Without a preseason in 2020, the Dallas Cowboys will be scrambling to have their rookies ready for Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams. Unfortunately, that could mean some legitimate growing pains as they transition to the pro level. Along with seven draft picks, the Cowboys will have a handful of undrafted free agents also looking to make the team. Without a preseason, however, it will be an even more difficult challenge for these players to make the final 53-man roster.
Will CeeDee Lamb have an immediate impact?
As the team’s first-round pick, expectations are sky-high for wide receiver CeeDee Lamb after an impressive college career at Oklahoma. Although Lamb posted only a modest Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 7.45 heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, his impressive catch radius and ability in open space could make him a real weapon in the Cowboys offense.
However, the question will be how quickly Lamb can get comfortable in Mike McCarthy’s offensive system without a preseason to get acclimated. A shortened training camp for play installs, combined with limited tape for coaches to review, will make it harder for Lamb to get comfortable with the intricate details of an NFL playbook.
Timing with quarterback Dak Prescott could also be an issue. Finding a connection in practice is one thing, but the speed of a real game can be a completely different scenario, and timing on routes and passes is crucial between a quarterback and wide receiver.
The good news for Lamb is that opposing defenses will be forced to focus their efforts on stopping the Cowboys run game, along with covering Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. All of the other weapons on offense should take some of the pressure off of Lamb.
Lamb may struggle to find his groove right out of the gate, but expect him to get comfortable after a few games. Once that happens, Lamb could be one of the scariest rookies in the league.
Can other Cowboys rookies snag starting roles?
Training camp and the preseason are great opportunities for rookies to prove themselves as starting-caliber players to coaches. Without any preseason games, Cowboys rookies like cornerback Trevon Diggs, defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, and center Tyler Biadasz will have a harder time proving themselves for starting roles in 2020.
At cornerback, both Diggs and fellow Cowboys rookie Reggie Robinson II will be competing for a starting role. The departure of Byron Jones opens up a huge role in the Cowboys secondary, but both Diggs and Robinson will have to compete against established veterans Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis in order to carve out a full-time role.
Gallimore and Biadasz may have easier opportunities to prove themselves in the trenches. At defensive tackle, Gallimore will have a chance to practice in the starting lineup while Dontari Poe starts training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. For Biadasz, he will be battling it out with Joe Looney to be the successor to Travis Frederick, who retired this offseason.
Other Cowboys rookies are unlikely to carve out starting roles in 2020, but their bigger concerns will be simply making the final 53-man roster.
Will other rookies make the final roster?
Without the opportunity to get significant snaps in preseason games, some of the later draft picks and undrafted rookies for the Cowboys will have to rely on training camp performances alone in 2020.
Seventh-round pick and rookie quarterback Ben DiNucci will have the hardest time of the draft picks to make the final cut. The Cowboys are certain to keep at least two quarterbacks on the roster in Prescott and Andy Dalton, a but a third QB is far from a guarantee. If Dallas does decide to keep a third quarterback, DiNucci will have to beat out former Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson, which will be no easy task.
Undrafted Cowboys rookies will have an even harder time in 2020. Players like running back Darius Anderson and linebacker Francis Bernard, who would normally get plenty of reps in preseason games, won’t get to put up enough tape to force coaches to think about keeping them around.
Being a rookie is always tough, but the lack of preseason games will make it even harder for these young players to make an impact right away in their NFL careers.