Is Dak ready to attack 2024 season? News and notes from Cowboys minicamp

With QB Dak Prescott leading the charge, the Dallas Cowboys came together for minicamp to work out the kinks in preparation for training camp later next month.

DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys held minicamp over the last few days, bringing their offseason workouts to a close. Next time that the team joins up again, it will be at training camp in late July, hopefully with the entire roster in attendance.

Minicamp saw the return of edge rusher Micah Parsons to the practice field, but wide receiver CeeDee Lamb was still missing. Since he remains without a contract extension, the Cowboys did not expect the All-Pro WR, yet there is still hope that something can be worked out before camp. With Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson’s new deal done, Jerry and Stephen Jones now have a framework for Lamb’s extension.

Tight end Peyton Hendershot was the only other player not in attendance, he was out with what was described as a minor medical procedure.

Minicamp was the last chance to get in team organized practices and although there isn’t much physicality, there were some interesting notes to come out of the workouts. Head coach Mike McCarthy canceled the final session, which has become a common occurrence with him, but here’s what we learned over the few days of practice:

Dak Prescott is already dialed in

Last year at this time, the Cowboys were touting their new “Texas Coast” offense, a variation of the West Coast system that McCarthy had learned from his time coaching the San Francisco 49ers before enjoying success with it as coach of the Green Bay Packers. The installation was slow going at first in Dallas, but Prescott and the offense took off around their bye week during the 2023 season.

In his second year in the system, Prescott is now thriving. McCarthy spoke highly of his veteran quarterback’s work this offseason.

That’s good news for the Cowboys, and bad news for the rest of the league. Dallas’ offense was a Top 5 unit in total yards, passing yards, and points per game in 2023, so any improvement would spell trouble for opposing defenses. 

Despite a disappointing playoff exit, Prescott led the NFL in touchdown passes and completion percentage, while also finishing second in QBR and third in passing yards last season. After making the Texas Coast offense his own, Prescott was second in the league’s MVP voting. If he’s more comfortable in his second year in the system, there’s no telling how good he’ll be in the 2024 campaign. That’s a scary proposition.

Young WRs stepping up

Top target Lamb isn’t practicing, which is giving the young receivers an opportunity for some needed experience. The three who have the most to gain are WRs Jalen Tolbert, Jalen Brooks, and Ryan Flournoy, and all three were making plays this week. 

Tolbert is entering his third season and could finally be making the jump to become a quality receiver, while Brooks is showing improvement in his second year as well.

Minicamp observers also recognized Flournoy making a highlight-worthy touchdown catch. The rookie flashed his elite athletic traits during minicamp and took advantage of his extra reps. 

The Cowboys have Brandin Cooks entering his second season with Dallas after developing into one of Prescott’s trusted redzone options last year, which should help, but with Lamb awaiting payday and Michael Gallup now with the Las Vegas Raiders, the Cowboys have the need for a third WR to step up, and they got some encouraging play from their young receivers.

Parsons explains his offseason preparation

With Parsons finally around, he explained some of his rationale for not attending the other team workouts. Parsons cited former Defensive Player of the Year winner Aaron Donald following the same offseason plan, while also mentioning how, as a smaller defensive end, he gets banged around and needs the time to heal and prepare for another season. 

The All-Pro edge rusher said that he would rather be fresh for the end of the season, that the chemistry with new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and the other defensive players will come in training camp. Parsons mentioned that he hasn’t spoken much with Zimmer since the DC got hired and hopes there’s a “compromising relationship” between the two since the pass rusher likes things his way. 

That’s a tough stance to take when trying to learn a new scheme from one of the more accomplished defensive coordinators in the league from the last 25 years. Parsons continues to do things his way this offseason, if it works no one will argue about how he went about his business. If things go south, however, he can expect some criticism to come his way.

Zack Martin’s swan song?

Perhaps the biggest bombshell from minicamp came via a revelation from perennial All-Pro and sure-fire future Hall of Fame right guard. A stalwart road grader on the offensive line, Zack Martin mentioned that was within the “realm of possibility” that 2024 could be his last season. 

Martin didn’t outright say that he was going to retire, but the Cowboys might need to start thinking about a replacement plan for one of their all-time greats.

That’s certainly sobering news coming from one of the organization’s most consistent players since he entered the league. While he’s focusing on the year in front of him, Martin might not be back in 2025, adding to the weight of an already pressure packed season.

Martin’s decision is a problem for another time, but still a disquieting thought as the team prepares for the upcoming campaign. 

Do you think Dak Prescott is in for another MVP-caliber season in 2024? Share your thoughts with Ben on X (formerly Twitter) @BenGrimaldi.

Also on WFAA.com:

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