By David Hellman
FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer
OXNARD, Calif. — It took a few hours for the unthinkable to become a reality.
And to be brutally honest, it seems like the Dallas Cowboys themselves are the only people who think this is an unthinkable idea.
Monday marked the team’s first day in pads this training camp. Before the afternoon was over, they had veteran receiver James Washington sidelined with a leg injury.
The forecast is back and it’s not great. Washington returns to Dallas for surgery on a fractured right leg. The timetable for his return is set between 6-10 weeks.
The news is a blow to a unit that already looked ominously thin heading into camp. Michael Gallup is still recovering from a torn ACL, and he confirmed to reporters last week that it’s not reasonable to expect him to be ready for the start of the regular season. When the Cowboys arrived in California, common logic assumed their starting trio would be CeeDee Lamb and Washington along with rookie Jalen Tolbert.
Lamb and Tolbert are still available. But if you’re keeping score at home, Washington’s loss means the Cowboys’ only legitimately experienced receivers are Lamb and sixth-year veteran Noah Brown.
For added context: Brown was a useful special teamer throughout his time in Dallas, but he only caught 16 passes last season. He has never scored an NFL touchdown. The most experienced option behind him, 2021 fifth-round draft pick Simi Fehoko, has played just seven NFL snaps. No other receiver on the roster has appeared in a regular season game.
Maybe it’s not time to panic since the regular season is more than a month away. But it sure feels like it’s time for action.
The Cowboys have been asked this before. Chief operating officer Stephen Jones said last week he believed they were in a good position to give their young players a chance to shine, although he admitted circumstances were changing.
“I really think we’re in a good place,” he said at the time. “No. 1 to see what these young players can do. But No. 2, if we need to make improvements to this roster, and we need to, then we’ll look at it.”
The follow-up questions are sure to come. Unfortunately for Dallas, the free agent market is a bit thin, especially with Julio Jones already signed to Tampa Bay.
There are names available. Four-time Pro Bowler TY Hilton is still unsigned, as is longtime deep threat Will Fuller. The duo of former SMU wide receivers — 35-year-old Emmanuel Sanders and prodigal son Cole Beasley — are sitting there. For that matter, Odell Beckham Jr. is still available as he recovers from his own ACL injury.
However, most of these guys come with caveats. Beckham Jr. won’t be more accessible than Gallup or Washington any time soon. Hilton and Fuller come with their own durability issues.
It’s worth mentioning that they could try to make a deal. But with the season still so far away, and with Gallup and Washington both expected to return at some point, it would be surprising to see them react so strongly, so quickly.
Still, it’s a riddle that doesn’t have a great answer. It’s a puzzle in itself why the Cowboys let it get this far in the first place knowing that Gallup will likely miss some time.
That’s irrelevant now. But it will be very interesting to see what comes next.
David Hellman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports, providing daily information and analysis on the NFL’s most visible franchise. Prior to joining FOX, David spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website, DallasCowboys.com. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion,” about the Mississippi State quarterback’s time.
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