FRISCO, Texas – Cedrick Wilson's rookie season ended before it really started: the second week of training camp last August with a shoulder injury that required surgery.
The 2018 sixth-round draft pick had never missed a year of football before. Now he's back to battle for a roster spot in a crowded 12-man receiver group that includes six players (counting himself) no older than 23.
"Coming back off the rehab was tough in general," Wilson said. "But definitely a year of just seeing how everything goes, the speed is definitely slowing down. Just getting back in the playbook and learning from older guys of what I need to do and doing what the coaches expect of me."
The Cowboys liked Wilson's progress before the injury last summer. One of six Boise State alumni on the Cowboys' current roster, he played outside and the slot in college and showed some early production in the offseason workouts.
Then came the injury. Wilson used the time off as a chance to get stronger as he rehabbed with the team's athletic training staff.
"I feel like I definitely needed that year of developing in the weight room," he said.
The receiver competition looks fierce ("big-time," position coach Sanjay Lal says) as the Cowboys enter this week's three-day minicamp -- their final offseason benchmark before training camp in late July.
Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and free-agent signing Randall Cobb form a stable primary trio. Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns offer more than a decade of NFL experience. And several young wideouts, including undrafted rookies Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton, will push for jobs when the Cowboys get to Oxnard, California for camp.
"It's going to be big-time competition. And they're all rising to it, too," Lal said. "It'll be heartbreaking as a coach if they continue on this trend and we can't keep all 12, honestly. It's going to be good to watch."
Wilson fits into that latter group – a promising first-year player fighting for snaps.
"Ced's a savvy, smart football player," Lal said. "He picks things up really well. He applies them to the field," Lal said. "In terms of technique, he's one of the best if you watch him. His stance and start is really good. He comes off the ball with low pad level. He's eating up ground and then has a knack to make a big play over the top on a big post.
"So that's what we've seen from him. Now we want to refine his underneath game, get his footwork tighter on certain routes. But overall a smart, attentive, good player."
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Wilson is the team's tallest receiver. As a longstrider, he's working to improve his quickness off the snap and getting out of the top of his route faster.
He knows exactly what it'll take to grab one of those final receiver spots.
"Just the ability to know all three positions and being able to influence the game on special teams for sure," he said. "And just giving whatever the coaches want me to put out there."