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Scouting the Cowboys Rookies That Might Get a Close-Up on Hard Knocks

HBO’s Hard Knocks kicks off on Tuesday, Aug. 10, and this year’s spotlight is on the Dallas Cowboys. Every season, Hard Knocks gets up close and personal with some of the more unheralded players on the roster. The entire country knows about Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper, but let’s meet some of the Cowboys rookies who might get some air time this summer.

LB Micah Parsons

What We Said Then: Parsons is a plug-and-play linebacker immediately in the NFL. He has the ability to play Mike, Will or Sam at the next level. His biggest concerns are character, which will need to be monitored closely, and his instincts/play recognition/processing ability. Mentally, he can have lapses in the run game by taking the wrong holes, being fooled by read options and over-pursuing plays. However, he will be an impact player in the run game right away with his good tackling and block-shedding ability. He only played 26 games at the college level without a redshirt season, so experience at the next level should help clean this up. His outstanding size and frame paired with his above-the-line athleticism makes him a prospect with high potential. His blitzing ability is also a plus and will be utilized early. Overall, Parsons is deserving of the top linebacker rank in this class; he arguably has the most potential of any linebacker in this class. He will be an immediate starter at the next level, preferably at OLB (Will or Sam), with sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability. Parsons may struggle early in his career in coverage but can be utilized on blitzes on third down as he learns. He is an early/mid first-round pick but could slip depending on his character issues. – Jared Hammond

What to Watch For: Is he stepping in right away as the leader of the defense, or struggling to pick up the playbook and make calls? Can he hold his own next to Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, or will he fade into the background?

CB Kelvin Joseph

What We Said Then: Redshirt sophomore who started 9 of 20 career games, including all of the first nine in 2020 before opting out of the final two games in a fourth-team all-SEC season. Four-star H.S. prospect. As a true freshman in 2018, played in 11 games for LSU before being injured and subsequently suspended, missing their final two games. Left the team and sat out 2019 due to transfer rules. Other undisclosed off-field concerns. Under Kentucky DC Brad White (second season) and DBs coach Steve Clinkscale (fifth season), player was primarily a traveling outside CB in a base Cover 2 with frequent variations. Lining up in Press and Off, with some snaps from the Slot and at FS, player is responsible for Man, including on bigger WRs and TEs, Curl/Flat Zone, deep third, deep half and single-high. Starting outside CB you can win with independent of scheme. Well-balanced corner who brings a lot of desirable skills to the table, including above-average athleticism, physicality, processing and ball skills. Has potential at FS due to range…He will be his own biggest enemy, needing to settle his off-the-field issues and preventing avoidable after-the-whistle penalties. – Peter Engler

What To Watch For: Is he listening to the coaches or being argumentative? Can he lock down a starting role right away?

DT Osa Odighizuwa

What We Said Then: Odighizuwa is a man of two tapes, a disrupter from the interior of the D-line or someone who gets absolutely dominated by players with better technique at the POA. An amazing athlete with a ton of natural athletic ability that will interest teams. His power, explosiveness, motor, leverage and length are all promising. Needs to become more consistent with his technique and specifically his hands, seems to feel like he can get by on his athletic ability alone -- those are the games he gets beat the most. At the next level, will need to develop himself as a technician and student of the game to improve his field awareness as well as his ability to get off blocks. Initially, should be a rotational D-lineman with positional flexibility and three-down availability. – Luke Rasberry

What To Watch For: Has his technique and UOH improved, or is he struggling against Zack Martin and Co.? Can he stick in a gap versus the run?

DE Chauncey Golston

  • Third-round selection

What We Said Then: We actually didn’t expect Golston to get drafted as high as he did, and as such didn’t write a formal report. The explosive defensive lineman has put on over 40 pounds from his listed weight at Iowa, but still put up strong metrics at the Iowa Pro Day with a 36-inch vertical jump and a 9-11 broad jump.

What to Watch For: How are his lateral agility and change-of-direction skills after a poor 7.52 three-cone drill and 4.65 shuttle? Can he produce as a pass rusher or will he be relegated to early downs?

