2 positions where Cowboys camp battles will be hotly contested

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The Dallas Cowboys are less than a month away from making the familiar trek to Oxnard, California for training camp. The team can officially start camp on July 21, a week before most teams, as they prepare for the Hall of Fame game against Pittsburgh on August 5.

Since re-signing Dak Prescott in March, the Cowboys have had a relatively uneventful offseason, something that is unusual for Jerry Jones’ club. However, things are set to heat up for the Cowboys once they reach the west coast, as the club has intriguing positional competitions on the horizon.

The offense is pretty much set in Dallas, other than depth positions like the third tight end, third quarterback, or fifth wide receiver. The defense is a much different story, as very few defenders are locked into starting roles, which should make for an intriguing training camp and early season.

With uncertainty being a theme for the Dallas defense, let’s take a look at two of the positions that face a ton of questions, and have potential for fierce competition as we head towards training camp.

Linebacker

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11). Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, Micah Parsons (R), Jabril Cox (R), Keanu Neal, Luke Gifford, Francis Bernard, Azur Kamara, Anthony Hines (R) No position on the Dallas roster has changed more in the 2021 offseason. With just Vander Esch and Smith as returning contributors, the Cowboys signed Neal from Atlanta to convert him from strong safety to linebacker. Dallas wasn't done though, as they spent their first-round pick on Parsons, and then snagged one of the best coverage linebackers in the entire draft in LSU's Cox. It's a serious challenge to project how the snaps will play out over the season, but it's a good problem for the Dallas coaching staff to have. There will no doubt be a serious sense of competition which should help the group develop into the best linebackers they can be. Almost every backer brings a vastly different skillset, and this could allow new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to get extremely creative as he experiments with what pairings work best in each situation. Training camp in Oxnard will huge for these players as they try to stand out of a talented pack.

Defense tackle

Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Neville Gallimore (96). (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Trysten Hill, Neville Gallimore, Brent Urban, Osa Odighizuwa (R), Quinton Bohanna (R), Carlos Watkins, Justin Hamilton Another position that changed quite a bit for Dallas in the last few months, the Cowboys added two defensive tackles in free agency with Urban and Watkins, and two in the draft with Odighizuwa and Bohanna. Those four are joined by the former second-round pick Hill and former third rounder Gallimore. Much like the linebacker position, how Quinn chooses to align the defensive front will determine how many defensive tacklers see the field at once, and at what positions. Dallas has traditionally featured a 1-technique DT and a 3-technique DT, and while that will still happen, Quinn has stated they will run a base 30 front and be in that around 30-40% of their snaps. Virtually all spots along the interior defensive line are up for grabs which should create a healthy competition that teams strive for. Nearly every tackle other than Bohanna on the Cowboys roster would ideally be better suited to play the under-tackle role, so up to four different guys could be in competition for those snaps. Will Hill or Gallimore make an expected leap and secure their starting role, or will any of the newcomers unseat either of them? When the team runs the 30 front, how do each of these additions fit? The answer to those questions and more will begin to be uncovered as they hit the field in late July.

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