Offensive Tackle Josh Ball spent his rookie season with the Cowboys on inured reserve. After serving the NFL's version of a “redshirt” year, will Ball step into a contributing role for Dallas in 2022?
A high-ankle sprain early in last year's training camp kept Ball off the practice field and out of all preseason games. It also gave Dallas a way to stash him on IR throughout 2021 and go with more experienced backups.
The Cowboys spent a 4th-round pick in 2021 to add the former Marshall tackle. While Ball was seen as having at least Day 2 talent as an OT prospect, he fell due to character concerns stemming from domestic violence accusations in 2018 from his college girlfriend while at Florida State.
If the perceived talent proves true then Ball could be a surprise contender this season. Fourth-round picks don't always make the roster as rookies, let alone in future years, but opportunity is ripe in Dallas.
La'el Collins was released for salary cap space and to end an increasingly rocky relationship with the organization. Dallas felt comfortable making that move because of having Terence Steele, the current projected starter for right tackle in 2022.
Steele's claim to the starting job is tenuous. He's looked adequate in playing opportunities but still has to prove he's the long-term answer. And as he moves up the depth chart there's now an increased need for quality backups.
Veteran Ty Nsekhe wasn't re-signed this offseason so Dallas' trust is currently being placed in Josh Ball and rookie Matt Waletzko to provide depth at offensive tackle. But with perceived potential that led to them being drafted prospects, which Steele wasn't in 2020, could Ball or Waletzko push their way even higher?
Again, Ball might have entered the NFL with much more fanfare if not for the personal concerns. If healthy then this summer will be his first real opportunity to show what he can do against professionals.
Steele will begin as the starting right tackle and likely retain that role throughout 2022. But don't be surprised if you hear reports out of camp or see things in the preseason that make you wonder about Josh's potential for bigger things.
It'd be easy to forget about Josh Ball after his absence last year. But with more perceived natural talent than any of the Cowboys' tackles not named Tyron Smith, he may quickly become a much bigger factor at the position than you'd expect.