The Dallas Cowboys are set to report to training camp on Tuesday, and they’ll look to answer a few key questions over the next few weeks.
The offensive line is in flux after it lost both La’el Collins and Connor Williams in the offseason. Dallas is revamping its receiving corps after parting with Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson Jr., and it still needs to address a run defense that ranked 23rd in yards per carry allowed in 2021.
While we don’t know exactly how the roster will shake out during camp, we’ve received a few early glimpses in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp.
Here, we’ll dive into some of the biggest buzz and top performances from the Cowboys’ offseason thus far, examine what it means heading into camp and whether we believe they’re truly positive signs of things to come.
The Cowboys may have uncovered an undrafted gem in former Florida A&M safety Markquese Bell. The 6’3″, 212-pound prospect has impressed just about everyone during offseason workouts.
“He’s done everything he can do for an undrafted rookie in the offseason with no pads on,” Nick Eatman of the team’s official website wrote. “He’s impressed the coaches, the scouts and even the media has noticed. He’s made those flash plays that we’re all looking for.”
While things will get tougher once the pads come on and Dallas starts to mix it up with other teams, we’re inclined to believe the 23-year-old will continue to shine.
Bell took a winding path to the Cowboys that likely hurt his draft stock. He started at Maryland but was suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation. He then went to Coffeyville Community College before landing at FAMU. The physical tools are there, but he simply never got that big school exposure.
Last season, he racked up 95 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and one interception.
Heading into camp, Bell has a real chance to stick as a rotational safety behind Jayron Kearse and Donovan Wilson. At worst, he should find a role on special teams.
To help replace Cooper and Wilson, the Cowboys added James Washington and rookie Jalen Tolbert this offseason. Those two could see significant playing time early, especially with Michael Gallup working his way back from a torn ACL.
Could 2021 undrafted free agent T.J. Vasher also get into the early rotation? He got the attention of the coaching staff during offseason workouts.
“He’s made some really big-time flash plays, splash plays,” head coach Mike McCarthy said, per ESPN’s Todd Archer. “He’s had some really, particularly in the red zone, which you can see his ability down there.”
The problem for Vasher is that while the receiver room is unfinished, Dallas has a lot of bodies at the position. Between Washington, Tolbert, Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, four receiver spots may already be settled. The Cowboys also have 2021 fifth-round pick Simi Fehoko and veteran Noah Brown on the roster.
The other thing to note is that the 23-year-old, who missed his rookie season with a knee injury, got offseason opportunities with Gallup, Lamb, Washington and Brown all missing time with injuries.
Vasher will have a chance to stake a roster claim in camp, but he’ll have to show he’s more than just a big (6’5″) target. He wasn’t especially productive at Texas Tech—he never reached 700 receiving yards in a season—and his opportunities will diminish as players get healthy.
While the Cowboys have some questions to answer in camp, there’s no uncertainty about the quarterback position. Dak Prescott is a Pro Bowl-caliber passer, and he may now be in the best shape of his career.
“The Cowboys quarterback was probably the team’s biggest offensive standout during the offseason work,” Jon Machota of The Athletic wrote. “He appeared to be in great shape and moving as well, if not better, than at any other time during his NFL career.”
This shouldn’t come as a major surprise. Two years ago, Prescott missed most of the season with a fractured and dislocated ankle. Last year, he battled various injuries throughout the season but still had a strong campaign (4,449 yards, 37 TDs, 10 INTs).
The quarterback, who turns 29 on Thursday, is now fully healthy and more than a year removed from the severe ankle injury. He’s also entering his seventh year as a starter and, by now, knows exactly how to prepare his body and mind for the season.
Machota also noted that the two-time Pro Bowler appears to be “leaner” than in years past.
Cowboys fans can likely expect the best version of Prescott they’ve seen in years, and there’s a good chance he returns to the Pro Bowl after a three-year absence.
The big question is whether Dallas has put the pieces around him needed to make a deep playoff run.
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