KaVontae Turpin tops Dallas Cowboys check list of players to watch in preseason opener

·3 min read
Ashley Landis/AP

Of all the Dallas Cowboys getting ready to play in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Denver Broncos, no one has had a journey to realizing a dream come true quite like former TCU receiver/kick returner KaVontae Turpin.

Turpin has played football year round over the past three years in the indoor Fan-Controlled Football League, the Spring League, the European League of Football and the United States Football League this past spring to keep his dream alive.

He did it all for the chance to play in the NFL after getting expelled from the TCU football program in 2018 after being arrested for assaulting a former girlfriend.

After signing with the Cowboys after the start of training camp, the 5-foot-7, 155-pound speedster has made a fast impression. He is a lock to be the team’s primary kick returner.

He is hoping to show he can do at receiver in the preseason, too, as the Cowboys look for ways to use his blazing speed.

Mostly, he is just thankful for the opportunity.

“I’m just pushing through it everyday,” Turpin said. “God made my dreams come true. I am just happy to be here. I prepared myself for this situation to come here and do what I do. Now let’s see what I can do for the Cowboys.”

He’s not the only player to watch in tonight’s preseason opener against Denver. With the starters out, keep an eye on these position battles:

Kicker

The most important roster battle in training camp has been at kicker and it will be a focus throughout the preseason.

Lirim Hajrullaha has been the best kicker in camp but he is inconsistent and largely unproven.

Brett Maher was signed Tuesday to replace the disappointing Jonathan Garibay and he may be the favorite because of his prior experience with the Cowboys.

Both will get opportunities against the Broncos.

Left guard

Connor McGovern will most likely sit out the game with the rest of the veterans. But this is about the continued development of first-round pick Tyler Smith, who is still running with the second unit behind McGovern.

The Cowboys didn’t draft Smith not to start. It would be an indictment of Smith and the draft decision.

But he must win the job on the field. His play in the preseason is key to the process.

Backup quarterback

Many thought Cooper Rush was a shoo-in to return as the team’s No. 2 quarterback after last year’s win against the Vikings.

But the job is wide open and Will Grier, who has a connection to quarterback coach Doug Nussmeier from their days together at Florida, is pushing Rush.

Grier is more comfortable in the system than he was a year ago and plays with more moxie and aggressiveness.

Swing tackle

An shoulder injury to rookie draft pick Matt Waletzko early in camp has left second-year player Josh Ball getting the primary looks as the swing tackle behind starters Tyron Smith and Terrence Steele.

Ball didn’t play last year as a rookie because of injuries. The coaches are excited to see him in a game. But he hasn’t engendered much confidence with his up-and-down play in practice. Aviante Collins and Isaac Alarcon are not options at this point.

Because there is no timetable on Waletzko’s return, Ball must show something in the preseason or the team will likely scan the waiver wire for help.