With the Dallas Cowboys preparing for their second preseason game, the pressure has turned up a notch for everyone.
The Year 2 jump is vital for players to become veterans who are no longer learning what it means to play at this level but perfecting their game to become a locker room leader on and off the field.
Let’s look at how the players going into their second season have progressed in their time in training camp.
Dallas Cowboys Second-Year Jumps | Offense
RB | Malik Davis
Malik Davis is still a viable front-runner for the backup position. He has had a strong camp, showing he can be a consistent and strong back.
His first preseason game could have been more productive, as he had the least rushing yards. However, with the team only having 94 rushing yards in the game, the run wasn’t the emphasis.
Davis has speed and can plow through defenders when needed.
TE | Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot
Jake Ferguson has worked to prove that he is ready to step into the starting role. During the game, he had three receptions for 38 yards. These catches showcased his YAC ability and technique. Seeing more of Ferguson will be exciting this season.
Hendershot has yet to have a standout camp so far. But his ability to block has been noticed, and his production in the red zone could be something to watch out for. With a strong rookie class, Hendershot must have the best couple of weeks of camp to stay ahead of the competition.
WR | Jalen Tolbert, KaVontae Turpin
Jalen Tolbert has been such a joy for fans to watch this camp and during the preseason game.
His ability to take a second-year jump and become one of the top-producing receivers at camp has been fun to watch.
During the game, Tolbert had an offensive pass interference that took away what would have been a solid 31-yard catch. But he did get a touchdown that put the Cowboys on the board.
Turpin has, rightfully so, been a more significant part of the offensive rotation. Although ball security was an issue for him in the game, it shouldn’t be going forward. He can be a fast and intelligent player in both the offense and as the punt returner.
OT | Tyler Smith, Matt Waletzko, Alex Taylor-Prioleau
Smith has been a solid player for the offensive line coming into this season with new confidence. It will be interesting to see how many reps he gets at left guard and tackle as camp continues.
Waletzko had the opportunity to see more time on the field with Zack Martin not being at camp. He has improved his overall technique and can be a viable backup to add depth behind veteran players.
Taylor-Prioleau can block well and can be a solid backup in the rotation.
Dallas Cowboys Second-Year Jumps | Defense
CB | DaRon Bland
Bland has been steady, especially in his coverage. His route running has been impressive. He was noticeably good at keeping receivers on the sidelines during the game.
LB | Damone Clark, Devin Harper
Clark has stepped into his own to become a leader for the linebacker room. He has taken the opportunity to work under Leighton Vander Esch, who has taken the time to help him grow his intelligence within the game.
Clark was flying from sideline to sideline during the game. He can be disruptive and read offensive schemes well.
Harper could step into the spot that Luke Gifford filled. Not only has he been productive when he has been in the rotation, but he has filled a much-needed void on special teams. His decision-making on the defense and special teams was spot on.
These two add strength and depth to an already strong linebacker room.
DE | Sam Williams
Williams started camp dealing with a shoulder strain but has still shown what a pass-rushing threat he can be. He has gotten more work to become a potent and physical threat to disrupt the pocket.
S | Markquese Bell
Bell showed how much of an asset he can be for the Cowboys’ secondary. He had a stellar game against the Jaguars, showing that he is not a threat to go unnoticed in the safety room. Bell has taken advantage of the extra reps he is getting with Donovan Wilson’s injury keeping him sidelined.