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Cowboys Training Camp Preview: 30 Days, 30 Questions for Oxnard

The Cowboys - and our staff here at CowboysSI.com - are about to descend upon Oxnard for the start of 2022 training camp on July 25.
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FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys - and our staff here at CowboysSI.com - descend upon Oxnard for the start of 2022 training camp on July 25. That means we're on in (right around) 30 days ... and it's fitting that we therefore have, in our issues and questions and answers ... 30 Items ...

1 - Is for jersey No. 1 Kelvin Joseph. The second-year cornerback attended all of OTAs and minicamp, but did limited work, with coach Mike McCarthy answering CowboysSI.com's question with a revelation that Joseph has a minor injury but should be fine for camp.

But that doesn't take into consideration Joseph’s off-the-field situation, and what both the NFL and the law are going to do about it.

He's no better than the team's No. 4 cornerback right now - and nowhere close to Anthony Brown. Do you hesitate to "hand him the keys'' without knowing his availability?

2 - Jonathan Garibay (who is also wearing jersey No. 1) is the only kicker on the roster. That figures to change. Bring back another kid in Chris Naggar? Wait until vets get cut elsewhere? A source told us of the possibility of a season-long "revolving door'' here. The undrafted rookie free agent from Texas Tech could close that door - but only after some competition.

3 - “I think we clearly crossed the finish line of what we were trying to get done this year,'' said McCarthy in explaining why he cut the three-day minicamp down to one day. ... causing the critics to crawl out of the woodwork.

Folks ... He's been doing this for 20 years. Do we really not trust Mike McCarthy to have a physical, emotional and psychological feel for a team?

4 - Lean Dak. The Cowboys quarterback is leaner (see "Baby Fat'') - but carries the same weight. He also carries the most weight of anybody on the roster in terms of "pressure'' and "expectations.''

He's good with that.

5 - The Five Feared Weeks in Football. Players will still be working out individually and with teammates, at The Star, on their own, in Dak's backyard, on group trips ... but they won’t practice as a full team again until they arrive in Oxnard. That's a lot of free time for a collection of young millionaires.

CowboysSI.com asked McCarthy about the "fear.''

His reply: "Oh yeah. Travel safe. Be smart. Be safe. I think like anything it’s part of our plan to get ready. What we’ve accomplished in the offseason, we need to move forward. We can’t go backward. I think they clearly understand that. That’s been the messaging throughout. This isn’t something we just talked about yesterday or today. This is something we’ve been preparing for.''

And now, preparation done, fingers are crossed that trouble doesn't cross anyone's path.

6 - Break time. Having said all the above in the previous two points ...

"This time is really beneficial because I think we all could use a little bit of a break from one another,” McCarthy said. “I think it gives you a chance to get around your family, your friends, to get personally charged, emotionally and mentally.''

7 - The Hot Seat? “Mike is not only here, but he’s in the best position, in my mind, to lead this team as coach,'' said owner Jerry Jones. "He is very qualified to win a Super Bowl.''

That seems factual enough. However ...

8 - Sean Payton. “Sean Payton (speculation) shouldn’t be out there,” Jones also said. “That’s an injustice. For him, the Cowboys, all of us, that’s just sheer pulling it out of the air.''

Actually, it's OK if it become an issue at some point because under McCarthy's leadership, the Cowboys are stinking it up. But this is summer time. No stink. And therefore, no fair to make this a daily story.

9 - No more missed games for Tank? DeMarcus Lawrence plans to take back the sack crown from Micah Parsons.

“Become the sack leader again,'' Tank said of his goal. "I let a rookie show me up last year. Shoutout to my boy Micah. Restate my dominance. Let everybody know how I’m coming, how I feel and the type of respect I’m going to demand when I step on the field.”

Don't miss nine games ... and get double-figure sacks ... and this is doable.

10 - Dalton's deal. ... Well, it's $10.9 million to be precise. The Cowboys and Dalton Schultz have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal. If not, he will play under the franchise tag ... and why do we get the feeling that latter scenario is Dallas' actual plan?

11 - Interceptions, of course. Trevon Diggs had great workouts in the spring as he seeks to become a "shutdown corner'' in addition to an NFL-best playmaker who made a league-high 11 interceptions last season.

It's likely that QBs will be throwing his way less often. ... meaning his Pro Bowl-level performance might be more subtle than just fat numbers.

 At times during OTAs, Diggs talked trash to Prescott to get him to throw in his direction. When asked about taking chances to make the big plays, Diggs responded: “What chances? I don’t know what taking chances means. I play football.”

12 - Sam Williams was the top rookie in OTAs and minicamp. inly And the third-round rookie, taking lessons from everyone from Charles Haley to Micah Parsons, might help right away as a pass-rusher.

"I feel like this is the perfect time to get my hands right, get my footwork right and just open up my pass rush toolbox,'' said Williams, who believes right now he's a "good'' NFL pass-rusher but wants to reach the Haley level.

Quite a goal.

13 - Micah Parsons had 13 sacks as a rookie. What's next working under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn?

Micah wants to again lead the team in sacks, staying ahead of Tank.

Oh, and he wants to lead the team in interceptions, jumping ahead of Diggs.

To do all of that, he'll have to avoid the target on his chest, in terms of opposing offenses' focus.

“They were looking for me last year,” Parsons said. “It’s going to be a little different. It’s going to be more challenging. But I never back down from a challenge. The great ones just find a way.”

