DALLAS — The sooner the Dallas Cowboys can close the comprehension gap between the rookie class and the veterans, the quicker the team can focus on correction and preparation in training camp.
At least that is coach Mike McCarthy's viewpoint as the Cowboys have raced their way through eight installs throughout the course of organized team activities.
"We got to get these guys as ready — and I talk openly about this with the team," McCarthy told reporters on June 9. "There’s a gap between your rookie class and your veterans every year, and how fast we can close that gap with the help of the veterans — obviously we’re coaching them — but it’s all part of that culture that we created here.”
McCarthy will get to see how close the gap has closed as the Cowboys hold mandatory minicamp June 14 through June 16 at The Star in Frisco.
What third-round receiver Jalen Tolbert has had to get used to going from South Alabama to the NFL is the speed of the practices, not just the game.
"Definitely the tempo, the speed of everything, the speed of the playbook, the speed of running out to the field and transitioning from period to period, finishing after the play," Tolbert said. "So, being able to get on to that tempo of NFL life has been the hardest challenge.”
Even the speed of Dak Prescott's cadence takes getting used to. Fourth-round tight end Jake Ferguson and undrafted free agent Peyton Hendershot spend time after practice working on rattling off plays just as the two-time Pro Bowler quarterback would.
"It’s definitely a challenge, a lot of information, quick each day, a lot of new stuff coming in," said Ferguson. "But just trying to meet with other guys, younger guys along with fellow tight end Peyton Hendershot, meeting with him, studying a little bit more in our off time whether we’re at the hotel or here. Just trying to get as much knowledge in my brain as I can.”
What motivates the rookies to fully-meld with the veterans is an appreciation, not just of the NFL, but the tradition of the Cowboys.
"I would just say walk in this building and see this rich history and just all these vets, all these guys around, it's an amazing atmosphere and it's just a blessing to be here," fifth-round tackle Matt Waletzko said.
In a perfect world, the Cowboys wouldn't need to rely on their rookie class, but the world isn't perfect. Dallas had to count on their rookies early in 2021, but they were pleasantly surprised with the development of linebacker Micah Parsons, who earned a first-team All-Pro nod amid his spectacular rookie campaign.
"I think the urgency of it is really the focus," McCarthy said. "I think if you can draw up the season and say, ‘Boy, I hope we don’t have to play with these rookies until mid-October.’ But you look at last year, how many rookies played there in the first five weeks. It’s about the highest I’ve ever been a part of it on the defensive side of the ball. So, that’s why we approach it the way we do."
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