We're a little more than a week into Dallas Cowboys training camp and several players are making noise this Summer. Now we're not talking about one or two practices, we're talking about players who are consistently showing up as stand outs in the practice reports.
As we generally do in this space during the season; let's hand out our 3 Stars for the first week of training camp. But because there are so many players standing out early on, I broke it up between players returning from the 2019 squad and new arrivals to the Dallas Cowboys in 2020.
1. Chidobe Awuzie, CB
Since the offseason began, people have been looking for a replacement to the departing Byron Jones and the returning Chidobe Awuzie. Awuzie, who's struggled to make plays on the football through his first three seasons in the NFL had become the victim of really good ball placement and a technique that coached him to play the man and not the ball.
A new coaching staff has led to a fresh start for the Cowboys 2017 second-round pick. He's been actively playing the football in team drills and has been able to convert plays into interceptions. Yesterday, in practice, Awuzie was able to pick off Dak Prescott on an attempt to Cedrick Wilson.
If Awuzie can become more of a playmaker on the outside, that will change everything for him moving forward. Playing with his eyes on the quarterback and the football, Awuzie has had really good moments in his NFL career.
2. Darian Thompson, S
In a bit of a turn of events, Safety Darian Thompson may have worked his way into the starting lineup for the Dallas Cowboys. The reports about Thompson's play have been encouraging to this point in training camp and yesterday, images came out showing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with his helmet off as Thompson rotated in for first-team defensive reps.
Michael Gelkin of the Dallas Morning News reported yesterday that Clinton-Dix has failed to separate himself from Darian Thompson thus far during training camp.
3. Trysten Hill, DL
When Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy was lost for the season after a torn quadriceps tendon, the attention quickly turned to second-year defensive tackle Trysten Hill and rookie Neville Gallimore. The Cowboys were going to need those guys to step up and fill the massive void left in the middle of the defense.
So far, it sounds like Hill has risen to the occasion.
By all reports, he's been a much better player than he looked in 2019. His body is better prepared for the NFL grind and he's been focused and determined to earn a role in 2020. Yesterday, Stephen Jones included Hill when asked who's been the most impressive players for the Cowboys defense thus far.
Hill was seen by many as a project player when selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, hence some of the frustration with last year's selection. However, if he's able to start the season as part of the defensive tackle rotation or starting in base packages, that would be a huge step forward for Trysten Hill.
After being a healthy scratch for much of the 2019 season, many were ready to send Hill packing, but he's proof that patience is important when talking about your draft picks. Especially the ones who've only been in the NFL for one season.
Amari Cooper, WR
Dak Prescott and Wide Receiver Amari Cooper have picked up right where they left off in the 2019 season. Cooper continues to get open and Prescott continues to find him. While a lot of attention has been paid to CeeDee Lamb in the early going, Cooper has been just as dynamic for the Cowboys offense.
Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch
By all reports, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have been flying around the football. With renewed energy, there's a renewed hope that these two can be game wreckers for the Dallas Cowboys defense. In particular, getting Vander Esch back healthy has made a difference for Jaylon Smith, but also for the defense as a whole.
1. CeeDee Lamb, WR
It may be getting redundant to say it, but CeeDee Lamb is putting on a show in his first training camp in the NFL. Day after day, we get reports from those fortunate enough to witness the practices that he's consistently making plays in the Dallas Cowboys offense. Yesterday, Lamb was credited with three touchdowns in yesterday's practice, which included red-zone work.
Lamb will get a lot of opportunities in the Dallas Cowboys offense, which is filled with an abundance of talent. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Ezekiel Elliott will garner the attention of opposing defensive coordinators and it's looking like those opposing defenses will have to concern themselves with CeeDee Lamb as well.
2. Aldon Smith, EDGE
From the moment the Dallas Cowboys signed Aldon Smith, fans and analysts have been clamoring to see the once-feared pass rusher in pads on an NFL field. Through the early part of training camp, he has not disappointed.
Aldon Smith has received high praise from coaches and observers alike for his impressive physique and his rare blend of strength and athleticism for a player his size. Even with the signing of Everson Griffen to play right defensive end, it sounds like the Dallas Cowboys will have a role for Smith in Mike Nolan's multiple defense.
He's going to get snaps at several places along the Dallas Cowboys defensive front. It's even been hinted that he's lined up as the nose tackle in some three-man fronts in end of game simulations. With Griffen and DeMarcus Lawrence playing defensive end, Smith has been the defensive tackle in those situations.
The Cowboys are getting creative with the way they're getting Aldon Smith involved and it's going to pay huge dividends when the regular season starts. They say you can't have too many pass rushers and the Dallas Cowboys are about to put that theory to the test.
3. Trevon Diggs, CB
As impressive as CeeDee Lamb has been for the offense in his first training camp, second-round pick Trevon Diggs has put on a show himself for the defense.
Diggs is receiving rave reviews from the coaching staff and practice observers for his ability to track the football down the field like a wide receiver and make a play on the ball. His instincts and playmaking ability are what excited people coming out of Alabama and now he's showing it against NFL competition.
Daily, it seems as if Diggs is working himself into a position to earn snaps against the first-team offense and fight for a starting spot opposite of Chidobe Awuzie. The Dallas Cowboys defense needs playmakers on the outside and Trevon Diggs is showing he is up to the task.
Daryl Worley, CB
Free agent signing Daryl Worley has received positive reviews in the early part of training camp for his ability to play across the formation for the Dallas Cowboys defense. A versatile player, Worley can play on the outside, in the slot, and line up at safety and can be used as a matchup piece against tight ends. He's made plays in practice and will be an integral part of the Cowboys defense in 2020.