The Dallas Cowboys underwent some dramatic changes this offseason, cutting ties with four starters who had made significant impacts on the team over the past several seasons. They enter the 2022 campaign at an inflection point for the Mike McCarthy era, as Jerry Jones has repeatedly made it clear that he has high expectations for his team and if they are not met, he has ... other options. (Hello there, Sean Payton.)
Both Jerry and Stephen Jones have maintained that the 2022 Cowboys should be as good or better than the 2021 version, despite the losses of Amari Cooper, Connor Williams, La'el Collins, and Randy Gregory. The replacements for those players are mostly rookies or journeyman veterans, so it remains to be seen whether this team can actually live up to those assertions.
With all that in mind, let's take an early look at what the team's depth chart looks like at the moment.
Rush was the backup to Prescott last season and went on the road to win a game against the Vikings in prime time, but has apparently been dramatically outplayed by Grier during training camp. Both Rush and DiNucci looked awful during the team's preseason opener, which Grier sat out with a groin injury.
Dallas is once again talking up its desire to get Pollard the ball more often, while at the same time maintaining that Elliott is a pillar of the team and will be the obvious lead back. The Cowboys keep promising to use the two on the field together and to get Pollard snaps in the slot, then just not actually doing it once the regular season begins. Pollard has outplayed Elliott in all three seasons the two have been on the team together, but it seems unlikely the distribution of snaps and/or touches will change much, barring injury.
With Gallup and Washington injured, the wide receiver room is the most interesting point of contention this offseason. Third-round pick Tolbert is seemingly locked in as one of the starters in three-receiver sets, while Brown, a sixth-year veteran mostly known for his run-blocking, is apparently having the best camp of the non-Lamb wideouts. Undrafted rookie Dennis Houston has been getting first-team snaps throughout camp as well, while Fehoko has apparently stepped up his game since the pads went on. Things seem very much in flux, and could change dramatically depending on Gallup's health status, as his having to start the season on the PUP list in addition to Washington would likely necessitate keeping an extra wideout or two.
The Cowboys still have first-round pick Tyler Smith rotating with McGovern for snaps at left guard, but it's widely expected that he will open the season as the starter as he has looked like the better player since the spring. The backup tackle situation is not good, and Dallas could be in the market for a veteran swing tackle come cut-down day. Otherwise, they might have to use Tyler Smith as Tyron's backup in the likely case of an injury to the long-time All-Pro. Dallas during the spring talked up Farniok's ability to compete with Biadasz for the starting center job, but that apparently hasn't happened and he seems locked in as the backup. McGovern should serve as the backup at both guard spots and, after the team waived Ryan Nall earlier this week, a jumbo-sized fullback on occasion.
|Carlos Watkins||Trysten Hill|
Sam Williams, Mika Tafua
|Nahshon Wright||Isaac Taylor-Stuart|
The defensive line group looks deeper than it has in quite some time, especially when you account for both Parsons and Barr acting as more-than-occasional pass rushers. Lawrence missed half of last season with a foot injury but has been talking up a big upcoming season wherein he re-takes the team sack lead from Parsons. After losing Randy Gregory to the Broncos, the Cowboys re-signed Armstrong, brought in Dan Quinn favorite Fowler, and also drafted Sam Williams in the second round. Depending on whether Golston is used as an edge or an interior rusher (he played defensive end last year but apparently put on weight and has been playing on the interior during camp), the edge rush group might include five or six players by the time final cuts happen.
Neither Gallimore nor Odighizuwa is a natural 1-tech defensive lineman, but they're the two best and most consistent producers among the interior linemen, and thus the most likely to start and handle the heaviest snap loads. After drafting Bohanna in 2021 to help the run defense, the Cowboys felt the need to dip back into the draft for a run-stuffer again this year with Ridgeway, so he might have an inside track to the nose tackle job ahead of last year's pick. If Golston is going to play on the inside, that could jeopardize Watkins and/or Hill's roster spots.
Parsons will play anywhere and everywhere in this defense, with Quinn utilizing his versatile skill set in just about any way imaginable. Barr can come on the field and help Quinn disguise what, exactly, Parsons' role will be on any given play. Vander Esch is an extreme injury risk but has apparently looked quite good in camp, and he figures to see early-down time ahead of Cox, who is still dealing with lingering affects of knee issues and is more of a coverage linebacker. After the Cowboys used two late-round picks on Harper and Clark (who is unlikely to play this season), they seem more likely to make the roster than Gifford and/or Jefferson, who was brought in as a free agent during camp.
The polarizing All-Pro Diggs will likely be counted on to play a lot of press man coverage against opposing teams' No. 1 receivers. His aggressiveness will lead to turnovers, and also to big plays. The Cowboys appear just fine with him making those gambles. Dallas has now drafted three corners in the last two drafts, but Brown and Lewis remain clearly the second- and third-best cornerback options on the team. Bland has apparently significantly outplayed Wright and (especially) Joseph in camp, and the 2021 second-round pick (Joseph) could be on the roster bubble after a poor performance that followed his tumultuous offseason, which included his being inside a vehicle that was used in a murder. (Joseph was not charged and voluntarily cooperated with the police investigation, though he could still be disciplined under the personal conduct policy.)
Kearse and Hooker were two of the Cowboys' best free-agent signings last offseason, each performing at an extremely high level on bargain-bin contracts. The team brought both players back for a bit more money this year, and they should each play significant roles once again, alongside Wilson. Kearse is basically a hybrid linebacker at this point, while Hooker is a center-field type and Wilson is basically a fairly traditional strong safety. Undrafted free-agent Bell has been talked up throughout camp, and seems like a pretty good shot to make the roster.
|PR||KaVontae Turpin||Jalen Tolbert||Rico Dowdle|
Dallas held a kicking competition early in camp between Hajrullahu and Jonathan Garibay, but was so unenthused by what it saw that the team brought in four kickers for workouts and ended up bringing back Maher, who held the job in 2018 and 2019 and spent last season with the Saints. Turpin, the USFL MVP, seems to have worked his way onto the roster as the primary return man, and could take some slot snaps with the offense on occasion as well.