The Dallas Cowboys 2020 training camp is underway as players have already reported for meetings and conditioning work. We all have certain players we’re especially excited to hear reports on, so I thought I’d share the five Cowboys I’m most intrigued by this year.
But as I started to write, keeping that number to just five was way too difficult. So I’m breaking it up; looking at players new to Dallas today and then five more tomorrow who are returning from last season.
Let’s dive right in!
WR CeeDee Lamb
This isn’t any big surprise. Almost any 1st-round rookie is going to be command attention in his first training camp.
But Lamb isn’t just any 1st-round pick. He plays at a high-profile position and was one of the biggest names in his class. Getting him at the 17th pick was considered one of the biggest steals of the draft by even some of the Cowboys’ biggest critics.
CeeDee is easily the most exciting and anticipated rookie to join the Cowboys since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016. He won’t walk into a starting role like Zeke did, but even being the third receiver in this offense will give him plenty of opportunities to shine.
Not only will Lamb be a big piece in the 2020 offense but he is an incredible security blanket against injury to Amari Cooper or Michael Gallup. While Randall Cobb was an excellent complimentary player, Lamb has franchise WR potential and should keep things moving nicely if he has to take on a larger role.
Just like any other rookie in 2020, CeeDee has missed out on the usual offseason work due to COVID-19. But he has natural talent that few others do, and that should help him to still make some noise when practices begin in a few weeks.
CB Trevon Diggs
If 1st-round picks get a lot of hype, the next closest thing is a guy that the Cowboys reportedly would’ve taken in that round. On top of that, Diggs is stepping into the position with the most turmoil and uncertainty of any on Dallas’ roster.
Like CeeDee Lamb, Trevon may not be starting Week One. But he’s coming with big expectations based on draft hype, and the competition in front of him is not nearly as steep.
Adding sizzle to this story is the new coaching staff, especially the massive overhaul on defense, which helps even the playing field. And while Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis have experience that Diggs lacks, they’re also both on expiring contracts.
The best scenario for the Cowboys in 2020 is for Diggs and Reggie Robinson, but especially Diggs, to immediately shine and earn a starting role. They would have four years of his cheap rookie contract to enjoy and could potentially move Awuzie and/or Lewis in trades.
Some are rooting hard for Chido and Jourdan to make the most of this season and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if Trevon Diggs lives up to the hype, neither of those guys may be able to hold him back.
DE Aldon Smith
Does it get more intriguing than this guy? Eight years ago he was arguably the best young pass rusher in the NFL. But personal issues led to suspensions and then a four-year absence from the game.
Aldon Smith has returned looking for redemption and the Cowboys, needing to replace Robert Quinn, are willing to give him that opportunity. And now that Tyrone Crawford is starting camp on the PUP list, Smith could wind up being a starter in Week One.
Nobody expects Aldon to be the same guy he was in 2012. Who of us are? But if he’s even half of the All-Pro pass rusher that put up 19.5 sacks that season, Dallas should have a sufficient player to play on the other end from DeMarcus Lawrence.
While he does turn 31 in September, Smith is reportedly in incredible shape. And remember, he’s avoided over four seasons of NFL mileage that causes the usual physical breakdowns. He may be a better athlete for his age than you might assume.
That’s what so intriguing here; a somewhat unprecedented situation for a player with Aldon’s previous level of play and then the extended layoff. Who knows what he’ll be this year?
But again, if it’s anything close to what Smith once was, Dallas could wind up having one of the better pairs of defensive ends in the NFL.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
This addition has been almost underrated at this point. Ha Ha is a former 1st-round pick and Pro Bowler; easily the most high-profile veteran safety to be on the Cowboys roster since Ken Hamlin or Roy Williams.
While he hasn’t been as consistently great as you’d want for his draft hype, Clinton-Dix knows how to go get the football. He will give up some big plays with weak tackling but will also create turnovers; a rare commodity in Dallas for a long time. Ha Ha has 33 career interceptions over the last six years.
Still, you’ll see some suggesting that Xavier Woods and Donovan Wilson would be a better starting duo. But Dallas didn’t bring in this veteran, especially at $4 million, to be a backup.
Also remember that Mike McCarthy was the head coach in Green Bay when Ha Ha was drafted in 2014. The Cowboys would have made this move without his blessing, and Clinton-Dix is still in his prime at just 27 years old.
There are holes in Ha Ha’s game but he’s still a legitimate starting safety. He will boost Dallas’ pass coverage over Jeff Heath and almost certainly improve our turnover ratio. He’s someone I’m very excited to hear more about in camp.
DT Gerald McCoy
It’s been a long time since Dallas made a meaningful free agency investment in the DT position. They’re making up for it in 2020 by signing veterans Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe. Both are intriguing, but McCoy is especially interesting given his prolific career.
Gerald has been one of the best defensive lineman in football for a decade, as you’d expect from a former third-overall draft pick. He’s been to six Pro Bowls and made the First or Second All-Pro teams four times.
Now 32, McCoy certainly isn’t going to be the elite player from his Tampa Bay days. But he still put up five sacks in his one season with Carolina last year and should be an upgrade, even if just a modest one, from Maliek Collins in Dallas.
But the potential for more is what’s so intriguing. We’ve seen social media videos of McCoy looking in phenomenal shape. He is likely much more motivated in Dallas than he was last year with the Panthers, who were without their starting QB and never really a contender.
Like with Aldon Smith and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, McCoy is a guy who’s proven himself on the NFL stage and in ways neither of them ever have. If he can do anything close to that in 2020, the Cowboys may have their best defensive tackle in a long time.