America’s Team opens its camp as the defending NFC East champs in 2022. However, it’s hard to forget the calamitous ending to the 2021 season. Now, with players like Amari Cooper and Randy Gregory gone, Mike McCarthy and Jerry Jones have to figure out how to retool to make another playoff run this year. As Dallas Cowboys training camp gets underway, here are three positional battles to watch closely.
Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Info
Location: Marriott Residence Inn, Oxnard, California
Rookies report: Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Veterans report: Tuesday, July 26, 2022
First game: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, September 11, 8:20 p.m. EST
Battle No. 1: WR2/3 — Jalen Tolbert vs. James Washington
Amari Cooper is now a member of the Cleveland Browns, and Michael Gallup likely won’t be ready for Week 1 after a late-season knee injury.
That means the competition for the WR3 spot will probably be for the No. 2 spot, at least for the first few games.
The two wideouts competing for the job are former Pittsburgh Steelers WR James Washington and rookie third-round pick out of South Alabama, Jalen Tolbert.
Three seasons ago, Washington had a 44-catch, 735-yard, three-touchdown season in Pittsburgh. In the last two campaigns, though, he hasn’t eclipsed 30 catches or 400 yards. If 2019 Washington can show up, he’ll make an excellent No. 3/No. 2 in a pinch.
Tolbert is a rookie who can make some noise in 2022 like several other first-year pass-catchers have the last couple of seasons. The 6-foot-1, 194-pound WR ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash at the combine and put up big numbers at a small school. He also played well in big games against SEC competition.
Jerry Jones made a good pick at No. 17 two years ago with CeeDee Lamb. Now, he may have a major steal at No. 88 (a good numerological sign for Cowboys fans) with Tolbert. Look for the youngster to line up with the starters in Week 1 after winning this Dallas Cowboys training camp battle.
Battle No. 2: TE2 — Jake Ferguson vs. Sean McKeon vs. Peyton Hendershot
Dalton Schultz didn’t get the long-term deal he wanted from Big D this offseason. He is back, though, on a one-year, $10.9 million deal. That gives the team one season to have a competition for the No. 2 spot and see if the tight end of the future is on the roster.
The combatants in this Dallas Cowboys training camp battle are Jake Ferguson, Sean McKeon, and Peyton Hendershot.
McKeon is the veteran heading into his third year. However, the 24-year-old only has four catches for 27 yards in his career. Ferguson is a 2022 fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin. Barry Alvarez’s grandson played in a run-first offense, so getting him in an NFL passing attack could unlock some hidden potential.
Lastly, there’s Hendershot, the undrafted free agent. He’s the real wild card of the group. The 6-foot-4, 254-pound TE has all the physical abilities to be a standout NFL tight end. He also had the production at Indiana to back it up.
Hendershot wasn’t drafted because of a 2020 arrest on “four charges including domestic violence and criminal trespass,” per Yahoo Sports.
Hendershot bounced back to become team captain in 2021, and Jerry Jones — who’s taken many risks on guys with character issues in the past — decided to give him a shot. At this point, Jones’ assessment usually pays off more times than it doesn’t, so Hendershot winning the job could absolutely happen.
Battle No. 3: ILB2 — Leighton Vander Esch vs. Jabril Cox
After one of the greatest rookie defensive seasons of all time, Micah Parsons will start the season in the middle of the defense for the ‘Boys. Who starts next to him will depend on the outcome of this Dallas Cowboys training camp battle.
Jerry Jones brought back veteran linebacker Leighton Vander Esch on a one-year, $2 million deal this season. The oft-injured defender played in all 17 games last season and recorded 77 tackles.
Rookie Jabril Cox looked good early last season but a torn ACL in Week 8 cost him the rest of the year. The former LSU standout should be good to go in 2022 and could win the job outright.
However, look for both backers to get on the field this season. They will be part of a LB rotation that involves Parsons sliding down to defensive end at times and the undersized (6-foot-3, 233-pound) Cox playing a hybrid safety role.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference