It isn't often that you look at a draft class and think, there isn't a day one starter in the bunch. That isn't a shot at the talent of the 2019 Dallas Cowboys draft class, it's more of a reflection of the state of the Dallas Cowboys roster.
On defense 10 of the 11 starters from the Cowboys top 10 unit are currently slated to start and former All-Pro Robert Quinn figures to be the day one starter at right defensive end. On offense, the Dallas Cowboys will have two new starters from their playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Tight End Jason Witten and slot receiver Randall Cobb. Witten isn't a new face, but after having a year off, he's back and will likely retake his mantle at the top of the tight end depth chart.
As things stand right now, that doesn't leave a lot of room for rookies to make a dent in the starting lineup, but there are a few who could work their way into serious playing time.
Under Head Coach Jason Garrett, rookies don't often find themselves as week one starters unless you're an offensive lineman or Ezekiel Elliott. Generally, rookies have had to wait their turn and earn their snaps, but there are several who could see significant playing time right away.
Trysten Hill, Defensive Tackle
Heading into training camp, Maliek Collins figures to be the first-team 3-technique defensive tackle. His injury history, however, suggests he may not make it through training camp unscathed. Collins has had problems with his feet and those problems have limited him during training camp in seasons past. Any setback to Collins could open the door for fellow 3-technique and second-round pick Trysten Hill.
Tyrone Crawford is another player who will get snaps at 3-technique a season he’s ha had a lot of success rushing from the interior.
Even with veterans in the 3-Tech rotation, the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff will find a way to get Hill on the field. He has an incredible ability to get off the line of scrimmage so quickly that it disrupts the play beforehand it ever gets going.
Hill comes to the Cowboys with a lot of tools to rush the passer and be a penetrating force on the inside but needs to get better at working off of blocks.
Hill figures to be part of the 3-tech defensive tackle rotation from the get-go. with the opportunity to earn more snaps along the way. With Hill, COllins, and Crawford, that’s a scary rotation.
Tony Pollard, Running Back/Kick Returner
We all know who the starting running back is for the Dallas Cowboys. It's the two-time rushing champion, Ezekiel Elliott. Barring any unforeseen suspension handed down for Elliott's offseason "altercation," he'll be the starter again at running back.
Where fourth-round draft pick Tony Pollard has an opportunity to have an impact in 2019 is as the team's kick returner and the primary gadget guy.
Pollard was a dynamic returner in college, returning seven kicks for touchdowns over three seasons. He's an electric player with the ball in his hands and with Kellen Moore calling the shots for the offense, Pollard was the first skill position player the Cowboys drafted for him.
Pollard is a puzzle piece that Moore can deploy as a running back, wide receiver, jet sweep option, or even as a blocker for Elliott.
How Tony Pollard performs could not only have an impact on the running back depth chart but the wide receiver depth chart as well. He could very well supplant Tavon Austin as the team’s gadget player who takes the jet sweep snaps.
If he proves capable of handling backfield snaps during the preseason, he’ll be the back up running back behind Elliott because he’s able to play on offense in a variety of roles and on special teams.
He’ll be the primary kick returner week one, but he’ll also play on the coverage teams as well. He provides so much more as a back up running back than Rod Smith did or Darius Jackson can.
It's unknown at this point how much he'll see the field early on, but you can bet that if he has a good training camp, Kellen Moore will figure out ways to get him the football. He’s too dynamic of a player to sit on the bench.
Donovan Wilson, Safety
The strong safety position is the one area on the defense where there appears to be a question mark. Jeff Heath is the incumbent starter at safety, but the Cowboys front office brought in veteran George Iloka and drafted Donovan Wilson in the sixth round to add depth and competition to the position.
Donovan Wilson is a player to get excited about for the Cowboys secondary. He’s a playmaker.
At Texas A&M, he recorded eight interceptions over three seasons, including five his sophomore season. Injuries slowed him down through the last couple years of his collegiate career, but it appears that his playmaking skills are translating to the Cowboys practice field thus far.
