We’ve spent the last few weeks extrapolating all the information we can from the reports and nuggets coming out of the Dallas Cowboys’ 2020 training camp. Even with this limited window to the team’s activities, the perceptions of certain players’ values have changed. Here are the five Cowboys who I think have seen their stock rise the most during camp.
In a way, these “stock report” articles and other preseason analysis may be more accurate this year than ever before. We had a bad tendency to focus too much on what players did in the exhibition games, forgetting that their practice performances were a big factor in the coaches’ minds.
Now in 2020, practice is all anyone has to base their perceptions and decisions on. Here are the guys who’ve done the most to improve their brand during these recent weeks:
WR CeeDee Lamb
While he already had high expectations from the moment he was drafted, Lamb still had to get on the field and justify the hype. He’s done all that and more, with even the Cowboys’ own website calling him the best WR in camp this year.
Everything you see and hear about CeeDee makes him sound like one of those special players who makes everything look easy. You always hope for that with a 1st-round pick but we’ve seen plenty who didn’t come close to being elite, or even all that special.
At this point there’s little doubting that Lamb is going to quickly validate being given the hallowed #88 jersey. If these practice reports prove true, he just might be the Cowboys’ true franchise receiver by the end of the season.
So yes, Lamb’s stock was already very high coming into camp. But there’s a big difference between the things hoped for and the things realized, and CeeDee has quickly made everyone realize that he’s set to become the next great one in the Cowboys lineage of receivers.
DT Trysten Hill
Last year’s 2nd-round pick was being mostly discounted in all offseason talk about the defensive tackle position. Some thought he could be traded, or even released, as Dallas moved on to rookie Neville Gallimore and their veteran free agent signings.
But all reports indicate that Hill has made a dramatic turnaround in his second season. Whether it’s the change in coaches or a change within, Trysten has been outshining Gallimore and has reasserted himself as a young asset on the defensive line.
Gerald McCoy’s unfortunate injury and release have only increased the pressure on Hill to deliver in 2020. That was always the expectation going back to when he was drafted; Trysten was supposed to be the new starting DT this year as most expected Dallas to let Maliek Collins leave in free agency.
Hill’s struggles as a rookie changed that plan, leading to the signing of McCoy and Dontari Poe and then the drafting of Gallimore. But those moves may have helped light a needed fire under him, and now the 22-year-old is putting in the work to improve his reputation and his status on the team.
CB Trevon Diggs
Like CeeDee Lamb is doing at WR, this rookie cornerback has quickly established himself as one of the best players at his position. In fact, some are already calling Diggs the top CB on the roster.
Honestly, this isn’t a huge surprise. Trevon was considered a potential 1st-round talent in 2020; the Cowboys have said they might have taken him at the 17th pick if Lamb hadn’t fallen. What’s more, the competition of Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and other Dallas corners isn’t exactly stiff.
With Lewis missing time due to injury, Diggs is getting a lot of starter reps in practice and has been making the most of them. He’s produced some of the biggest highlight plays from camp with his tight coverage and making plays on the ball.
While it’s ultimately up to the coaches, it doesn’t sound like Trevon will be giving up that starting position anytime soon. We went into camp wondering how much he’d be able to compete with the Cowboys returning corners. Now, the question is if any of them can keep up with the rookie.
S Darian Thompson
There was a lot of doubt that Thompson would even make the roster this year prior to camp. After all, Dallas had signed veteran Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and there was talk that Chidobe Awuzie and Daryl Worley could both be splitting time at safety. After a little over a year in a backup role, Darian felt like an afterthought moving forward.
Over the last few weeks of practices, though, Thompson has emerged as the presumptive starter over Clinton-Dix. He has been getting most of the first-team reps in practice along with Xavier Woods and living up to the potential that once made him a 3rd-round pick and starter with the Giants.
Dallas has been working with Darian since the end of the 2018 season, hoping to see him reclaim his career after injuries cost him his place in New York. He emerged as their primary backup last year, having the size and skills to play any role as a safety, and now it appears he’s taking things to the next level.
True, some of this may be on the ongoing decline for Clinton-Dix. While still in his physical prime, the former 1st-rounder hasn’t been having much success since his peak years in Green Bay. That trend appears to be continuing in Dallas.
But still, the Cowboys wouldn’t be making this switch lightly given Ha Ha’s resume. They must see a clear superiority in what Darian Thompson’s doing on the field, and that’s not something we’d have ever expected prior to camp.
HC Mike McCarthy
Sure, there are plenty of other players we could talk about. Receiver Cedrick Wilson, DE Aldon Smith, LB Francis Bernard, Greg Zuerlein at kicker; plenty of other players have seen their stocks rise during camp and hopefully will be contributors in the upcoming season.
However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the great first impression that Mike McCarthy has been making in Dallas. While the proof will ultimately be in wins, losses, and playoff success, McCarthy is winning his players and Cowboys fans over with his different approach to coaching.
Despite the relief many felt in seeing the Cowboys move on from Jason Garrett, there was still reasonable doubt in McCarthy providing a true upgrade. He’d been fired from Green Bay and many feel that only winning one Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers as his QB was an underachievement.
But McCarthy’s year away from the NFL gave him an opportunity to reset and work on his craft. And so far, his openness during interviews and a new culture of open dialogue and flexible, innovative strategies on the field are drawing praise from Cowboys players and those who cover the team.
Time will tell if the grass was truly greener in this change of head coaches. But at least in this preparation phase of the season, the early results of the Mike McCarthy Era are very positive.