Yesterday was the beginning of Dallas Cowboys mini-camp, and reports have surfaced that lend a hand in determining who has the inside track at roster spots and starting positions at the skill positions. For a team that has a lot of bodies at both wide receiver and tight end, these developments are going to be something to monitor throughout the summer.
We know that there are roster locks on-hand in Dallas, including wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, and tight end Jason Witten. While others have varying chances, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities to see pretty much any other receiver or tight end cut by the end of training camp.
To open mini-camp yesterday, the Cowboys were in an 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end) grouping that included Cooper, Gallup, Randall Cobb and Witten. For Cobb, who was brought in to replace the slot receiver production of Cole Beasley, being in this standing early in the process is a huge boost. On top of that, Cobb made plays during the initial mini-camp practice.
According to Jon Machota, Cobb had a nice one-handed grab during the two-minute drill. To finish that drive, Cobb had a 15-yard touchdown reception on a play where quarterback Dak Prescott had to scramble to buy time. Opening as a starter in the WR3 role and taking advantage of it to the fullest, Cobb could be on track to replicating the production he once accumulated as a member of the Green Bay Packers.
Another key development during yesterday’s practice was the return of wide receiver Allen Hurns to individual drills. Hurns suffered a gruesome lower-body injury during the playoffs last season, leading some to believe that his 2019 season could be in jeopardy. Hurns started 7 games for the Cowboys last season, and his health could be a boost to their wide receiver unit if he’s able to get to 100% healthy by the end of the preseason.
For other wide receivers battling for a roster spot, mini-camp provides a chance to show the coaching staff that they’re both healthy and developing. Last season, Cedrick Wilson missed his rookie year with a shoulder injury. According to Machota, the 2018 sixth-round pick had an impressive 35-yard reception during team drills yesterday. During the pre-draft process, I actually preferred Wilson’s overall skill set to Gallup’s, and he has the talent to stick around the league for a long time.
While the Cowboys didn’t select a wide receiver during the 2019 NFL Draft, they signed undrafted free agent Jon’Vea Johnson out of Toledo. Johnson has big play-making ability, but has struggled with consistency throughout college. That manifested itself during practice yesterday, as Johnson would drop three consecutive passes during individual drills. For a player with an outside shot at a roster spot, Johnson will need to rid himself of those inconsistencies throughout the summer.
Not only did Jason Witten begin the practice as the starting tight end, but the former all-pro has apparently looked young and spry after a year away from the game. The 37-year old made multiple receptions during the two-minute drill, showing off his previously developed chemistry with Dak Prescott.
While the Cowboys have some intriguing natural talents at tight end with Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Rico Gathers, they will all have to go through Witten at the top of the depth chart. It’s becoming increasingly likely that those three will be left fighting for TE2 duties.
With the Cowboys so deep at their offensive skill positions, these mini-camp developments hold more weight than normal as players begin to separate themselves from one another. If the Cowboys are going to advance further in the playoffs this year than they previously have, it will likely come down to the performance of their offensive weapons in the new system. This means that not only are these depth chart and roster battles important for Dallas, but for the rest of the league as well.