14 - McCarthy's got a carrot. "There’s a lot more to the second-year jump than just your statistics of how you play on Sundays,” McCarthy said. “It’s what kind of teammate are you? How do you interact in the locker room? Are you making the others better around you?''

McCarthy told us - and he's told Micah - of the difference between being "great'' and being "elite.''

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"Our desire, and it needs to be his desire, is for him to be an elite player, not just a great player. The elite ones bring everybody with them. How they work, how they compete in practice, how they compete in the weight room, how they compete at garbage can basketball in the locker room. That’s all part of culture growth and establishing that. He has an opportunity to really make a huge impact on our football team.”

McCarthy doesn't talk much about the psychology of football. But as he proves here ... he gets it.

15 - Osa and Neville and Chauncey up ... Those three names are on the D-line rise ... 

16 - So who's down? Tarell Basham didn't get talked about much this offseason. Nor did Carlos Wartkins. Somewhere in between is Falcons ex standout Dante Fowler.

17 - Swing tackle matters. Rookie Matt Waletzko seemed to inch ahead of Josh Ball. Maybe Dallas should not roll the dice on kids and go buy a proven guy?

18 - LVE vs. Jabril Cox? believes Leighton Vander Esch recently told CowboysSI. that the reason he ended the season strong is simply because he got snaps.

“You’re going to get that out of me if you play me the whole game,'' he said.

Meanwhile, second-year Jabril Cox tells CowboysSI.com that he believes the Micah-led group can be "the most athletic linebackers room in the NFL.''

Cox also tells us that he plans to be fully healthy by the start of camp in Oxnard. This competition should be fun.

19 - Amari Cooper is gone. And his jersey number is (mostly) forgotten. But ... There is a gaping hole right now. The Cowboys are going to wait and see ... but we can make the argument for chasing somebody like Will Fuller right now.

20 - Running Dak? 20 carries? That was a popular storyline coming out of OTAs. But this is going to be about mobility and flexibility, not Dak suddenly becoming Michael Vick.

21 - Sleek Zeke? This could be his final season in Dallas, given the way his contract is structured. But that doesn't alter the Cowboys' faith in Ezekiel Elliott for 2022.

“Nothing ever changes for my expectations of Zeke, of who he is, how he leads this team, how he approaches the game,” Prescott said. “He comes in like a pro each and every day and does that, so I expect his best.

"When Zeke’s healthy, I don’t think there’s a better back.”

22 - At the same time, more Tony Pollard is also part of the plan. Share carries. Split backfield? Play receiver?

“I’m open to anything,” Pollard said. “Just being on the field, being able to make the most of my opportunities. If I have to line up in the slot a little more, whatever it takes. I’m ready to do it. ... I feel like I’m better the more I’m involved in the offense.”

23 - Jalen Tolbert as a starter? James Washington and the rookie Tolbert are in play behind CeeDee Lamb as the wideout trio. When Gallup gets healthy (some time after training camp), it's a solid group. ... leaving a battle for the Nos. 5 and 6 guys.

24 - For NFL Draft pick No. 24 - Tyler Smith. He is projected to be the Cowboys’ starting left guard during his rookie season and then, maybe after two years, the franchise’s starting left tackle. But ...

25 - But ... the eight-time Pro Bowler Tyron Smith hasn’t played a full season since 2015. If So Tyler might play some tackle this year. Meanwhile, Tyler hasn't really moved above Connor McGovern at left guard.

The Cowboys would be wise to hit the accelerator on the guard plan ... while hoping for the best regarding tackle health.

26 - CeeDee is No. 1. He is going to get a zillion targets this year.

“I’ve been ready,” Lamb said of his move to the top of the totem pole. “That’s just me and my competitiveness. That’s in my nature. That’s kind of how I grew up playing football. I’m always ready for my name to be called.”

27 - The Cowboys boast top assistants. Where's their "hot seat''? McCarthy is already having to deal with the foolishness. But interestingly, nobody much blames Quinn for any failures. And fellow coordinators Kellen Moore and Bones Fassel remain highly regarded.

How is it that when the Cowboys win, Quinn and the staff did well ...

But when the Cowboys lose, it's McCarthy's fault?

28 - Did the Dallas roster take a step back? They keep saying no. The facts disagree. Which position will end up right?

“We know what we have in this locker room and we know what we can be,” he said. “Talent is one thing, but if you don’t fulfill it, it doesn’t really mean anything. So just from the names and stuff like that, we got young players that just haven’t had a chance to make a name for themselves. I’m excited for those guys to be able to do that and for them to prove people wrong. I know what this team has and the men that we have and the coaches and the leadership. We definitely didn’t take a step back.''

Well, they definitely did, on paper. But that can be fixed, 30 days from now.

29 - That center competition? That's not happened yet. Tyler Biadasz took most of the first-team snaps this offseason, even as coaches praised the work ethic of Matt Farniok and even as the league praised Dallas for the UDFA signings of Alec Lindstrom and James Empey.

But all those bodies ... and still no push.

30 - Too soft? Too physical? Too much? Too little? McCarthy was fined $100,000 by the NFL because the team’s OTAs were "too physical.''

Meanwhile, he cut the three-day minicamp down to one on-field practice, with another day used to take the team to Topgolf, drawing criticism for being "too soft.''

As predecessor Jason Garrett would tell McCarthy about the Cowboys Experience: The only way to win is to win big.

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