Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Battles: Who Replaces Dalton Schultz, and Can Tyron Smith Turn Back Time?

The Dallas Cowboys open training camp next week with several unknowns. Which players could step up to the challenge? Here are the top Cowboys camp battles.

The Dallas Cowboys are nearly a week from kicking off training camp, and plenty of question marks remain.

Some of the Cowboys’ competition battles will impact not only the team this season but also in the long term. Which players could seal their fate in camp?

Top Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Battles To Watch

Offensive Line | Tyron Smith vs. Father Time

One of the most interesting battles going into training camp will be along the Cowboys’ offensive line. More specifically, who will be where in the starting lineup?

The likely line will be:

  • LT: Tyron Smith
  • LG: Tyler Smith
  • C: Tyler Biadasz
  • RG: Zack Martin
  • RT: Terence Steele

But this will depend on a few circumstances that have come up in the past and could very well come up again.

Steele is expected to return from a torn ACL he suffered in December and should be a full go in camp. But if he can’t make a full return by the start of the season, the line could shift again.

The reality of Father Time catching up to Tyron Smith is a significant factor in what creates more madness in this O-line multiverse. Despite Smith’s seven Pro Bowl appearances, the last time he played a full season was in 2015 because of injuries.

On the other hand, Tyler Smith has set the bar high for what Year 2 looks like for him. So seeing where he ends up in the line and how he works to improve will be something to watch out for.

The theme of versatility is nothing new with the Cowboys, especially within the last three seasons under coach Mike McCarthy.

But there was a shift in the Cowboys’ O-line last season. Players switched positions and even sides of the line. So it will be interesting to watch how things unfold at camp.

Tight End | Luke Schoonmaker vs. Jake Ferguson vs. Peyton Hendershot

The TE1 position is something to keep an eye on, especially since the guys in the room are young and are the future of the position for the Cowboys.

The tight end room is one of the most exciting rooms for the Cowboys right now, as the four horsemen have a lot of versatility and power behind them.

After the Cowboys lost Dalton Schultz to the Texans in the offseason, conversations immediately shifted to who will take that starting spot. The leading candidates: Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot.

Both guys expected to take that Year 2 jump, working off of their success from last season.

But with the Cowboys drafting TE Luke Schoonmaker in the second round, could that mean a rookie takes that spot?

On the Dallas Cowboys Draft show, Cowboys tight ends coach Lunda Wells spoke about Schoonmaker meeting “all of the qualities that [the Cowboys] want” both on and off the field.

Schoonmaker comes from a pro-style offense, so that should help ease the transition to the NFL.

RB2 | Malik Davis vs. Ronald Jones, et al.

The competition battle for RB2 will be new territory for the Cowboys since they have had an electric backup-turned-star in Tony Pollard.

Pollard will be the featured back playing under the team’s franchise tag, meaning the second spot is open.

Malik Davis, Rico Dowdle, Ronald Jones, Deuce Vaughn, and FB Hunter Luepke will be in that competition heading into camp.

Malik Davis (34) runs the ball in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium.

Davis and Vaughn add value with their special teams ability.

Davis is coming into camp with the most advantage in his favor, seeing that he has gotten the most recent RB2 reps after Pollard’s leg injury in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game.

But the 2023 sixth-round draft pick Vaughn will have to show that he can overcome his slight stature. Vaughn, who is 5’5″ and 167 pounds, is smaller than the typical running back in the NFL (5’11”, 213).

Don’t count out Luepke, either. Although he went undrafted, he has the size and skill set to make an impact on the Cowboys’ offense. Word is he got reps with the first team at OTAs.

Jones and Dowdle are going into camp as the underdogs for different reasons.

Despite Jones falling down the depth chart, he has a history of being a viable RB2, and the Cowboys could find a way to revamp that in camp.

As for Dowdle, this is his chance to show off his physicality and speed. Staying healthy will be one of the main concerns for him heading into camp.

WR4 | Simi Fehoko vs. Jalen Tolbert vs. KaVontae Turpin

The Cowboys have set themselves up for success with their top three wide receivers: Ceedee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, and Michael Gallup.

The question going into camp is who will take the WR4 spot between WRs Simi Fehoko, Jalen Tolbert, and KaVontae Turpin.

During the offseason, all three have been working with quarterback Dak Prescott in the “Dakyard.” So the decision won’t come down to connection or chemistry but rather who will set themselves apart in the new offensive scheme.

Turpin is coming off of a Pro Bowl rookie season as the team’s kick returner but is ready to make a jump to the offense. Turpin got his first real break from football this offseason — he went straight from playing in the USFL and then to the NFL last year — so seeing what a rested Turpin is capable of will be a fun watch at camp.

Tolbert took last season to study, learn, and grow to ensure success for a second-year jump after admittedly losing confidence and being overwhelmed by the playbook.

Going forward, this shouldn’t be an issue, as he has taken the time to learn and grow with veteran WRs around him, including T.Y. Hilton and Lamb, in the offseason.

“After a year of doing it and being able to understand what’s being asked of me and what I need to know, and how I need to play is not really a problem,” said Tolbert when he spoke to media ahead of minicamp.

Meanwhile, the 2021 fifth-round selection Fehoko is also getting a chance to solidify his spot in the offense. Fehoko was placed on IR due to a shoulder injury last season but has high praise from Prescott about the jump he expects to see.

Kicker | Brandon Aubrey vs. Tristan Vizcaino

Despite a productive season last year and ranking among the top five leaguewide in points, kicker Brett Maher was not re-signed after he missed four extra points in the Cowboys’ Wild Card contest against the Buccaneers.

Because of this, the Cowboys had kicker Tristan Vizcaino as the only player on the roster. Vizcaino has played 10 games in his NFL career, making 11 of 12 attempts (91.7%).

But the Cowboys kicked the position battle up a notch after adding USFL kicker Brandon Aubrey ahead of camp at the beginning of July.

Aubrey is an intriguing get for the Cowboys not only because of his local ties graduating from Plano Senior High School but because of his background in soccer.

He went 14 of 15 in attempts with the Birmingham Stallions and 35 of 35 on extra points.

The Cowboys need clarity on this position before the season, and taking a younger player could make the most sense long-term to avoid repeating the same cycle in the future.

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