Dallas Cowboys training camp is well underway, ands usually that's a cause for celebration and excitement. But despite the Cowboys being a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2023, training camp this year has been a mess of negativity.
Mostly it's been contract drama, but now injury concerns are stopping to creep in too. Rookie tight end Luke Schoonmaker sitll hasn't set foot on the practice field, and he has no timeline for return. Is it too soon for Cowboys fans to panic? Or is this another legitimate bummer that should have us feeling down about how camp is playing out?
Let's take a look at both sides.
Don't Worry About the Injury:
It's too early to panic. We're not even in the true Preseason Week 1, with the Hall of Fame Game being played on Thursday. Injuries happen. Guys miss practice. If you panicked about every player who spends some time on the shelf you'd never get any sleep. Call me if he's still on the shelf for the preseason Week 3 dress reheearsal.
Schoonmaker is optimistic. You know who wants to see Luke Schoonmaker practice more than any fans do? Schoonmaker himself. And he doesn't sound all that concerned about his injury.
He doesn't make or break this offense. Would it be great if Schoonmaker immediately steps in and replaces Dalton Schultz? Of course. But that's not the expectation for a rookie tight end, and especially not for one who was selected in the late second round. This is a position that typically sees players take some time to acclimate to the NFL game, and if you were hoping Schoonmaker was gonna hit the ground running in Week 1 then you were going to be let down anyway.
Hit the Panic Button:
Foot injuries are scary. The biggest potential concern is that this is a bigger issue than is being let on. Foot injuries are unpredictable and can really linger. The Cowboys refuse to put a timeline on the injury, and while that may just be taking a cautious approach so there's not too much pressure on the rookie, it's also always scary to hear a team admit "we have no idea when we expect this guy to be healthy enough to participate in his first NFL practice."
Slowed development. Like I said above, tight ends tend to come along slowly in their NFL development. Even first-round talents can often take a year or two to really get up to speed. So a slight delay wouldn't be a big deal for Schoonmaker, but a significant delay could start to get really brutal. If we're not expecting him to fully contribute from the jump, a delay of a few weeks could mean the difference between being up to speed by the end of the regular season to not being a ready contributor until next season.
Our tight end depth chart. We're not planning to count on Schoonmaker for TE1 reps right from the jump, but any snaps he can play will be a huge help when you consider who else is available. Jake Ferguson and Payton Hendershot both showed enough promise to be fine rotational pieces when called upon last year, but neither one is a guy you want to see handling a full TE1 workload.
So ultimately should fans be worried about this?
For me it's certainly concerning when we're thinking about Schoonmaker's outlook for the season and even his long-term development as a player. But as a piece of this offense and the team as a whole, I never expected Schoonmaker to move the needle enough that this has me any less bullish on the Cowboys' chances of contending in 2023.
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