NFL News & Analysis

Dallas Cowboys mailbag: Peyton Hendershot's job could be in trouble, offensive line musical chairs and more

2RH31E2 Dallas Cowboys wide receiver John Stephens Jr. (49) celebrates scoring a touchdown during an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. Jacksonville won 28-23. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Peyton Hendershot‘s job in jeopardy?: The second-year tight end is being pushed hard by a converted receiver both in camp and during the preseason.

• Biggest surprise cut: Two veteran Dallas Cowboys defenders stand out as the biggest potential “surprise” cuts prior to the regular season.

• Offensive line musical chairs: Tyler Smith is going to replace Tyron Smith if/when he gets injured, but who replaces Tyler?

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

After falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars in their first preseason game, the Dallas Cowboys turn their attention to the Seattle Seahawks in their second preseason contest. With that, we are going to dive into another Cowboys mailbag, focusing on position battles, surprise cuts and offensive line musical chairs.

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@DannyPhantom24: Who is more at risk of losing their job once John Stephens Jr. solidifies his spot on the roster? Hendershot or McKeon?

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I believe Peyton Hendershot is more at risk of losing his job to John Stephens Jr. than Sean McKeon. Given the limited nature of NFL rosters, McKeon's ability to align and contribute in multiple roles — as a traditional tight end or in a fullback role as a lead blocker — puts him in a bit of a different category than Hendershot, who only contributes in traditional tight end roles. 

Moreover, while McKeon has drawn praise from new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, in particular, many in attendance at the Cowboys' training camp have lamented Hendershot's inability to stand out.

You know who has stood out, though?

John Stephens Jr., who not only has consistently flashed throughout the Cowboys' camp but also finished with a team-high five receptions (from seven targets) for 56 yards and a touchdown. 

After plying his trade at receiver during college, Stephens has transitioned well to the tight end position, especially in the receiving realm, as he has the size, athleticism and receiving ability to develop into a serious mismatch weapon down the seam for the Cowboys' offense — a role that many have already tabbed for Hendershot.

Now, for Stephens to actually take Hendershot's gig, he's going to need to continue to show improvement and “want-to” in the blocking department. While Hendershot had his ups and downs as a blocker in his rookie campaign, his effort level could never be questioned, as he battled his rear end off whenever he was called upon.

If Stephens can match that intensity, then I truly believe his unique blend of size, speed and receiving ability will put him on the 53-man roster in lieu of Hendershot.

While it's hard for any cut to truly “surprise” those of us who eat, sleep and breathe Cowboys football, the two veterans who could be “surprise” cuts before Week 1 are Neville Gallimore and Jourdan Lewis — but for different reasons. 

In Gallimore's case, he just struggled to build any type of consistency over the first three years of his career. While he has been able to flash and make some impact plays, he's also been prone to losing gap integrity against the run while getting enveloped by blocks against the pass. Additionally, while other younger interior defenders such as Osa Odighizuwa have displayed constant improvement, Gallimore has seemingly stagnated, as he's making many of the same mistakes that plagued him when he entered the NFL in 2020. 

In Lewis' case, it just could be a classic case of getting “Wally Pipped.” Youngsters DaRon Bland, Nahshon Wright, Eric Scott Jr. and even Kelvin Joseph have stepped up and played well enough during Lewis' absence due to a Lisfranc injury that the team could seemingly function without the veteran slot cornerback. 

Nonetheless, unlike in Gallimore's case, I believe that if Lewis doesn't start the season on the PUP list, he will still make the team because A) teams can never have too many cornerbacks, especially ones who can thrive in the slot, and B) he's played well enough in the past to have a secure spot on the roster. Lewis' presence gives the Cowboys a four-deep cornerback depth chart that's tough to beat, and I don't think the team should sacrifice that to save a few bucks on a veteran contract.

@WhoMusa: Who is the swing when Tyron eventually goes down? If it’s Tyler then who goes in at LG? Do we know?

Tyler Smith is the guy who will slide to left tackle if/when Tyron Smith gets injured this year, but his replacement in that scenario does not appear to be settled one bit.

Matt Farniok is probably the leader in the clubhouse in that regard, and he's probably the most talented run blocker among the reserve guards on the Cowboys' current roster. Unfortunately, he has serious issues in pass protection, as evidenced by the fact that he gave up a team-high four pressures in Dallas' first preseason game. 

Outside of Farniok, rookie Asim Richards definitely deserves a look, especially after he held up extremely well at left tackle in his NFL debut despite spending most of his training camp practice time at guard. Now, Richards is basically the inverse of Farniok, as he's much more comfortable in pass protection than when run blocking currently. 

Beyond those two, Josh Ball is another potential replacement, but I've seen nothing from him in either videos from practice or during the first preseason game that demonstrates he's ready to combat starting-caliber NFL defensive linemen. 

Given Farniok's experience edge, I'd expect the Cowboys to deploy him in this scenario, especially if it's just to finish a game or get by for a week or two; however, if Tyron Smith is out for an extended period of time, forcing these changes to be longer term, then don't be surprised if Richards slides in there at some point and doesn't look back.


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