By David Helman
FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer
OXNARD, Calif. — It doesn’t sound like those phone calls are coming anytime soon.
To hear it from the rest of us, the Dallas Cowboys should have spent the last 24 hours looking for someone — anyone — to add to their depleted receiver depth chart. But in assessing the situation following the loss of James Washington to a broken foot, they don’t seem to agree.
“I’m plenty satisfied with what we’re going to be, and there’s no urgency looking for a veteran receiver,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Tuesday afternoon.
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As has been the case for much of this year, this is a front office that has much more confidence in its current roster than most. Losing Washington for 6-10 weeks, combined with the continuing recovery of Michael Gallup, leaves them without much experience. As noted yesterday, CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown are the only healthy receivers on the team with significant experience in the NFL regular season.
Regardless, Jones said the Cowboys have long felt good about the young players on the depth chart. Jalen Tolbert is a no-brainer, as the front office drafted him 88th overall in this year’s draft. But even unheralded players such as undrafted free agents Dennis Houston and TJ Vasher keep cropping up in conversation.
“We anticipated a little number problem with keeping the receivers or not keeping all the ones we wanted,” Jones said. “This may be just evening out. But it doesn’t create an urgency at the receiver. We like these young guys.”
This might feel familiar to anyone that has followed the Cowboys for a while. It was only four years ago that the front office entered the regular season leaning on journeyman such as Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson, plus a rookie Gallup, to lift their passing game.
Asked about that Tuesday, Jones pointed out there is other talent on the roster. The Cowboys do have a top receiver in Lamb, and tight end Dalton Schultz is still hanging around. It’s still undeniable that someone is going to be asked to rise to the occasion.
“They most definitely have no choice,” Lamb said. “The door is open for anybody’s opportunity, and I feel like the younger guys are taking that opportunity and trying to do something with it.”
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It’s a long list to keep an eye on in the weeks to come. Simi Fehoko is an obvious one, as he was just drafted last year. There’s also the newly-signed KaVontae Turpin, who was named USFL MVP over the summer. Vasher signed with the club last spring, but he missed all of 2021 with a non-football injury. Brandon Smith spent last season on the practice squad.
Then, other than Tolbert, there’s the foursome of undrafted rookies: Dennis Houston, Jaquarii Roberson, Ty Fryfogle and Dontario Drummond.
You’re sorry if none of those names sound familiar to you. But from the sounds of it, they’re going to be given their chance to change that. With so few vets to choose from, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said first-team reps will be merit based. And with starters unlikely to play a ton during the preseason, there will be plenty of in-game reps to go around in August.
There’s a long way to go, but a lot still to see.
“I want to see what they can do in the heat of battle, and then we got Tampa in September,” Lamb said. “There’s only one way to find out.”
The Cowboys went through their second padded practice of training camp Tuesday. Here are some additional notes from the practice field.
off the mark?
Is it too soon to panic about the kicker competition? Because after just a few days, things aren’t exactly encouraging.
Rookie Jonathan Garibay and CFL veteran Lirim Hajrullahu are the Cowboys’ kickers of choice at training camp, and neither is off to what you’d call a running start. It was Garibay who struggled Monday, and on Tuesday it was Hajrullahu’s turn.
Garibay hit six of eight attempts in the duo’s special teams practice period, while Hajrullahu finished a less-than-great 3-for-8.
Later on in practice, McCarthy called one of his impromptu “Mojo Moments,” meant to test the team’s response to rapid change situations. Each kicker got three attempts from long distance in front of the entire team.
Hijrallahu went 1-for-3, with a make on his first attempt. Garibay did not make any of his three attempts by him.
To be fair to them, most of these kicks were from long range — 50 yards or further. There was also a consistent breeze blowing across the practice fields.
“That wasn’t a confidence builder, going against about a 50 mile per hour wind trying them from 60 yards out,” Jones said.
Much like the situation with his receivers, Jones said he isn’t worried about the kickers just yet. Though it sounds like he’d prefer to see them try some shorter kicks.
“I was kidding somebody, I just want to see them make extra points and kicks from the 20 and the 30,” he said. “We’ll worry about that far out stuff later, I just don’t want to head into the year missing extra points and short field goals.”
Only Micah Parsons could generate a practice note about warmups, but that’s where we’re at.
Parsons was a hell of a high school running back, as he has pointed out in the past, and he looked the part Tuesday. The Cowboys’ linebackers work through a tackling drill every day where they size up a ball carrier and take the proper angle to the ball.
Technically, it was newcomer Christian Sam working through the drill, but he was working against Parsons, who didn’t take the drill lightly, dumping the tackler to the ground.
The Cowboys aren’t likely to let Parsons carry the rock in a game setting. But it would probably be fun.
It’s no surprise that interior linemen have an easier time shining with the pads on.
Now that there’s some actual contact and hitting happening, it’s fun to note what’s happening at the defensive tackle position. As might be expected, starters such as Neville Gallimore and Osa Odighizuwa are showing up. Gallimore batted down a pass Tuesday during two-minute drill, and Odighizuwa’s ability from him as a pass rusher has been on display regularly.
One name worth mentioning in the early going is Trysten Hill. The fourth-year veteran gets overlooked by fans and media, but he’s made his share of plays through two days. On Tuesday, I laid a big hit on Ezekiel Elliott in the A-gap, stonewalling a run at the line of scrimmage. A few snaps later, he had a chance at a sack when he beat his man and flushed Prescott out of the pocket.
“Clearly, it looks like he’s back from the injury,” McCarthy said. “I thought during the offseason program he had some ups and downs because of the knee. But so far, so good. He Looks good to me.”
It’s also worth mentioning that rookie John Ridgeway has gotten some run with the defensive starters. Though, given Dan Quinn’s tendency to rotate personnel frequently, it’s hard to know how much to read into that.
odds and ends
Jeremy Sprinkle, Jake Ferguson and Jabril Cox all missed practice Tuesday, though those absences don’t seem to be concerning to McCarthy.
Sprinkle was held out after feeling a flare up in his Achilles, while Ferguson exited early with a hamstring issue. Cox dinged his knee and the Cowboys opted to use caution by not practicing him. The expectation is that the second-year linebacker will practice Thursday.
David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports, providing daily insight and analysis on the NFL’s most visible franchise. Prior to joining FOX, David spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website, DallasCowboys.com. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about his quarterback’s time at Mississippi State.
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