The Dallas Cowboys enter training camp with a chip on their shoulder, or at least they should, because after winning 12 regular season games and having a playoff win, they had an unceremoniously ending to last season with a loss in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. That loss resulted in a second straight 12-win season ending before reaching at least the NFC Championship game.
That was last season, and this is a whole new outlook for a Cowboys team that will have a tough road ahead of them as they’ll be battling the Philadelphia Eagles for most likely the top spot in the NFC East, but neither team can overlook the New York Giants.
Before those battles take place in the regular season, the Cowboys have a lot of excitement ahead in training camp with new additions, holdouts, and high expectations. As always, it seems to be yet another year of “Super Bowl or Bust” when it comes to achieving the highest level of success, which starts in July at training camp.
Looking at the current Cowboys roster, there are many players who will make training camp and the ensuing preseason games exciting, and for the purpose of this article, we’ll take a look at a rookie, a new addition, and a veteran who was on the roster last season.
The rookie joining the 2023 Cowboys we’ll look at is first-round pick Mazi Smith at defensive tackle. The 6’3” 337-pound defensive tackle was a much-needed addition to the roster because of his ability to stuff the run when he was at Michigan, as that was something that hurt the Cowboys last season.
Smith hopefully fits right into the starting lineup of Dan Quinn’s defensive scheme, or at least progresses enough to be a big part of the rotation at defensive tackle during his rookie season. In ‘22 the Cowboys allowed 129.3 yards rushing per game, which wasn’t very good, ranking 22nd overall in the NFL, and ninth in the NFC.
The addition of Smith to the interior of the defensive line is exciting for the reason he brings much-needed hope to make the overall defense better with his on-field talent. That improvement starts up front in causing chaos in the trenches, which helps the linebackers do their jobs even better than before.
As for the new addition to the roster, Brandin Cooks brings a veteran presence to the wide receiver room, and not only that, he’s still a solid slot receiver, which will make a difference in Dallas too.
Cooks last played for the Houston Texans, and though he didn’t finish the season on the field, he’s still capable of being a 1,000-yard receiver, and he’ll help Dak Prescott become a better quarterback, and hopefully help the QB1 cut back on his interceptions, as Prescott finished with 15 picks in ‘22.
The veteran Cooks also helps with his abilities in the slot to help others either get open, or he can be the guy who gets the tough catch for a first down when needed in a third down situation.
Adding Cooks to the team isn’t a risk, and he’ll do a nice, solid job for the offense. Having Cooks on the roster at training camp will help make the rest of the receivers better as he must have a wealth of knowledge to share with his teammates as the Cowboys are still in a “championship window” so to speak.
Last, but not least, is Tony Pollard, and the running back is now officially the RB1 of the team as Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t brought back to the ‘23 roster, at least not yet with Zeke still being a free agent.
Pollard is such an exciting player to watch, and the Cowboys are lucky to have the 6-foot, 212-pound Pollard running the football as the top guy in ‘23. Pollard finished last season with 193 carries for 1,007 yards and nine rushing touchdowns.
Pollard also averaged 5.2 yards per carry, but it will be interesting – and exciting – to see what Pollard does during training camp, and when the real games start because he’s going to have to have more than 193 touches at running back this season.
Last year Elliott had 231 carries for 876 yards with 12 touchdowns, averaging 3.8 yards per carry. The Cowboys will need Pollard to replace some of those numbers, and he’s also going to share rushes with Ronald Jones II, Malik Davis, and Rico Dowdle depending if they stay on the roster once camp finishes next month.
Again, Pollard has earned his starting role for how he’s played so far in his short career, but the excitement with him is now he’s the RB1 of the team, and all eyes are now on him, which makes him a must-watch player at camp and the regular season.