CB Nahshon Wright

What We Said Then: Junior who has started 16 of 18 career games, including 6 of 6 in 2020, since transferring from a true freshman season at Laney Junior College in which he was an all-conference performer en route to a state championship. Competed in track in high school, with PRs of 6-0 high jump, 44-10 triple jump and 21-5 long jump. Under DC Tim Tibesar (second season) and secondary coach Blue Adams (second season), player was near-exclusively an outside CB responsible for Press Man, Off Man, deep third and deep quarter. Developmental FS you can win with in a base Cover 2/3/4 given time to learn the position and refine technique and processing. Explosive defensive back who is extremely long and has a knack for getting his hands on the ball. Competitive and physically tough, doesn’t have injury history you’d expect with his frame… Out of his depth in Man, getting extremely high in backpedal and biting on double moves without COD or foot speed to recover. Uncoordinated and unbalanced. Project with little-to-no experience as a FS. – Peter Engler

What to Watch For: Where is he playing – as a CB or FS? Is he using his 6-4 body to give WRs problems? Has he worked on his balance?

LB Jabril Cox

What We Said Then: Cox should enter the NFL and be a winning backup. He was a Senior Bowl participant. He has immediate third-down value because of his usage at LSU. He lined up over tight ends when they were split out, showing above the line coverage in those situations, but his lack of explosiveness and overall athleticism will limit his ability to cover high-caliber tight ends and other receivers. His track record of exceptional ball skills throughout his career is also encouraging to see, as he was consistent with passes defended and interceptions for his entire career. He won't be a standout linebacker in the run game immediately but has enough length to improve when he reaches the next level. Same goes with his ability to block-shed. Needs improvement but is adequate enough for the time being and has the length to improve it. He will need to improve his consistency when tackling, specifically learning to tackle lower than he does at times. Overall, he grades as an early third-rounder who should start his career as a backup but has enough potential to eventually grow into a starting caliber Will linebacker at the next level. – Jared Hammond

What to Watch For: Does he show any matchup ability in Man coverage? Will he be able to get off blocks and make tackles against the run?

OT Josh Ball

What We Said Then: As a run blocker, his inconsistent hand placement and tendency to allow his pads to rise on the run limits his ability to create leverage. When properly engaging, he can roll his hips through and drive smaller defenders with the upper body strength to turn LBs or DBs to finish. He can swing his hips around to get his back to the play, though his high pad level does not often allow him to sustain. Pulling, he is stiff on the run and is unable to get square at the second level. As a pass blocker, he shows quick feet to get back in his stance and generally stays low, though he can tend to lunge against faster defenders, not getting the proper depth, and can be swam past. He shows the ability to hand fight in pass protection and can re-fit his hands, though his lack of punch timing can allow defenders into his chest. Lack of flexibility and lower body strength limit his ability to anchor. – Robert Simpson

What to Watch For: Has he been working on his flexibility and ability to keep his pads low? Can he show enough to snag a roster spot as a backup?

WR Simi Fehoko

  • Fifth-round selection

What to Watch For: Can the highly-athletic 6-3 receiver do more than stretch the field deep, specifically making catches through contact and showing nuance in his routes? Will he sniff the field with the talent in Dallas?

DT Quinton Bohanna

  • Sixth-round selection

What to Watch For: Can the behemoth 340-pounder retain the leverage to two-gap at the NFL level? Will he contribute anything outside of run-stopping?

CB Israel Mukuamu

What We Said Then: Junior who has started 19 of 31 career games, including 5 of 5 in 2020 before opting out of the season when the HC was fired. A 4-star H.S. recruit. Named to 2019 second-team all-SEC. Under DC and DBs coach Travaris Robinson (fifth season), player was a chess piece, spending the most time at outside CB but also playing significant snaps at FS, slot CB and box S. From both Press and Off, player filled many responsibilities, including Jam, Bail, and Off Man against WRs and some TEs. Zone responsibilities include Hitch/Curl, Curl/Flat, Cover 1 and deep half and third with occasional Robber. Rotational versatile CB you can win with in frequent Press or outside Cover 3. Lengthy corner with the pre-snap intelligence and play strength to compete at the LOS and on jump balls… Lacks consistent technique with hands and lets body get out of sync, especially at top of route from Off. Lacks physical toughness and hustle against Run. – Peter Engler

What to Watch For: Will he show enough promise to make the roster without significant special teams ability? Is he overshadowed by the other two higher-drafted corners?

OG Matt Farniok

  • Seventh-round selection

What to Watch For: The 13th-most athletic guard since 1987 (by RAS), how does he mesh with his teammates? Does he keep his body under control and react quickly to the defensive line?