A common consequence of the NFL Draft is that new arrivals steal the spotlight away from some of the returning talent. The Dallas Cowboys 2022 roster has some examples of that, plus a few other players who seem to be flying under the radar as we prepare for training camp.
Today let's look at five players who may not getting enough attention in current discussions. Some felt this shift a few weeks ago with the Cowboys' latest draft class, but others have been battling obscurity since the start of the offseason.
DE Dorance Armstrong
Re-signed in March as part of the plan to replace Randy Gregory, Armstrong is coming off a career-high five sacks in 2021. But since Sam Williams was drafted in the 2nd Round last month, Dorance is starting to feel more like an afterthought in Dallas' pass-rushing rotation.
The “shiny new toy” mentality is inescapable; a natural byproduct of the hype and grandeur of the NFL's annual draft process. But while Williams bring intrigue and wonder as a new player in the mix, Armstrong has four years of experience and the momentum of his career-high production under Dan Quinn.
To be sure, Armstrong, Williams, and veteran Dante Fowler should all see snaps as the Cowboys look to keep fresh players attacking opposing quarterbacks. But while we're all eager to see Sam Williams defy the Cowboys' modern history with 2nd-round picks, he will have to be truly remarkable as a rookie to keep Dorance off the field.
Assuming Micah Parsons repeats as Dallas' sack leader in 2022, don't be surprised if Dorance Armstrong is second on the list. He will get his best opportunity yet with Gregory gone and, with a modest two-year deal, should still be hungry to prove he deserves even greater compensation.
QB Will Grier
Cooper Rush finally proved that he could step in and win in 2021, albeit for one game, and seems to have a stronger hold on the backup QB job than ever before. But Will Grier will get his first real shot at competing with Rush for the role in 2022 and shouldn't be quickly dismissed.
A 3rd-round pick in 2019 for Carolina, Grier was released by the Panthers at final cuts last year and claimed off waivers by Dallas. This will be his first offseason with the team, which is a tremendous difference for his system familiarity and ability to now contend with Rush.
Someone in Dallas' front office thought enough of Grief's potential to add him to the official roster last year and keep him there throughout the season. The Cowboys have already looked for an upgrade from Cooper Rush once before, dumping him for Andy Dalton in 2020. It would appear they're exploring that option again.
Sure, Rush got it done last year in Minnesota. But that one game won't be enough to keep him unchallenged in 2022, and Will Grier will at least get a fair fight this year.
TE Sean McKeon
Everyone's ready to hand the backup job to 4th-round rookie Jake Fergsuon. But Sean McKeon has been here for two years and can't be forgotten in the TE competition.
After watching Dalton Schultz take a few years himself to earn playing time, why should we assume that Ferguson will ascend any faster? Blake Jarwin kept Schultz at bay for two years despite being an undrafted prospect and McKeon has been similarly groomed since 2020.
Again, we're seeing recency bias toward Ferguson and that's only natural. But sleeping on McKeon as TE2 next season would border on foolish. The Cowboys haven't protected him with a roster the last two years for nothing, and now he's entering that critical third season when many players finally blossom.
WR James Washington
Washington was a 2nd-round pick in 2018 by Pittsburgh. He never claimed a consistent starting role but did start 25 of the 60 games he played in. James was also caught in the middle of Ben Roethlisberger's injuries and declining performance during the QB's career twilight.
Quick as many are to anoint Tolbert to the new “Big 3” of Dallas' receivers, Washington has a dramatic experience edge. And if he finds a better fit with the Cowboys than he did in Pittsburgh, James might finally show what the Steeles were so high on him a few years ago.
It may not matter in the long run. Michael Gallup's likely absences and other unforeseen issues should give both Tolbert and Washington plenty of targets. But don't be surprised if the veteran is next man up when the season begins.
CB Nahshon Wright
We saw very little of the 2021 3rd-rounder last season with Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis locked into their roles. Kelvin Joseph then got healthy and scooped up any table scraps that came along the latter part of the season.
Wright was immediately tabbed as a raw talent who would need professional coaching before he could contribute. But with the big body that Dan Quinn loves in his defensive backs and strong athletic potential, could Nahshon make a leap in his second year?
The Cowboys can't help but think about the future at CB this year. Brown will be a free agent in 2023 and Lewis could be a cap casualty. The team is counting on Wright and Joseph to be ready for larger roles next year and would love to invest in them with more snaps now. As long as the young guys prove they can handle it, they could ascend the depth chart sooner than later.