The NFL preseason is now in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys are currently sitting at 1-1. The record may not matter too much, but for what it’s worth, the ‘Boys just won their first road preseason game since 2012.
What really matters in the preseason is how the players fighting for roster spots look. You want to see what you have behind your stars and who will be seeing considerable time on the field in the upcoming season. So far, it’s been a mixed bag of results for the Cowboys.
Some players who are expected to take on big roles early on haven’t performed as expected. Rookie wide receiver Jalen Tolbert has struggled to adapt to the NFL so far. However, below-average backup quarterback play could have something to do with that. Second-year cornerback Nahshon Wright also has been struggling in preseason play, despite having a great training camp up to this point.
Rather than focusing on the not-so-great, let’s focus on players who are having great preseasons. Not just players that were expected to make an impact, but under-the-radar players who are fighting for a roster spot and making the Joneses think twice about their roster structure.
3 unexpected Cowboys who have shined during the 2022 NFL preseason so far
1. James Empey, OL
A player that was never talked about much in camp is former BYU center James Empey. Empey was signed as a UDFA in May. The former BYU Cougar was regarded as one of the best centers in college football, but went undrafted, most likely due to his age. He is 25 years old going into Week 3 of the preseason.
Empey was primarily overshadowed by the talk around other offensive linemen in camp. Having a first-round pick in Tyler Smith will take a lot of attention. Even fellow UDFA Alec Lindstrom became a fan favorite throughout camp, as many expected him to be taken on day three of the draft.
Over the first two preseason games, Empey has yet to allow a single pressure. While centers don’t normally allow as many sacks as other offensive linemen, the UDFA has also played just under half of his snaps at right guard.
The BYU product has played extremely well in both the run and pass game. He is currently graded as the best Cowboy offensive lineman by PFF with an 80.9 offensive grade. He grades out well in both run blocking (78.5) and pass blocking (80.5), too. Empey is the top run blocker on the team with at least 20 snaps according to these grades. He could be edging out Lindstrom as the likely UDFA lineman to make the team.