Dallas Cowboys training camp always comes with players to watch. It’s a natural theme, whether camp is in Thousand Oaks, California, Wichita Falls, Texas, or Oxnard, California, the site of this year’s camp. .. which starts with the initial practice today.
Honestly? It’s good to be back to a traditional NFL training camp schedule. It’s fun to cover. Fans love it because it’s really the ONE chance they get every year to watch practice. COVID-19 robbed fans of that last year. Plus, for the media, it’s the ONE time during the year we get basically unfettered access to practice. The rest of the year we get access to a few minutes at the start of workouts at The Star.
Covering and attending training camp, to me, is fun. There are always certain players that I want to watch. Sometimes it’s about enjoyment, sometimes it’s about covering the team. Fish is our guy in Oxnard. But I still have my list: these are five players I would be watching intently, starting today, through the lens of covering the team.
QB Dak Prescott
I know. ‘Duh.’ But the goal here is to be truthful. I would be watching every snap and rep Prescott took if I were in Oxnard, based on his gruesome injury and his steady comeback this offseason. And, as our Mike Fisher wrote, Prescott can’t wait to ‘unleash himself’ in Oxnard.
He’s the most important player on this team. Without him, the Cowboys would have another average season. I would be asking questions every time he doesn’t practice (though Prescott will likely get breaks, on a schedule, like he did last year). Combined, he’ll play less than a full game in preseason. Every rep, and opportunity to watch those reps, counts.
DT Neville Gallimore
I see depth charts with Gallimore starting at defensive end, opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. That's all wrong.
He's a defensive tackle and at 302 pounds, maybe a good one.
When I saw him at Oklahoma a couple of years ago, I came away convinced he would be a quality defensive lineman. I think this is the year that Gallimore either shows he can be that type of player or takes a back seat to other players, because the Cowboys have brought in a ton of toys for new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to play with. That’s an easy recipe for the second-year lineman to get lost in the shuffle, if he’s not able to stand out.
NFL folks have always told me that players make their biggest improvement from Year 1 to Year 2. It’s time for Gallimore to stand out.
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WR Simi Fehoko
The rookie receiver is drawing attention, that’s for sure. And how quickly he progresses during training camp could play a significant role in whether the Cowboys make a move to deal Michael Gallup. First-round rookie wide receivers like CeeDee Lamb, more often than not, can produce something in Year 1. A mid-draft pick like Fehoko is another story.
But, hey, Gallup did it, right? And we definitely saw flashes of it during that 2018 training camp. Let's look for a rookie flash today.
T Brandon Knight
Odd choice? Well, left tackle Tyron Smith has missed at least two games each of the last five seasons, and he missed most of last season with an injury. Going into 2021, Cowboys fans need to prepare themselves for the idea that Smith will miss a game or two (and hopefully that’s all).
I’d be watching Knight to see if he can hold his own with the Cowboys’ defensive ends, as a sign to whether he can be a better backup to Smith this season. ... or play multiple positions. ... or play at all.
LB Jabril Cox
If there’s a linebacker that can screw up the current depth chart, it’s Cox, an FCS All-American at North Dakota State who held his own at LSU last season after transferring. I saw him play in college and I love his speed and how he pursues the football.
Is Cox’s progress tied to the fact that the Cowboys did not exercise their fifth-year option on Leighton Vander Esch. Maybe. I think he’s going to be one of the most exciting defensive players to watch in camp.