The Dallas Cowboys will play their first game of the 2022 season when they face the Denver Broncos on Saturday night. It’s not a regular season game, but for some Cowboys it’s their biggest shot at making a good impression to win a roster spot.
Performing well in training camp practices is all well and good, but lining up against another opponent in pads, with a game script and competing is a whole different ball game. The Cowboys already got a small taste of the Broncos with their joint practice, which included a few scuffles, but that was two units on separate fields working out. This will be a real game under the lights of Empower Field at Mile High Stadium.
With only three preseason games scheduled this year, the Cowboys will have three opportunities to find out who can make the cut to the 53-man roster. It’s not a regular season game, but there’s a lot on the line for many of the players who will receive a lions share of the playing time.
Here are five players to watch as they try to make a strong impression for the Cowboys in their preseason opener.
Josh Ball (OT)
Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
Perhaps no player will be more scrutinized in this game than Ball. It’s been well documented how desperately the Cowboys need a swing tackle to emerge, and since Ball is the best option, all eyes will be on the second-year tackle.
Ball’s training camp performance has been suspect and his joint practice work with the Broncos did not inspire confidence. The offensive line as a whole wasn’t great working against Denver’s defense and Ball was a big part of the struggles.
Cowboys offensive line is struggling so far against this Denver front #DALvsDEN
— Kevin Gray Jr. (@KevinGraySports) August 11, 2022
While it’s important to note it wasn’t a real game and just a scrimmage, Ball has to get better. Perhaps in a real game setting, the light will come on and Ball will learn from a tough afternoon with the Broncos.
There’s really no one to push Ball, yet, but he would be smart to put his best foot forward. Time is running out for Ball to stop the Cowboys from bringing in a veteran to compete for the swing tackle gig.
No player has more to gain from this game than Ball, who needs to step up his performance. He’ll be watched very closely by Cowboys Nation.
Simi Fehoko (WR)
(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
There aren’t many players who have earned more rave reviews in camp than wide receiver Simi Fehoko. The second-year wide out has played well with more chances to shine because of injuries and a less crowded receiver room this season. Fehoko is seizing his opportunity.
Simi Fehoko is now a consistent standout at #Cowboys camp.
"I took a lot of notes from CeeDee, Coop, Ced [in 2021] …With more knowledge of the playbook, I can just get out there and [show my 4.3 speed]. ..I feel like I've found my role, and I'm stepping up into that role."
— Patrik [No C] Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) August 9, 2022
However, doing such in camp in seven-on-seven drills and against the same cornerback competition day after day is one thing, doing it against a different team in a game is another. Fehoko will have to prove that he can play against some stiff opposition, the Broncos have a good defense and one of the better young CBs in the league in Patrick Surtain.
If Fehoko can play well in the first exhibition contest, it might be time to start buying into the hype.
Tyler Smith (OG)
(AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Everyone wants to get a glimpse of the rookie who the Cowboys took with their first-round pick, yet not all fans were enamored with. To make some even more uneasy, Smith was listed as the second-string left guard on the team’s first depth chart of the season.
Where Smith is on the depth chart isn’t as important as much as how he performs in his first outing with the Cowboys. This will be the initial look at Smith at guard in the NFL and his chance to make an impact with the fan base, but more importantly, the team.
In all likelihood, Smith will be the starting LG when the regular season begins, but he’s got to earn the job. It’s always exciting to get a first look at the Cowboys’ top pick in the draft and Smith should get plenty of snaps in the team’s first preseason game. The rookie will have all eyes on him as he prepares for his debut.
Kelvin Joseph (CB)
(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
The Cowboys were expecting a big jump from the second-round corner out of Kentucky, but that hasn’t happened yet. Thus far in camp, Joseph has been outplayed by veteran CB Anthony Brown, who’s had one of the better camps for Dallas.
With the tumultuous offseason behind Joseph, the hope was that he was going to win the starting job across from All Pro CB Trevon Diggs, but that doesn’t look like the case right now.
Players that need to do more in Cowboys camp: The kickers. Kelvin Joseph, Josh Ball, Tarell Basham and Aviante Collins.
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) August 7, 2022
The Broncos have a solid receiving group, but it remains to be seen how much their starters play. No matter who he lines up against, Joseph will have an opportunity to prove that he should be in the mix for being one of the top three corners on the Cowboys.
This will be Joseph’s time to build some momentum heading towards the regular season.
Sam Williams (DE)
(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Much like watching Smith, the intrigue is watching a young, highly drafted player in defensive end Sam Williams. The Cowboys need someone to step up as an edge rusher and Williams was selected in the second round to bring some of that pressure.
There have been some signs Williams is getting better, but he’s still a work in progress. The depth chart lists Williams as the third-string DE, which means he’ll get a lot of action in the preseason opener.
The Cowboys will want to see how much Williams has picked up in camp and fans will want to get a good look at the talented rookie edge rusher. Hopefully there’s a spark from Williams in his first competition at the professional level, there will be a lot eyes watching his play.