The Dallas Cowboys open training camp Monday in Oxnard, California. Summer vacation and the dog days of the offseason are over, meaning we'll have plenty to talk about regarding Cowboys football between now and next February.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. Before camp officially started, the Cowboys did some housekeeping. First and foremost, they signed Trevon Diggs to a five-year contract extension worth up to $100 million.
In addition, they placed multiple players on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), including Jourdan Lewis. Players on PUP count against the 90-man offseason roster, but they can be cleared to practice at any point before the regular season.
Lewis starting camp on the PUP has been the expectation all along.
As of mid-June, the former third-round pick had just recently started running and was only cleared for straight-line sprints. He's likely added lateral movements to his rehab since then, but it might be a few weeks -- if not longer -- until Lewis is cleared to practice.
In the meantime, Lewis' absence creates opportunities for DaRon Bland and Kelvin Joseph to dominate reps in the nickel.
Cowboys place Jourdan Lewis on PUP before training camp
With Lewis shelved, Bland now has a golden opportunity to piggyback off a superb rookie year. Already regarded as the third-best corner on the roster, Bland presumably will start with the first-team defense at camp alongside Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore.
Depending on how long Lewis is sidelined, Bland could cement himself as Dallas' starting nickel cornerback. While Bland tallied an interception in Week 4 last season -- the first of his career -- it wasn't until Week 8 that his playing time ramped up.
Despite starting just eight games, Bland finished with five interceptions -- second-most among all defensive backs -- seven passes defended and allowed a 76.4 passer rating when targeted, per Pro Football Focus.
Kelvin Joseph is the other winner from Lewis' injury. The 2021 third-round pick enters a make-or-break season with the Cowboys, who are clearly still invested in his development given where he was deployed at OTAs and minicamp.
A boundary corner for the first two years of his career, Joseph rotated with the safeties and saw significant snaps at the nickel. Per team reporters, Joseph looked comfortable in the new position and made multiple plays on the ball.
That should be taken with a grain of salt for now, though. It's unclear if the position switch is permanent, or whether Joseph will look as comfy once the pads come on.
If he does get more run in the slot, though, the third-year defensive back is arguably the biggest winner from Lewis missing the start of camp.