The quickest way for Wilson to have Ann impact is on special teams. His speed and toughness should make him an excellent coverage player on kickoffs and the Cowboys could use him as a gunner inn punt coverage.
Though he may primarily be a special teams player from the start, he’s got the skills to make a significant impact a series a box safety for the Cowboys defense.
Wilson's climb to the top of the strong safety depth chart isn't very steep. Sure, there are two veterans in front of him, but Jeff Heath struggled to tackle in 2018 and George Iloka has bounced from Cincinnati to Minnesota and now to Dallas over the last couple of years.
The rookie safety is a good tackler and a player who can make plays on the football. If he's able to pick up the defense and compete in training camp an the preseason, it's not a stretch to think, he could be starting at some point during the regular season.
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Though training camp is still five weeks away, there are some very interesting storylines to follow as we inch toward the regular season. Each figures to have a role for the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and one of these three may find themselves in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
Which of the rookies do you think will end up starting at some point during the regular season?
Is 2019 Wide Receiver Group Best Dak Prescott Has Worked With?
Dak Prescott will be leading the Dallas Cowboys offense for the fourth consecutive year in what has been a very unlikely career. In three seasons, he's led the Cowboys to two NFC East titles and one playoff win. He's done so with quality offenses, starting by a strong offensive line and an elite running back in Ezekiel Elliott. During his career in Dallas he's had some solid receivers, but he hasn't played with a group as strong as the one he'll have in the upcoming 2019 season.
This year's starters will be headlined by Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb. Although there's many other intriguing players to watch at the position, those three are the presumed starting three.
Despite the big debate among fans and analysts, Prescott has been able to win games for this football team. Perhaps his worst came at the beginning of last season, when the team's plan of not having a WR1 backfired terribly.
In the first seven weeks of the 2018 season, Dak averaged only 202 yards per game. In that span he threw for less than 200 yards in four games. Once the team traded for Cooper, that average rose all the way up to 274 yards per game. He threw for less than 200 yards in only one occasion since then.
Michael Gallup is poised for a breakout season after a rookie season in which he improved every week. The Cowboys' 2018 third-round pick didn't get as much playing time at the beginning of the season as he fought for snaps with Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin among others. In the postseason, Gallup caught six passes for 119 yards. He still has a long way to go, but the talent is clearly there.
As for Randall Cobb, many fans have doubts. He's coming in to replace Cole Beasley, who was such an effective slot wide receiver. Cobb's style will likely be different, and although he might not be as good at shaking defenders off as ol' #11, he'll be more of a downfield threat than Beasley.
Comparing this starting group to the ones from prior years, it really seems like the best Dak Prescott has worked with. During his first couple of years in the league, Dak played with a Dez Bryant that (like it or not) wasn't anywhere close to his peak. 2016-2017 Dez wasn't on last year's Amari Cooper's level. Williams had his moments, but wasn't consistent and was well-known as a body-catcher.
This year's group has its question marks, that's for sure. Randall Cobb hasn't played a full season since 2015 due to injuries and Michael Gallup doesn't have a ton of experience and is yet to breakout. Even still, it seems like Prescott will have a great group of pass-catchers to help him lead the Cowboys to another NFC East title. It'll be an interesting fourth year for the young Cowboys quarterback. It's definitely good to see he'll have help.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Offensive Tackle
The Dallas Cowboys appear to be bringing back the same key trip of players at offensive tackle from last year. But with talk that 2019 could be La'el Collins' last season in Dallas, will we see signs that the Cowboys are preparing for future changes in how they handle the position in this year's training camp?
With Tyron Smith as an All-Pro fixture at left tackle, and Cameron Fleming re-signed this offseason to be the swing tackle, the intrigue swirls around Collins and his impending free agency in 2020. If the Cowboys have no intention of paying La'el what he can command on the open market, what might they do now to lay the groundwork for Collins' exit?
Here's a quick look at the projected OT depth chart for 2019 camp:
- Tyron Smith, La'el Collins
- Cam Fleming, Jake Campos
- Mitch Hyatt, Derrick Puni, Brandon Knight
As was just said, the returning top three are locked in to those spots. Campos is a carryover from last year's practice squad, so that experience gives him a potential edge over the three undrafted rookies.
