Dallas Cowboys training camp preview: Getting new-look offense up to speed

The Dallas Cowboys open 2023 NFL training camp Monday at the River Ridge Residence Inn complex in Oxnard, California. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:

Biggest question: What will the offense look like with coach Mike McCarthy now calling plays?

It might not be as different because McCarthy and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer left most of the language the same in the offense for Prescott, with only subtle changes in definitions on certain routes. Prescott called it the “Texas Coast” offense, a blend of McCarthy’s West Coast background and the scheme the Cowboys have used since 2007.

McCarthy said Prescott did a good job of “owning” the offense in the offseason program, going over the things he likes and doesn’t like. As the Cowboys get to Oxnard, they have a foundation in place, and they will use the competitive portions of practice to hammer out the finer details before the games begin.

Most impactful offseason addition: Stephon Gilmore, CB

You could make a case for veteran receiver Brandin Cooks or maybe first-round defensive tackle Mazi Smith, but Gilmore gives the Cowboys one of the best corner tandems in the league alongside Trevon Diggs. Quarterbacks will not be able to just look opposite of Diggs because Gilmore can lock down his side of the field, too. He can also impact the pass rush with the ability to hold his coverage longer.

He remains one of the better playmaking corners in the league as he enters his 12th season. Gilmore brings a quiet confidence to a group that is filled with talent, and he might be the final piece to their ultimate success.

Most compelling position battle: Who will be the left guard?

If the Cowboys go with their best-five approach, then it is Tyler Smith. He lined up there during the minicamp and looked like he has played there for years, even though he started 16 games at left tackle a year ago. If Tyler Smith is the left guard, then Tyron Smith and Terence Steele will be the left and right tackles, respectively. After returning from hamstring surgery last season, Tyron Smith played right tackle following Steele’s season-ending knee injury.

Tyron Smith, however, has played just 17 of 50 games since McCarthy became the coach. He has not been able to stay healthy, so Tyler Smith will need to be ready to move to left tackle at a moment’s notice, which would put Chuma Edoga and Matt Farniok in competition for the left guard spot.

Player with the most to prove: Michael Gallup, WR

In his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Gallup never felt comfortable in 2022. He caught just 39 passes for 424 yards and four touchdowns after signing a five-year, $57.5 million contract. He said he feels, “springy” again now that he has 100% faith in his knee.

McCarthy said they want to get Gallup more involved in the passing game after having him run mostly go routes last season, although his 10.9 yards per catch in 2022 was a career low. He had 1,100 yards in 2019, his last full season with Prescott. He might not be able to reach that again with Lamb ascending to a No. 1 role, Cooks’ history and McCarthy’s desire to run the ball, but he can be a much more effective part of the offense in total.

Training camp is a success if ... their key players stay healthy.

In 2021, Dak Prescott missed most of camp with a latissimus strain. Last season, Tyron Smith suffered a torn hamstring that required surgery. Injuries will happen, and while the Cowboys have improved their depth, they have players they simply can’t lose. Tony Pollard, who is coming back from ankle surgery, might be at the top of the list as he ascends to the No. 1 running back role with Ezekiel Elliott gone.