While rookies draw a lot of attention in the runup to training camp for the Dallas Cowboys, there are plenty of opportunities for some players who have been around for a year or two already. The team has a lot of places on the roster where they need help. Some of the younger players will be in direct competition with the new draft class, while others are contending with other veterans. Here are some of the second- and third-year players for Dallas that have a golden chance this year.
TE Sean McKeon
With the departure of Blake Jarwin, TE2 is wide open. Dalton Schultz is playing on the franchise tag, and that could signal that whoever winds up right behind him on the depth chart will be auditioning to replace him. McKeon was third in the pecking order last season behind the more experienced Jeremy Sprinkle but is expected to be a strong contender this season. He also is competing against this year’s fourth-round pick Jake Ferguson.
McKeon is generating a little buzz already. The Cowboys value experience in the system and he now has two years under his belt. TE2 is still a valuable position beyond the need to have someone ready to fill in for Schultz should he have any limitations this year. With the unsettled nature of the wide receiver group, Kellen Moore may try two tight end sets in passing situations. That will be viable if McKeon shows good pass catching skills. He will also have to be an asset as a blocker. He will have ample chances to display his abilities in camp practices. Schultz will likely be very limited in preseason games, which could be the best chance for McKeon to strut his stuff.
WR Simi Fehoko
While the questions at the position creates some concern, it also means Fehoko will have a great situation to rise up the depth chart. The positions behind WR1 CeeDee Lamb are wide open. Fehoko has to measure up against third-round pick Jalen Tolbert, free agent signing James Washington, Noah Brown, TJ Vasher, and a whole passel of UDFAs. But the competition is for all of the four or five spots behind Lamb. Fehoko is a big target at 6-3 and 220 lbs. HIs main objective should be developing chemistry with Dak Prescott.
If he can establish that rapport, his chances are very good. He has an advantage over the UDFAs, Washington, and even Tolbert in that aspect with a year in practices. He didn’t do much as a rookie, but with Amari Cooper gone and Michael Gallup’s timetable to return from injury uncertain, he should get a good share of the reps freed as a result. If the scouting department was correct in getting the team to spend a fifth-round pick on him, he should make the roster and perhaps have a big role when the games start to count.
OL Matt Farniok
Tyler Biadasz has held down the starting center job for two years. But that has been largely a case of there being no option. Many are not fully satisfied with Biadasz’s performance, and that includes Stephen Jones based on his early comments in the offseason.
Does that mean it is an open competition for the starting job? It is too soon to tell. It will be revealing if Farniok starts getting reps with the first team in camp. Farniok also has position flex and could be a backup for all three interior OL spots. That may actually work against him as quality depth is so valuable. But protecting Prescott and opening holes for the running backs should take priority, and if Farniok shows the staff more than Biadasz, he could very well be in the mix to start.
DE Chauncey Golston
Dan Quinn likes to rotate his defensive linemen a lot. That gives Golston a chance to be a valuable player even if he is not nominally a starter. He seems to have the tools to be a strong pass rusher and does not appear a liability against the run. Last season, he was starting to have some impact late in the year. He would wind up with a sack, a fumble recovery, a pass batted, four QB hits and 32 tackles. That should be enough to get him a lot of work in practices, and with DeMarcus Lawrence another player who should not see the field much in preseason, he also should have plenty of opportunities to show what he brings to the table.
S Israel Mukuamu
His competition consists of Donovan Wilson and UDFA Markquese Bell. Wilson has a bit of a reputation for underperforming our expectations. If the staff shares that opinion, Mukuamu could become the next man up in the safety group behind Jayron Kearse, who plays more as a safety/linebacker hybrid, and Malik Hooker. Since the team did not bring back Damontae Kazee, there is definitely a spot to be filled. Bell is probably the most highly touted of all the UDFAs this year, but once again, the value Dallas coaches seem to place on experience works in Mukuamu’s favor. He’s going to have to show his value in pass defense, where his length should make him an asset in jump ball situations.
CB Nahshon Wright
The cornerback room is stronger than we have seen in years. Trevon Diggs became the best ballhawk in the league last year, Anthony Brown is very underrated, and Jourdan Lewis was more than capable. A lot is being expected of Wright’s fellow 2021 pick Kelvin Joseph, who certainly will start camp ahead of Wright due to his second-round status. But an off-field incident could throw a wrench into things for Joseph. Wright would likely have to start out as a depth piece, but could still be called on should mishaps occur for the players ahead of him. He needs to show much more than he did his rookie campaign, but his chances were limited as the team had three starting corners that were hard to take off the field. This is his year to solidify his spot and be poised to move up.
Those are six candidates to break out this year, although success is not fully determined by becoming starters. Depth is so very valuable for NFL teams. Becoming a key part of that is no small accomplishment, and in all cases could set them up for bigger and better things.