ARLINGTON, Texas – From the looks of things, better start getting to know D.T.
Uh, Darian Thompson.
Turns 27 in September.
In his fifth NFL season, third with the Cowboys.
Previously known as a good special teams player, you know, a guy who could start if someone got hurt, but basically was that gadget guy.
Well, maybe no more. Seems to be making a name for himself during this COVID-delayed training camp, with the Cowboys now less than two weeks from opening the 2020 season that will go down in history one way or another for trying to plow through a pandemic.
Not only has No. 23 caught the eye of head coach Mike McCarthy, but for sure, new defensive backs coach Maurice Linguist.
"I think he's in a really good space. He's playing some of his best ball that I've seen of him," Linguist said. "I think he's energized. He's hungry. He's not regulated to saying, 'I'm a special teams guy or I'm this guy.'"
No, he's not. He is reminding the Cowboys he was a 16-game starter for the Giants during the 2017 season. Finished the year with 75 tackles in 1,064 snaps. He landed on injured reserve at the start of 2018, and the Giants eventually released him. Was picked up by Arizona, placed on the practice squad.
Didn't take long for the Cowboys to snatch him up, at the time mostly for special teams purposes in the 10 games he played that season. And even last year, he was a spot starter. Did so in four games, mostly replacing the injured Jeff Heath toward the end of the season.
But to say this is a different year would be an understatement. Jeff Heath signed a free-agent deal with the Raiders. The Cowboys signed veteran free agent Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to a rather modest one-year deal, for just $2.25 million guaranteed. Lots of incentives. They also signed versatile veteran Daryl Worley, a corner who can play safety, and has been over the past week. They also drafted Reggie Robinson in the fourth around, a corner, who seemed to have safety written all over him. He, too, has been playing safety for the past week. And don't forget last year's sixth-rounder, Donovan Wilson, a true safety.
About the only thing we knew going into camp for sure about the position was this: Xavier Woods had one spot in the starting lineup locked up. And even the fourth-year free safety gimped off with a groin strain here Sunday during a fan-less, number-less, name-less Cowboys Night affair that was merely just another high-speed training camp practice tailored to playing a bunch of anonymous-to-those-watching young guys in the also tackle-less evening.
But with basically just one more camp practice remaining, and McCarthy pointing out concentration will turn toward the Rams by Thursday, Thompson has positioned himself into a prominent spot on this defense, competing hard for a starting job.
"We like the attidute and energy of the guys out there," Linguist said, pointing out the coaches still are in evaluation mode. "D.T., Ha Ha, Dono, they're all doing a great job, and they've all made their own plays individually.
"At the end of the day, the players are going to decide who is on the field. All we're going to do is we're going to evaluate the tape and let them tell us what to do."
Well, Thompson has been telling loudly of late. There was this early perception that Clinton-Dix, who played four and a half seasons for McCarthy in Green Bay, was going to be a walk-in starter. But again, if you follow the money, there is not enough there to openly suggest that, especially since he is on his fourth team in three years.
But from what we've seen so far, the Cowboys are serious about Thompson being more than just a special teams guy if snaps in practice are meaningful.
Also, if you listen to Linguist.
"I think D.T. is a guy, he's a great example of a guy who is a hungry, humble player who knows what he's doing and can get himself lined up and communicate all the checks and balances of we've got to do on the back end and he's making plays.
"And we all know that is the most important thing."
Especially if you want folks to know your name.