OXNARD, Calif. -- If the Dallas Cowboys are going to have any chance at equalling or improving upon what was mostly a fantastic defensive season delivered in 2021, they'll need to identify a complement (or two) to what breakout sensation Micah Parsons brings to the linebacker room. When they used a fourth-round pick on Jabril Cox last season, it was with the idea of the former Tiger becoming just that, but a torn ACL suffered during his rookie season pressed pause on his potential.
Now healthy and cleared to return, Cox began Cowboys training camp with a fire to become what the team is hoping he'll be: an NFL starter in as early as 2022. To do so, he'll need to beat out Leighton Vander Esch for reps -- LVE having re-signed on a one-year deal this past spring -- but Cox looks physically as ready as he ever was.
To this point, it was simply about overcoming the mental aspect of returning from such a devastating injury.
"That's something that I did in June and July to really gain confidence going into training camp," Cox said. "Now, I don't even need to think about it. The thought process is just making my reads and go. I don't even think about my leg. ... I think I can always get better. I'll never be at my top. But I feel great, even better than last year coming into camp."
When asked if he's already back to top form, Cox was unequivocal.
"I'm ready," he told CBS Sports.
For his part, head coach Mike McCarthy is already singing Cox's praises.
"Jabril is so bright, and smooth," said McCarthy this week. "He's quicker and faster than you think. ... He didn't have a lot of opportunities [in 2021] but when he did, he made plays."
And he'll get plenty more opportunities going forward to continue doing it.