on the second attempt. Also, during team 11-on-11, Maher hit from 28 twice and from 40 on another. Not bad
  • The Ex-Kicker: If the Cowboys were going to stick with Greg Zuerlein, they wanted to do so for basically a veteran minimum salary. Well, Zuerlein found a taker with the Jets for $2 million this year, and he ended up winning the kicking competition over Eddy Piniero, meaning Zuerlein will be their seventh kicker in seven years for the Jets.
  • Courage Award: This year's Cowboys Ed Block Courage Award goes to Dak Prescott, as voted on by the players, for his work coming back in 2021 from the gruesome ankle injury he suffered in the fifth game of the 2020 season. That award will be presented live before Friday's kickoff if the timing works out as planned during the Cowboys pregame show "Countdown To Kickoff," airing from 6-7 p.m. locally on CBS-11 and all over the Dallas Cowboys Broadcasting Network.
  • Heavy Duty: With the one-year addition of former Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks for $8 million, the Bucs will pose nearly a third of a ton in the middle of their defense, Hicks' 340 pounds to go with Vita Vea's conservatively 342 pounds. Keep hearing this will be a severe challenge for the Cowboys offensive line. Heck, that will be a severe challenge for any team's offensive line.
  • Shorter Shots: Of course, the Commanders are going to retire Sonny Jurgenson's No. 9 in the season finale against the Cowboys, joining the likes of Sammy Baugh (33), Bobby Mitchell (39) and Sean Taylor (21) . . . But for the first meeting with Washington in Game 4 on Oct. 2, the Commanders will be without pass-rushing end Chase Young, placed on PUP and must miss the mandatory four games . . . Saw former Cowboys 2020 fifth round draft choice Bradlee Anae emerge for the Jets Monday night, his sack, caused fumble, recovered fumble and 30-yard TD return providing New York the winning points . . . And in the category of it's about time, former NFL head coach Don Coryell was chosen out of the 12-man coach/contributors category for the 49-member Pro Football Hall of Fame committee sanctioning.

And for the final word, let's go back to Connor McGovern talking about how he has become the everywhere man for all the positions he has worked at, having played both guard spots, now a little center, and knows he can probably play tackle, too.

"In high school I only played center," McGovern began reciting his resume. "In college I played center and right guard. And when I got here, what, did I play eight or nine positions last year?

"Last year I was backup for all five (including both tackle positions), then tight end, fullback and even wide receiver a little bit (lined up wide.) But this year, knowing I'm at left guard but knowing I had to backup everyone and go where I'm needed."

Exhausting, right.

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