These kids could be alright

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Now this is something.

Wednesday, at the Chargers training camp practice site after the Cowboys’ joint workout with the Bolts, looking this NFL player in the face, which I don’t think has ever happened in my career covering the NFL asked, how can a man my size expect to play in the NFL.

Ka’Vontae Turpin, the rookie with this big smile, just 5-7, 158 pounds, says, “Speed ​​kills.”

Because he did it in a rare Cowboys preseason win — head coach Mike McCarthy’s first with the Cowboys, by the way, suggesting while making everyone laugh that he should have gotten a game ball — a 32-18 win over the Chargers, the Cowboys back up much better than the Chargers back up.

Turpin’s first touch, 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Second touch, seven-yard jet sweep.

Third touch, 86-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Talk about the real “Turpin Time”.

In the second half, the Cowboys covered him up and took off his protections. His night ended, rare for an undrafted rookie who played all over the world and in this country after his short career at TCU for this NFL opportunity.

Let’s put it this way, if the Cowboys must reduce their 85-man roster to an eventual maximum of 53, it will now be reduced to 52. Because a spot is assured for sure, Turpin punching his NFL ticket. The rookie from Monroe, Louisiana, voted the USFL’s Most Valuable Player last season, isn’t going anywhere.

“There’s a good chance he’s going to return kicks,” McCarthy said, stating the obvious for the 9/11 opener against Tampa Bay.

“I have the heart of a lion,” Turpin said at halftime, which means the Cowboys must be mustering a pride from them since Micah Parsons considers himself a lion-like competitor.

“I’m an exciting player, and every time I get the ball, there’s a big play waiting. I’m happy to be here and take advantage of this opportunity.”

Do any of you remember Reggie Swinton, the receiver/returner the Cowboys signed in the summer of 2001, calling him up when he was sitting in a car salesman class, thinking he needed to do something else after several false starts trying to hold on to an NFL? equipment. In fact, telling his story recently in a podcast interview, he said he got a call from a guy from the Cowboys saying it was Todd Williams and he wanted to bring him in for a workout.

Swinton thought it was a joke and hung up. Williams, now vice president of operations, called back, basically saying no, and the Cowboys found themselves with a comeback man.

Not unlike bringing Turpin in that first week of training camp.

“I’m trying to show everybody that I’m a catcher, too,” Turpin said. “I can do special teams in my sleep,” though this is the first time in his football career that he has returned a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the same game. “That’s crazy”.

He claims that this ability to return kicks is “just in my genes”.

You know, it wasn’t just Turpin who put out the lights on the Chargers on Saturday night, because after the way the young, inexperienced, up-and-coming players performed in this second preseason game, with one more due Friday against Seattle at AT&T Stadium, just maybe these kids could be alright.

There were also others who opened their eyes.

Quarterback Will Grier, sidelined last week with a groin strain, opened the race for the backup quarterback job by completing 6 of 10 passes for 98 yards, his most 27 plays since playing in a game. in preseason with Carolina last year, 17 straight snaps. on August 27 before being released and claimed on September 1 by the Cowboys.

“It’s still a limited sample size,” Grier said, noting that he walked up to Turpin and said, “Man, that’s impressive, but give me some snapshots.”

Then there was Jabril Cox, considered a steal in the fourth round of last year’s draft but tore his ACL midway through the season. In his longest chance to play since, Cox displayed the speed teams covet at linebacker, as well as instincts, finishing with three tackles in 24 plays.

How about safety Israel Mukuamu, and not just the interception he pulled up on the Chargers’ first possession of the game while brazenly trying to dig deep on the fifth play? The second-year converted safety also had four tackles and two pass breakups. Rookie Da’Ron Bland handled the slot admirably, and is currently a candidate to replace injured cornerback Jourdan Lewis (hamstring) if he doesn’t return in time for the opener.

Rookie safety Markquese Bell chipped in five tackles, instinctively playing the run hard, while continuing to argue for a spot in 53rd.

Other playmakers include rookie wide receiver Jalen Tolbert, rookie tight end Jake Ferguson and rookie linebacker Devin Harper. Defensive tackle Trysten Hill achieved a triple crown — sack, forced fumble and recovery — as he continues to push for a spot at 53 in a closely contested battle between a packed interior field.

And last year’s other fourth-round draft pick, Josh Ball, who didn’t play a snap in 2021, continues to improve with an increase in snaps, trying to convince this coaching staff that he’s capable of handling the responsibility of swing tackle.

Oh, and let’s not forget first-round pick Tyler Smith, starting once again at left guard, the Cowboys inching closer to deciding the rookie could be earning the starting job over veteran Connor McGovern.

Even the kickers got off to a good start, Lirim Hajrullahu and Brett Maher, Hajrullahu hitting a 35-year-old field goal and an extra point with veteran Maher making his extra point and coming up short on his 61-year-old field goal attempt after score from that distance in pre-match warm-ups. And the two alternated on six kickoffs, combining for four touchbacks, one returned out of the end zone and one from the 2. Cheer up.

All that makes the end of training camp a pleasant one, the Cowboys return to Texas after being away 27 days, arriving at 5 am on Sunday. There is still work to be done. But at least there seem to be signs of improvement.

And do you know what is starting to happen? A tall order narrowing down the roster to 53, especially at defensive line and somewhat at linebacker with the addition of Anthony Barr, who could be ready for some snaps Friday in the final preseason game.

“We’re not looking forward to it,” McCarthy said of the player release. “We know it’s going to be very difficult and it’s going to be extremely competitive. That’s what you want on your football team and that’s what we felt when we put together the 90-man roster … we’re just trying to give the young guys as many reps.” as possible. That’s what the draft and development look like.

“But for a man, we are all ready to go home.”

Especially Turpin. He has a gift to deliver.

“I told my mom that the first touchdown I scored, I’d give her the ball,” Turpin said. “I guess she now she has two balls.”

The least you can do is thank him for those “genes.”

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