FRISCO, Texas – This week’s three-day minicamp is merely a preview of the wide receiver competition that will continue – and must eventually get sorted out – in Oxnard, California.
No area on the roster saw more turnover than the downfield passing game for quarterback Dak Prescott. Only three receivers are back from last year’s 53-man roster – starter Terrance Williams, primary slot option Cole Beasley and 2017 rookie Noah Brown – as the Cowboys look for the right combination to replace Dez Bryant.
Tight end is an unfinished puzzle, too, with several young players competing for the 1,050 snaps vacated by retiring legend Jason Witten.
With Williams still recovering from offseason ankle surgery, the coaching staff is shuffling the receiver rotation in practice. At least seven different receivers have gotten first-team snaps in the offseason workouts open to the media: Beasley; Brown; newly-added veterans Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson and Tavon Austin; third-round pick Michael Gallup; and first-year wideout Lance Lenoir.
“It’s a pretty unique competition because there’s really nobody established,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “Bease is pretty much the established guy because of playing that slot position - we all know that. But we’re moving him around more. So I think it’s going to show its hand pretty significant here when we get into Oxnard and into these games in preseason.”
The rotation is probably contributing to some offensive hiccups in these summer workouts. A few drops were made in Wednesday’s minicamp practice, and Prescott acknowledged some missed throws.
“The thing that’s challenging, which is going to be good for us, is we’re rolling a lot of people in groups,” Linehan said. “Sometimes we’re going to stick a young guy in with the ones. If somebody’s not going, we’re going to put another guy in there and let him see and maybe give him a chance. This is going to be our learning curve.
Said Prescott: “It’s minicamp for a reason. We’ve got a lot of time to improve on the things where we need to improve.”
Training camp is six weeks away. The regular-season opener is just under three months from today.
There’s plenty of time to find the right group. And plenty of opportunity.
“It’s great competition. You want that, though,” Gallup said. “There’s some spots open and you’ve got to go them. You take some stuff from whatever the wide receivers are doing and you put it into your game.”