Football is an intense competitive game. At each snap, eleven players are engaged in a battle with the other eleven men lined up in front of them. This doesn’t change when the opponents in front of you are your own teammates. Even at Oxnard, in the fourth practice of the training camp, competition arises.
Saturday was no different. The pads were absent but the fighting raged. From the secondary to the kickers, there was no lack of competitiveness. Here are some of the most common battles from week one’s final practice.
The Cowboys’ Secondary vs. Natural Regression
This entire offseason, Cowboys fans have speculated about what the defense might look like without the turnovers. After all, with 34 takeaways leading the league in 2021, that number has got to come down, right?
Well, it almost certainly will, but no one has told Dallas high school yet. Because in practice on Saturday, the cornerbacks and ball-peddling safeties showed up again.
The Dallas secondary continues a good start to camp. Trevon Diggs got his first pick during the ball-moving period. AB got their hands on two more assists. Jayron Kearse chose a through pass on a Hail Mary attempt.
— David Helman (@davidhelman_) July 29, 2022
Trevon Diggs seems to pick up where he left off. With an early interception in practice, he set the tone for the rest of the high school to get their hands on passes throughout the day. Even Nashon Wright got in on the action.
Turnovers will definitely be tougher coming next season, but the Cowboys secondary looks up to the challenge.
CeeDee Lamb against a real disaster
During boot camp, the words “non-participant” are as scary as they come. Speculation is quickly swirling about the severity of the injury and it becomes a scenario out of nowhere. Well, the latest victim of the injury bug was Cowboys WR1 CeeDee Lamb.
After an impressive outing on Friday, Dallas announced Saturday that the third-year wide receiver will not participate in full-team drills. Any injury to Lamb this early would be about as bad as it gets.
But there is no reason to worry. Stephen Jones told the media he was kept out of team drills for a ‘Veterans Day’. Although a bit of tightness briefly kept him out, he still participated in the walkthrough. Lamb even did a twisting hold in the end zone early in the day.
His absence allowed receivers like James Washington to get more reps and compete for that WR2 spot during Gallup’s rehab. Lamb is fine and that’s not a story, but it was concerning for a brief time.
Cowboys Fans Against Apathy
After 26 disappointing seasons, the 2022 offseason was one of the most pessimistic in recent history. Most expect the team to regress from its 12-5 record last season. But you wouldn’t know that based on fan turnout.
Because Saturday’s practice was not only filled to capacity, it was even difficult to get into camp today.
Practice doesn’t start until 11:15 a.m. PT, but Cowboys fans line up a good four hours early to enter the River Ridge complex. And there was probably another quarter mile before I turned off the camera. pic.twitter.com/tMcYq0PWCu
—Todd Archer (@toddarcher) July 30, 2022
Anyone coming to today’s Cowboys training camp practice is too late. Oxnard town officials and the team closed the gates as the venue reached capacity. Over 4,000 fans here. The first was Patrick Milan, who arrived around 3:30 a.m. pic.twitter.com/pNowTL8nv3
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) July 30, 2022
Fans arrived at 3:30 a.m. just to see their team practice. It may be a symptom of football returning for the first time in almost six months. But whatever the reason, the Cowboy nation turned out in droves today to see their team put together for the last time this week.
Camp Battle of the Day: Lirim Hajrullahu vs. Jonathan Garibay
Greg Zuerlein left a lot to be desired in 2021. His missed kicks early in games too often put the Cowboys in a hole, and his 88% PAT percentage was near the bottom of the league. He now has the opportunity for a resurgence with the New York Jets.
But Zuerlein’s departure opened the door to a new face at kicker. The Cowboys have taken the camp-battle approach to deciding who will be Greg the Leg’s successor in 2022. And in practice on Saturday, the kicking competition began.
The first candidate is Jonathan Garibay, an undrafted free agent kicker from Texas Tech who hit every kick within 50 yards during his senior season. The second is a familiar face: Lirim Hajrullahu, who appeared in the 2021 Atlanta Falcons game after Zuerlein was placed on the COVID-19 list. Hajrullahu is an experienced kicker, but not in the NFL, having earned two All-Star appearances and winning the Gray Cup while kicking in the CFL.
Two radically different paths now combine in fierce competition for the starting kicker position. And in their first battle, the advantage goes to Hajrullahu.
The FG battle therefore began today at the Cowboys camp. Lirim Hajrullahu went 7-8, going wide left on a 47-yarder. Texas Tech product Jonathan Garibay went 4-8, missing 44, 47, 45 and 50.
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) July 30, 2022
Hajrullahu finished 87.5% that day, with his only miss at 47 yards. Garibay was not as successful, missing 50% of his kicks and hitting the NFL Network lights on his final rep.
There’s still a month and a half until the start of the regular season, so this camp battle is far from over. In fact, the least experienced kicker would be expected to struggle under the pressure of their first kicking competition. But that anxiety needs to fade if he wants to capture the starting gig, as Hajrullahu is off to a strong start. Today’s battle may be over, but the war rages on.
And with that, the first week of training camp 2022 is officially in the books. The football is back, the fans are showing up, the secondary is getting their hands on the passes, and there’s a huge question mark at the strike position. Has anything changed?