Back to the top, though, and this situation with La'el Collins. If Dallas had Collins locked up for years to come, they would likely only keep the two starters and Fleming as a backup. A fourth OT is unlikely to be active on game days, and they have Guard Connor Williams' college experience as a tackle in case of an emergency.
If the Cowboys are truly thinking that La'el won't be back in 2020, perhaps they use a roster spot now to hang on to a player who they value for depth next year.
This is where undrafted rookie Mitch Hyatt becomes an intriguing figure in this 2019 camp. He comes from a championship college program at Clemson and was projected as a late-round pick this year. Dallas made him a priority free agent signing after the draft.
Of course, Campos, Knight, or Puni have the potential to make some noise as well. But Hyatt would seem to have the most upside of the group, and Dallas might be willing to consider him as a 2020 swing tackle option if he can hit the ground running in camp this year.
Cam Fleming is also going to need to have a strong camp to help the Cowboys' in their strategy. Letting Collins go would be predicated on their comfort level with Fleming as the right tackle next year. If he struggles now, then doesn't get much playing time in the regular season, that would likely shake their confidence.
The final result of all this talk could be that La'el Collins and Dallas actually do figure out a way to continue their relationship. But when the Cowboys drafted Connor McGovern in the third round of this last draft it felt like a future-pointed move, with Collins' projected departure the likely impetus for the investment.
What we may wind up seeing is McGovern taking over at left guard and allowing Connor Williams to replace Collins at tackle. But that's a discussion better saved for next offseason.
You can read more about La'el Collins impending free agency in this recent article by our own Kevin Brady. A few weeks back, I also discussed the idea that Dallas should trade Collins now rather than lose him as a free agent next year.
For now, the offensive tackles in 2019 should have continuity and stability. But if we really pay attention in this training camp and preseason, we may see signs of what the Cowboys are planning to do at the position in the coming years.
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OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS
Randall Cobb Will Be a Different Slot WR for Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys signing Randall Cobb might just be the most underrated move of their offseason. For less than five million dollars, they got an experienced wide receiver who is only 28 years old. The former Green Bay Packer has had a solid career wearing green and yellow and now gets the chance to play with the Cowboys' colors. But what can we expect from the veteran wideout?
There are some players who are absolute locks to make the 53-man roster and Cobb is one of them. That much is clear. On the depth chart, he probably sits behind Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, who will likely be the number one and number two receivers, respectively.
With Cole Beasley departing to the Buffalo Bills in free agency, Cobb is expected to take his place as the offense's starting slot receiver. Cowboys Nation knows very well just how good Beasley was at playing in the slot. His ability to shake defenders off was really impressive and his hands were reliable. However, we might see something different from Cobb.
Yes, it all points toward him playing the same position, but don't expect him to be a Beasley 2.0. This is of course, not a bad thing. Something fans consistently complained about Scott Linehan's offense were the short routes receivers had to run. In Cobb's short time with the Cowboys, we're seeing deeper routes even out of the slot position.
Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com wrote: "the ball to Cobb even playing out of the slot is further down the field. We hadn’t seen that from Cole Beasley and visually it looks different."
This should be exciting for Cowboys fans, specially considering all the positive reviews on new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. What we see from Randall Cobb in 2019 could be very different from what we had seen from Beasley in prior years.
It's also worth mentioning that word is Cobb has quickly developed an important chemistry with his new quarterback, Dak Prescott. Beasley was very important in Prescott's rookie season, when he averaged 52.1 yards per game and accounted for five touchdowns.
While Beasley was an important receiver for Cowboys, he wasn't really known as a team leader. Cowboys reporter Lindsay Cash Draper wrote about Cobb's leadership skills will carry on to the team whether he's doing it intentionally or not. It's always good to have such presences out there on the training field to spark the team.
Randall Cobb won't be this team's #1 guy or anything like that, but he will surely contribute every week. When we look back to this offseason, I believe this signing will look like a great move by the Cowboys' front office.
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