The Dallas Cowboys will officially kick off their 2023 training camp schedule in just one week. Though fans are giddy about the approaching start of the regular season, there's a ton the team needs to figure out in the coming weeks.
Tony Pollard's long-term future may be the hottest topic right now, but there's not much more to say about that situation that hasn't already been said dozens of times this offsesaon. And there are several other burning questions surrounding Dallas that are deserving of our attention.
With that in mind, here are the three biggest storylines ahead of Cowboys training camp.
1. Which RB Steps Up as the No. 2?
The Cowboys are ready to hand the keys to Pollard after parting ways with Ezekiel Elliott this offseason. Most agree it was the right move, but it now creates a major unknown in the backfield in terms of depth.
Pollard was one of the league's best No. 2's, which made Elliott better and Dallas' offense even deadlier. Though Pollard's expected to be more productive in a workhorse role, it remains to be seen if he's able to keep up his insane efficiency over an entire season as The Guy. He's also coming off of a broken fibula that he suffered earlier this year, which will undoubtedly come with some rust or mental hurdles he needs to work through to begin the season.
All of that is to say, the Cowboys need to find a dependable No. 2 behind him. The current RB room is full of uncertainty with just one player (Malik Davis) playing for the team in 2022. Davis was used sparingly as well -- recording just 38 carries -- so his capabilities aren't known.
Then there's journeyman Ronald Jones and rookie Deuce Vaughn, both of whom will have a chance to win the backup role. As a recent starter, Jones should have the edge in the race, but his fumbling troubles have led to a reduced role in each of the past two seasons. It remains to be seen if Jones can regain the form that saw him post 978 yards on the ground in 2020.
Vaughn, meanwhile, is the most intriguing question mark here and the obvious top pick in fans' hearts. He put up at least 1,400 yards and 9 touchdowns in each of his past two seasons at Kansas State, including a whopping 18 scores on the ground in 2021 alone.
He profiles as a dual threat like Pollard as well, as evidenced by his averages of 45.5 receptions and 423.0 yards over his last two years for the Wildcats. If Vaughn's game translates quickly to the NFL, the Cowboys may have their potential Pollard replacement already on board.
2. Who Wins the Starting Kicker Job?
Brett Maher's fall from grace last season was tragic to watch. The vet's leg proved vital to the Cowboys staying competitive while Dak Prescott was sidelined with his thumb injury, and he was even better once Prescott returned.
However, Maher's season ended with a missed extra point in Week 18, which was only a sign of things to come. By the time the playoffs rolled around, the kicker had a full-blown case of the yips, resulting in his infamous 1-for-5 PAT game against Tampa Bay.
Dallas couldn't keep Maher after that kind of performance, but it now creates a massive hole on special teams. The only kicker currenly on the roster is Tristan Vizcaino, who's been on four teams in three seasons.
The Cowboys' kicking game relying on a kicker who's never stuck around at any of his previous stops sounds like a recipe for disaster. There are some options out there that could challenge for the gig, however. Robbie Gould is the biggest name, while Ryan Succop and Mason Crosby are established names who have experience kicking for Super Bowl contenders.
Despite the presence of Vizcaino, this major question remains unsolved. The team better find an answer by the end of training camp.
3. Where is the Offensive Line Depth?
The Cowboys' starting offensive line projects to be one of the best in the league once again. However, as fans know, this unit is no stranger to in-season obstacles. Not only was left tackle Tyron Smith limited to just four regular-season contests in 2022 due to a torn hamstring, but right tackle Terence Steele went down with a torn ACL in December that ended his year prematurely.
Staying healthy has been a struggle for Smith, who suited up in just two games during the 2020 campaign as well due to a neck injury. It's at the point where the team can't pencil him down for 15-plus games. With Steele still recovering from his own major surgery and a question mark for training camp, Dallas needs to be prepared for its depth to be tested once again.
Backups Josh Ball and Matt Farniok provide some experience with the system, playing 13 and seven games, respectively, during the 2022 campaign. There's a ton up for debate after them, though. Can Matt Waletzko solidy himself as a rock-solid fill-in tackle? Will free agent signing Chuma Edoga emerge after recording 26 appearances for the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons since 2019?
Then there's the rookies. Asim Richards was drafted by the team in the fifth round (No. 169 overall), showing some belief in his potential. Meanwhile, a trio of UDFAs (Earl Bostick Jr., Alec Lindstrom, T.J. Bass) provide competition across the board. With a clear opportunity in front of them, will any of these first-year contributors carve out a role for themselves?
It'd be no surprise to see the team add some veteran depth prior to Week 1 if these guys can't get it done.
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