Analyzing the offense as Dallas prepares for training camp


The wait is almost over.

On July 25, the Cowboys will travel to Oxnard, Calif., where they will settle into training camp for the 16th time in 22 years. Their first practice will take place two days later, around six weeks after the players and coaches last shared a pitch.

As usual, player development and competition will be at the forefront.

Here’s a look at what that means this summer with a position-by-position breakdown of the Cowboys’ roster, starting with offense. A defensive breakdown will post Tuesday morning:

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott scores on a touchdown during the second half of an NFL Wild Card playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, January 16, 2022 in Arlington.(Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)

Strategist

Player Exp.
Dak Prescott seven
Cooper Rush 5
Ben Di Nucci 2
Will Grier 4

Analysis: Perhaps the best part of last season for Prescott is just that: it’s behind him.

All that ankle-related rehabilitation that limited his off-season gains. The latissimus strain that stole a month of live practice pitches during training camp. The fundamentals, namely the footwork, which escaped him to close the year.

It’s a new year. Prescott built a strong physical and mental foundation heading into camp, a foundation the Cowboys believe will benefit their entire offense and their team.

Behind him, Rush opens camp as a runaway favorite for the No. calf last Halloween – did wonders for Rush’s confidence and organization.

Come back

Player Exp.
Ezekiel Elliott seven
Tony Pollard 4
Rico Dowdle 3
Malik Davis R
Aaron Shampkin R
Ryan Nall 4
Nick Ralston 1

Analysis: Here’s a positive stat: no player has rushed for more yards than Elliott since entering the league in 2016. And here’s a negative stat: no player has rushed for more yards than Elliott since his entered the league in 2016.

With the NFL’s odometer at 7,386 yards, the three-time Pro Bowler has a chance to disprove those who question the remaining tread on his tires. Coach Mike McCarthy says Elliott is fully recovered from the knee injury that undermined his impressive start to 2021.

During this time, there were times when Pollard’s talents went untapped. He had six touches in a Week 17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals and six again in the first-round playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a contract year for Pollard.

Dowdle will make his long-awaited return to California after missing all of last season with a hip injury and all of spring following a knee exam. He’s looking to fend off undrafted recruits and outside candidates for the No. 3 job.

Ralston, an alumnus of Nall and Argyle High, will compete at fullback, a position the Cowboys haven’t kept on their 53-man roster since McCarthy’s arrival. Jamize Olawale in 2019 was the last.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) catches a 9-yard touchdown pass as Atlanta...
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) catches a 9-yard touchdown pass as Atlanta Falcons cornerback Avery Williams (35) defends during the first half of an NFL football game at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, November 14, 2021 in Arlington. (Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)

wide receiver

Player Exp. Player Exp.
Lamb CeeDee 3 Brandon Smith 1
Michael Gallup 5 T. J. Vasher 1
Jalen Tolbert R Dontario Drummond R
Noah Brown 6 Jaquarii Roberson R
James Washington 5 Ty Fryfogle R
Simi Fehoko 2 Dennis Houston R

Analysis: Amari Cooper is in Cleveland. Cedrick Wilson left for Miami. Gallup could miss all of camp and the start of the season while rehabilitating his left knee. For now, that leaves Lamb no longer a group of young receivers, of which Brown is the only member to catch a regular-season pass from Prescott.

No position on the Cowboys roster quite matches the plot here.

New wide receivers coach Robert Prince oversees this assembly-binding group. Helping Lamb realize his potential would be a crowning achievement.

Among other talents, the third-year receiver has exceptional ball skills and post-receiving yardage, but his execution on the finer details proved inconsistent last season. The pandemic and various injuries have cost him and Prescott time, hence the value of Prescott’s private pitching sessions with his receivers this offseason.

Building rhythm and timing requires repetition. Oxnard is an idyllic setting for this process to continue.

Tolbert, a third-round rookie pick, will be one to watch after a strong end to the season. There is room for a pre-season lifter or an outside acquisition to make the team.

tight end

Player Exp.
Dalton Schultz 5
Sean McKeon 3
Jake Ferguson R
Jeremy Sprinkle 6
Peyton Hendershot R
Ian Bunting 1

Analysis: It’s 2020. The Cowboys signed Blake Jarwin to a four-year, $22 million deal. Schultz is coming off a season in which he played third fiddle to Jason Witten and Jarwin, catching more penalties (four for 40 yards) than assists (one for 6).

The times have changed.

Witen is retired. Jarwin is a free agent, his future in the NFL is in flux after hip surgery in February. Schultz has 141 receptions for 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns over the past two seasons and will play this season under a $10.93 million franchise tag.

The Cowboys could opt to carry four tight ends on their 53-player roster, given the long-term importance of developing talent behind Schultz and how stinging issues hampered McKeon last season.

Sprinkle, a strong blocker, is only assured in fourth place. Dallas gave Hendershot $165,000 guaranteed to sign as an undrafted rookie, including a $15,000 signing bonus, so the club clearly sees potential there. They may not want to expose it to waivers on the day of the roster reduction.

Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Tyler Smith (73) watches between drills during OTA...
Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Tyler Smith (73) watches between drills during OTA team practice at The Star on Thursday, June 2, 2022 in Frisco.(Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)

offensive line

Player Exp. Player Exp.
Tyron Smith 12 Matt Waltzko R
Tyler Smith R Aviante Collins 4
Tyler Biadasz 3 Isaac Alarcon 1
Zack Martin 9 Braylon Jones 1
Terence Steele 3 Alec Lindstrom R
Connor McGovern 4 James Empey R
Matt Farniok 2 Amon-Simon R
Josh Ball 2

Analysis: Fourteen of the 15 offensive linemen on the Cowboys’ 90-man roster have never worked for another NFL franchise.

Collins is the only exception.

It’s rare for such a large position group to be so local, but that’s what the front office has established. By the time the Cowboys reach a 53-man roster on Aug. 30, Steele will likely be the only active lineman the team hasn’t drafted; the starting right tackle arrived as an undrafted rookie in 2020.

Rookie Tyler Smith is the latest investment project.

A learning curve is natural to expect here. He turned 21 in April. As long as he maintains a healthy obsession with tightening up his technique, his physical style of play and athletic traits should do the rest. He should start at left guard and continue to practice at left tackle.

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