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3 breakout candidates for the Dallas Cowboys in the 2024 season

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By: LP Cruz

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Which Cowboys do you think will have breakout seasons in 2024?

It’s never too early to think about the future. The Dallas Cowboys know that better than anyone as they prepare for the NFL scouting combine this week. While the attention will center on the cream of the crop of this year’s draft class, it’s the forgotten and overlooked that the Cowboys have a knack for discovering at this offseason stage. How often have the Cowboys turned heads by selecting a draft prospect many had a much lower opinion on before proving everyone wrong? Travis Frederick, Tyler Smith, anyone?

The Cowboys are skilled at finding the right players who step in at the right time and provide tremendous upside when no one sees it coming. The Cowboys have a few players who may surprise many and make vital contributions for the upcoming seasons. Here are the breakout candidates for 2024.

Jalen Tolbert, wide receiver

For Jalen Tolbert, his NFL career got off to a rocky start. At first, there was hope that Tolbert could become an immediate role player within the Cowboys’ offense, but his rookie season was less than stellar. Tolbert’s initial season in the NFL was better remembered for costly penalties than big-time plays. Tolbert made some progress in his second season with a modest 268 yards on 22 receptions and two scores. As you’ll see with the other players on this list, Tolbert can break out in 2024 because of the opportunity he should find himself in. Last year, Michael Gallup had 34 receptions for 418 yards. That’s not much better than Tolbert, but Gallup is slated to have a $13.8M cap charge this season versus $1.1M for Tolbert.

At this stage in their careers, the delta between both players in terms of production is close to negligible. Gallup is as glaring of a salary cap casualty as there is, and that should leave Tolbert with a lot more on his plate. Tolbert has already cut into Gallup’s playing time, playing roughly forty percent of the team’s snaps on offense in contrast to fifty-one percent for Gallup. Sure, the Cowboys could be in the market for a wide receiver in the draft’s first three rounds, like Xavier Legette or Johnny Wilson. However, if they are content with Tolbert’s progress to go with the ensemble of CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks, Tolbert is primed for a big year with Prescott in year two of a revised passing attack.

Brock Hoffman, IOL

Brock Hoffman has had to work hard to make an impression on the Cowboys’ coaching staff. Hoffman was signed to the Cowboys practice squad in 2022 and played his way onto the active roster last September. Hoffman is a big, stout player at 6’4”, 322 lbs. and plays with a mean streak to finish blocks. His performance in the season finale at Washington was an eye-opener to what he could do for the Cowboys’ struggling running game in the future. Hoffman has the versatility to play center. Current starting center Tyler Biadasz is a free agent and could be headed out the door to greener pastures once the market opens. The way things play out is the Cowboys land a bridge player at center with the intent of Hoffman competing with them for the starting job or spending a pick on a center with a late-round draft pick, much as the team did with Biadasz.

The Cowboys have Hoffman playing for $985,000 this season, and, if they like what they see, they hold his exclusive free-agent rights for 2025. If Hoffman can provide starting-caliber play, he would be of tremendous financial value to the Cowboys and offer them heaps of economic freedom in the short term. A Hoffman breakout could shake things up along the interior of the offensive line.

Juanyeh Thomas, safety

Like Hoffman, Juanyeh Thomas is another player who has played himself into a spot on the active roster after coming into the league as an undrafted player. For those who followed the team closely during training camp last season, Thomas was a player who flashed through the summer, making timely plays and being in the right place at the right time. When playing in zone coverage, Thomas showed a good understanding of route combinations and read the quarterback’s eyes throughout training camp. During the season, he contributed mainly as a special teamer, blocking a kick in the season opener against the New York Giants that was returned for a touchdown.

Regarding his prospects for the defense, Thomas is a player brimming with potential. He’s got excellent size (6’3”, 217 lbs.) and has the physical makeup to be impactful near the line of scrimmage. Should the Cowboys not re-sign safety Jayron Kearse, that creates an opportunity for Thomas to carve out a more regular role within new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s defense. With another strong offseason, Thomas could be on his way.

Originally posted on Blogging The Boys