Our excitement is growing quickly for the start of the Dallas Cowboys 2016 training camp! Friday is the opening press conference in Oxnard, CA, and then the first practice will be on Saturday.
Sadly, the entire roster won’t be on display. Several Cowboys, and most of them names you know well, are still recovering from injuries and surgeries that will prevent from starting camp with their teammates.
These players will all likely be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. While there, those players do not count against the team’s 90-man roster limit and the Cowboys can add some other bodies to get through practices. Also, during the camp and preseason only, players can be removed from the PUP list and returned to duty without any wait period.
Here is a rundown of the players all likely to be on the PUP list as camp begins:
McFadden suffered a broken elbow after falling on concrete during the summer. He had surgery to repair it and not expected to return until sometime in mid-August, at the earliest.
Missing camp and preseason time isn’t good for the veteran running back. McFadden’s job status is in question with the additions of Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, and Darius Jackson to the position. His absence may give the Cowboys enough time to get comfortable with not having McFadden around, allowing them to release for $2 million in cap savings.
Another injured running back, Dunbar was not expected to return for any of the camp or preseason time as he recovered from major knee surgery. Many felt he would begin the regular season on PUP, but recent comments by Stephen Jones have moved the expectation up for a Week One return.
Unlike McFadden, Dunbar has a more unique role that could preserve his position with the Cowboys. He was emerging as an offensive weapon early last year before the injury. Dunbar will hope that younger players, such as Elliott or receiver Lucky Whitehead, don’t fill that void with their athleticism.
Another player in a precarious contract situation, Escobar is still working his way back from an Achilles tear last December. Like with Dunbar, he recently got a positive projection about potentially being ready for the start of regular season.
With James Hanna already locked up for three years and two young prospects behind him in Geoff Swaim and Rico Gathers, the tight end position may be fully stocked for 2016 without Escobar. His rookie deal expires after this year, making him an easy fall guy if he’s not clearly better than the other backups. By missing camp and preseason, he gives those other players more opportunities to prove their value.
It went somewhat unnoticed but Mayowa had a minor knee procedure last month. Jason Garrett said it was not serious and they expected him back close to the start of camp.
A lot will be expected of Mayowa this year. Dallas is paying him close to $3 million a year despite low production as a reserve in Oakland. With DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory out to start the season, Mayowa is the first name you would look to start in their absence.
Hopefully, Mayowa is able to join the team quickly and hit the ground running. He will have to adjust to playing 4-3 defensive end after two years as a 3-4 linebacker.
The Cowboys’ third-round pick this year, Collins broke his foot during OTAs in May. His 10-12 week recovery window falls in the middle to end of August.
Collins’ absence leaves the Cowboys thin at defensive tackles. Behind the starters, Tyrone Crawford and Cedric Thornton, they have an injury-plagued veteran in Terrell McClain and some undrafted prospects. Guys like Jack Crawford and David Irving can help, but are also in the mix to play at defensive end.
Given that he’s a rookie, Collins may not be rushed back for Week One. Dallas could look to keep him on PUP as the regular season starts, giving extra time for the foot to heal. It would also let the Cowboys ease Collins in and practice for a few weeks before they would need him in a game.
Smith’s absence is no surprise. He was not expected to play at all in 2016 when Dallas drafted him the second round last April.
There have been murmurs of the young linebacker being able to play at some point this year. However, that would have required a surprisingly fast recovery for his knee that has not yet come. At this point, don’t count on him.
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Remember, these are only the guys are almost certain to be on the PUP list. There are a few more, such as Orlando Scandrick (knee) and DeMarcus Lawrence (back), who could be surprising additions for just the early portion of camp. It doesn’t hurt the Cowboys to give them some time off early in camp and then bring them back when ready.
Other teams have already started announcing their players will be on PUP to start camp. With the first practice just four days from now, Dallas should be making theirs known very soon.