OXNARD, Calif. — On paper the Dallas Cowboys' receiving corps is worse now than it was a year ago at training camp.
Former No. 1 wideout Amari Cooper is now with the Cleveland Browns, and utility receiver Cedrick Wilson is with the Miami Dolphins. Michael Gallup isn't recovering from going head-over-heels over the fence in the end zone; he is rehabilitating from a torn ACL sustained in Week 17 last season. Even Malik Turner, who caught three TD passes last season for Dallas, has moved on.
The paper also shows that free agent wideout James Washington has a Jones fracture. Rookie third-rounder Jalen Tolbert is busy getting up to speed, but probably not in time by the start of the regular season. Simi Fehoko, T.J. Vasher, and Noah Brown are about as unproven as they were nearly 52 weeks ago.
But don't hold your breath if you expect Dak Prescott to interpret all those factors as proof that his receiver corps is actually worse than it was a year ago.
“You’re never going to catch me looking at anything in my life as a step back," the Cowboys quarterback told reporters on Aug. 4. "You’ve got an opportunity to move forward, you’ve got an opportunity to grow. If you don’t do that, you’re in trouble and you’ve already lost to begin with."
Therein lies the unique mindset of the two-time Pro Bowler, who has overcome such personal tragedies as the loss of his mother to breast cancer in college, his brother's suicide in 2020, and even his own broken ankle that ended his season five games into the 2020 campaign.
If Prescott ever looked at hardship as a setback and not an opportunity to prove one's mettle, today he might be anywhere from fighting for a roster spot to making a living back in his hometown of Haughton, La.
"I just know, as I said, the young guys that we’ve got, the guys that we already have are going to step in and take on bigger roles," said Prescott. "I continue to say exciting, but that’s what it is. And the reason is, is because I feel like a lot of you — and people don’t know necessarily — what these guys are, what these guys can do."
Why Prescott has belief in his unproven receiving corps is because of their mentality that he has observed throughout offseason workouts and nearly two weeks of training camp.
"These guys have the mentality and they hear a lot of this and they want to come in and they want to make these plays and they want to be there for their teammates in whatever role it is — big or small, they’re going to do their best. I’m here for it, and I’m going to continue to motivate them and continue to grow with them and get better at that. There isn’t a fall off and it’s actually a step forward," said Prescott.
Cowboys fans will be more apt to agree with Prescott if Dallas' record is above .500 after the first few weeks of the season. If Dallas is struggling on offense, even as the young receivers learn the game, it will be interpreted as a setback for the reigning NFC East champs.
Do you think Dak Prescott is set up to have a big season in 2022? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.