What issues are the Cowboys facing as camp approaches?

By Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer

FRISCO, Texas — This week, the Dallas Cowboys will start training camp in Oxnard, California, with optimism that 2022 will not end like 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 … you get the picture.

It has been more than a month since the Cowboys had any offseason work from their mandatory minicamp that turned out to be just one practice. Since then, the good news is that the Cowboys have not had a player have any off-field issue that could put their start to training camp in jeopardy.

But there have been some stories that need to be addressed as the Cowboys head to California.

What’s next for Dalton Schultz? The tight end will play the season on the $10.9 million franchise tag after not reaching an agreement on a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline. There was little hope a deal would be reached before the Cleveland Browns signed David Njoku to a $13.7 million-a-year deal in May and even less after it.

TE Dalton Schultz will play the season on the franchise tag after he and the Cowboys couldn’t agree on a long-term deal. Photo: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire

Schultz skipped the final week of voluntary organized team activities and was a limited participant in the one minicamp practice in hopes of jump-starting talks. It didn’t really work. Because he signed the tender offer, he has to show up for training camp or he will be fined.

What’s best for Schultz is to have another productive season, which could happen given the status of the Cowboys’ wide receiver group, and see what happens in 2023. The Cowboys could always give him the franchise tag again, which would cost more than $13 million. If they don’t, he will have a chance to hit the open market and get the long-term deal he wants.

Dak’s health issues behind him: A year ago, the Cowboys knew they had to monitor quarterback Dak Prescott‘s training camp work as he returned from a dislocation and fracture of his right ankle. Little did they know a right latissimus strain would sideline him for most of training camp and the four preseason games.

The ankle is not a concern. Neither is his non-throwing shoulder after he had surgery in February. And neither is the right calf strain that limited him last season, too.

“A couple of weeks out and I’m in the best shape that I’ve ever been in,” Prescott told reporters at his youth football camp. “So, it’s time to ramp it up and get going.”

The Cowboys will lean on Prescott like they never have leaned on him before. No, not to run it a ton. They need him to raise the level of play of those around him, specifically at receiver and especially during Michael Gallup’s absence from knee surgery.

What else does the team need? Cap space is not an issue. The Cowboys have more than $22 million in salary-cap room at the moment, but some of that is set aside for the practice squad, injury settlements and incentives/escalators earned during the season.

But back to the personnel. Wide receiver is a position to watch, but a trade for a big name, like Deebo Samuel or DK Metcalf, is unlikely. What about signing a veteran, like Julio Jones? He’s a little old (33) and injured lately. Pass-rusher? Get in line with every other team in the league. Linebacker? They’ve added depth pieces but won’t be in the market for a starter. Backup center? Matt Farniok enters camp as Tyler Biadasz’s backup. Guard Connor McGovern could gets a look, and second-year center Braylon Jones has some fans in the building.

Injury updates: Gallup was believed to be a little ahead of schedule at the end of minicamp, but he is likely to miss at least a couple of games in September. That was always the thinking even before he re-signed to a five-year deal in March. He will likely start training camp on the physically unable to perform list, which is not too concerning. If he is on that list to start the season, then that would be a concern because he would miss at least the first four games.

Linebacker Jabril Cox is also returning from a torn ACL in his right knee. He was moving well in June, and the belief is he will be able to practice at the start of camp. Rookie linebacker Damone Clark will open camp on the non-football injury list after undergoing neck surgery in the spring. If he plays at all this season, it won’t be until November.

Kicker battle: Nothing is quite as exciting as a kicking competition in training camp. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but there will be a lot of eyes on Jonathan Garibay and Lirim Hajrullahu in Oxnard.

Last year’s kicker, Greg Zuerlein, did not kick once in 2021 training camp because he was coming off back surgery.

Hajrullahu kicked in one game for the Cowboys last year, making all five of his extra points with seven touchbacks. In two games with the Carolina Panthers, he went 4-of-5 on field goal attempts, 8-of-8 on extra points and had 12 touchbacks on 17 kickoffs.

Garibay, undrafted out of Texas Tech, displayed a strong leg in the offseason program and enters camp as the leader in the clubhouse.

Read the original article in ESPN.