Evaluating Dallas Cowboys that need a strong training camp
The Dallas Cowboys head for training camp in Oxnard, California later this month. The three-week expedition will lead to its initial roster and hopes of bringing a championship home to Dallas.
It has been an interesting offseason for the Cowboys, one filled with questionable decisions that set the baseline for when camp opens. There will be 91 players vying for a spot on the 2022 roster and practice squad. Some of those are already won, even before the first practice.
However, there are others who have a lot to prove in order to stake their claim. It’s a new season and the slate has been wiped clean; it’s a lifeline for some underachievers.
For others, it’s an opportunity to show they belong.
Here are the five Cowboys who have the most to gain in training camp.
DT Trysten Hill
The Cowboys selected Hill in the second round of the 2019 draft, but he has yet to make his impact. There have been flashes of a solid player as Hill was playing well in his sophomore season. However, a left ACL tear in Week 5 robbed him of a promising campaign.
It was an injury that took Hill’s recovery into the 2021 season and limited him to just six games. With a group of younger defensive tackles on the roster making an impression last season, Hill never got a chance to earn a larger role.
Hill might be running out chances to stand out with the Cowboys. The team has drafted a number of good young defensive linemen in the last three drafts and added some veteran help that could make Hill expendable.
At just 24 years old, though, Hill has another chance at making an impression. He’s flashed some ability, but Hill has yet to play consistently enough to earn a starting role or be considered a safe bet to make the roster. He will have to have a strong camp and this might be Hill’s last shot at getting off the bubble.
WR Simi Fehoko
Fehoko had a rough rookie season adjusting to life in the big league. The receiver did see some time on special teams, but never caught a pass or contributed on offense.
That might have been expected last year, Fehoko did have four good receivers in front of him on the depth chart, and two more with NFL experience in receivers Noah Brown and Malik Turner. It would’ve taken an amazing camp for Fehoko to work his way into the rotation with the depth the Cowboys had at receiver.
Things have changed heading in Fehoko’s second season, giving him an opportunity to carve out a larger role. Amari Cooper was traded and Michael Gallup is probably a long shot to suit up in the first month of the schedule. Turner and Cedrick Wilson are also both gone.
Fehoko has been working with quarterback Dak Prescott this offseason and with the lack of receiving options being able to practice since OTAs began, it has given the receiver out of Stanford a chance to stand out. Getting first-team reps during most of the offseason could give Fehoko a shot at contributing in the season.
If Fehoko can’t earn playing time over Brown or veteran wide receiver James Washington, among others, he might not be able to help the Cowboys.
OL Matt Farniok
It’s no secret the Cowboys have been upgrading their offensive line this offseason and trying to find the best five in the unit. Farniok might not be a starter yet, but he could be battling for two positions in training camp.
One of the positions Farniok got extra work during the offseason program was at center, where he could mount a challenge for starter Tyler Biadasz. It doesn’t appear as though Biadasz is in jeopardy of losing ground yet, but if Farniok plays well in camp and in preseason games, things could change.
Farniok is also a backup left guard option if needed. His inclusion could come from a set of moves that would be necessary if left tackle Tyron Smith got hurt and the team wanted to move rookie Tyler Smith to left tackle, leaving the left guard spot up to Farniok or veteran Connor McGovern. With all the opportunity Farniok has been getting this offseason, it wouldn’t be a shock if the second-year man out of Nebraska won the backup left guard job.
Farniok brought versatility from his college days, where he played every position on the offensive line, to the Cowboys. The team does seem intrigued with Farniok’s ability and a good showing in training camp could earn him more playing time, or even a starting role.
TE Sean McKeon
Tight end is a position that is anything but set on the Cowboys. Dalton Schultz enters the season as the top option and a breakout player after a stellar 2021. The team used the franchise tag on Schultz to keep him around for one more season, but failed to sign him to a long-term deal.
That leaves the door open for another tight end on the roster to step up and be the backup, and possibly replace Schultz next year. McKeon is an interesting option, he has just four career receptions, but was having a good summer last year when an ankle injury shelved him until Week 9 of the regular season.
McKeon, an undrafted free agent out of Michigan, is a solid blocker, as well as a receiver, who doesn’t have much standing in his way of playing time. Veteran Jeremy Sprinkle is seen as more of a blocking tight end, with 37 career catches and Jake Ferguson is coming in to compete as a rookie fourth-round pick.
With the departure of veteran Blake Jarwin, and a one-week absence from OTAs for Schultz, McKeon got more time with create a chemistry with Prescott. Head coach Mike McCarthy has liked what he’s seen from McKeon.
The opportunity is there for McKeon to cash in as Schultz’s primary backup, with a chance to have an impact on the offense when he’s on the field. It’s how Schultz ascended to the No. 1 tight end on the roster, and McKeon is looking to do the same.
CB Nahshon Wright
The Cowboys are in solid shape at cornerback with starters Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis. After that, it gets dicey, especially considering the team isn’t sure what is going to happen with second-year corner Kelvin Joseph.
That leads to an opportunity for another cornerback in his second season, Wright. The Cowboys selection of Wright in the third round was a surprise to many, but the team covets his size and length. Wright did manage to play in 13 games last season, so he got some needed experience at corner, as well as being used on special teams.
If Joseph gets suspended for any amount of games, Dan Quinn’s defense needs a fourth CB to step up. NFL offenses stress teams with dynamic receivers and having cornerback depth is necessary, Wright has to be ready.
Even if Joseph doesn’t get suspended, Wright has a chance to prove the Cowboys right and work his way into more playing time. Dallas needs more quality at cornerback and the hope is that Wright can get the job done.
There’s an old adage in the NFL that one can never have enough corners. Wright will have every opportunity to earn his way up the cornerback depth chart.