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Biggest concerns for Cowboys to address early at training camp

As the Dallas Cowboys enter the second week of padded practices, the team has an opportunity to focus on the issues that have emerged with the roster this summer.

DALLAS — Training camp for the Dallas Cowboys is in full swing with the team preparing for the 2022 season. 

While the first 10 days of practice isn’t long enough to form an opinion of how the season will turn out, it is an adequate amount of time to observe where the Cowboys need help.

One of those problem spots was addressed when the Cowboys signed linebacker Anthony Barr last week. Other areas remain a source of angst among even the most faithful fans and onlookers at camp. 

None of the problem areas should come as a surprise since the team has been short on talent at each of these spots and reluctant to address them during the offseason. The expectation was that the Cowboys would see what they have at camp and make adjustments as needed.

Here are the most worrisome positions for the Cowboys at the beginning of training camp:

Swing tackle

The tackle depth has been one of the biggest mysteries for Dallas all offseason. Bringing in a veteran tackle capable of playing either tackle spot if an injury were to knock out either starter seemed like a no-brainer. 

Rookie Tyler Smith was one of the original candidates to take over for veteran Tyron Smith if he couldn’t play, but the team has been using the first-round pick exclusively at left guard as he settles into his starting position. 

Smith could still be the option at left tackle, but the Cowboys aren’t going to use him at right tackle if needed. Fellow rookie Matt Waletzko was in the mix, but a shoulder injury has knocked him out for some time, leaving Josh Ball as the best option. Thus far in camp, Ball has been less than stellar.

The Cowboys need Ball to be their answer at swing tackle and he isn’t inspiring confidence right now. There’s still a lot of camp left and a full slate of preseason games to go, but the team needs to be looking at veteran options as a reinforcement to the backup plan.

Wide receiver

The Cowboys did an admirable job trying to fill the holes left at wideout with Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson, and Malik Turner departing during the offseason. The hope has always been that Michael Gallup will return sooner rather than later from his ACL rehab. Veteran James Washington was signed to bridge the gap until Gallup is back at full strength, while the team works on bringing along rookie third-rounder Jalen Tolbert slowly.

Washington, however, suffered a broken foot injury that put a hole in the master plan, so the Cowboys aren’t in a strong place at the position. Tolbert looks to be doing well as the team opts to ramp up his spot among the offense more expeditiously, but the only sure thing right now at receiver appears to be No. 1 target CeeDee Lamb. 

With Tolbert having a leg up as the team’s No. 2 receiver, the battle for the third and fourth spots on the depth chart – especially early in the season – have brought interesting results. Noah Brown has been the wide receiver making the best impression with the extra repetitions, showing that he can bring more to the table in his fifth season.

With the opportunity for more targets, Brown could be in for a breakout year; he should easily surpass his career high of 16 catches last season if he proves that he can make plays.

However, Brown isn’t likely going to be good enough to ease the concerns at wide receiver. The Cowboys have a number of young options that are stating their case for a shot on the roster, but signing a veteran wide receiver would likely come as a relief to the offense.

Kicker

The placekicker job might not have gotten the most attention this offseason, but the performances of the kickers in training camp is raising red flags. Dallas needs a kicker to step up because the results have been disastrous thus far. 

Neither undrafted free agent and former Texas Tech standout Jonathan Garibay, nor former Cowboy and veteran CFL performer Lirim Hajrullahu have inspired confidence which could make field goal kicking the most tenuous spot on the team at the moment. 

The kicking battle has gone so poorly that Dallas has brought in Cole Murphy, J.J. Molson, Matt Ammendola, and former Cowboy Brett Maher for tryouts.

Games in the NFL are usually very close and the margin for winning or losing is razor thin. Often, the outcome falls on the foot of a kicker and the Cowboys don’t appear to have a reliable option at the moment. After last year, when the Cowboys lost a few close games due to inconsistency of Greg Zuerlein, kicking became an area that the team needed to improve upon. 

That hasn’t happened and now they appear to be suffering for it one Mojo Moment at a time.

Do you think the Cowboys will overcome their camp concerns ahead of the regular season? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.

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