The Dallas Cowboys broke camp after 31 days in Oxnard, Calif. They were the last NFL team to return home.
The Cowboys believe they accomplished what they needed to accomplish in training camp. But here are five questions that remain:
1 Swing tackle. The Cowboys still aren’t sure that it’s Darrion Weems. Weems, 26, has never played in a regular-season game. He missed all of last season after injuring his shoulder in training camp, spending the year on injured reserve. The Cowboys signed him to a one-year, $585,000 deal to replace Jermey Parnell, who left for Jacksonville in free agency. But Weems is a natural right tackle and has struggled at left tackle.
2 Returner/fifth receiver. Rookie free agent Lucky Whitehead has the inside track to replace Dwayne Harris as the returner and fifth receiver ... if he can hold onto the ball. Whitehead fumbled a punt against the Chargers and has had several more fumbles in practice. Veteran A.J. Jenkins closed out camp strong, but the former first-round choice of the 49ers is not a returner.
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3 Third quarterback. It’s not a question of whether it’s Dustin Vaughan. The question is: Do they keep him on the 53-man roster? The Cowboys are expected to use four roster spots on tight ends and another on a fullback. They have to go short somewhere, and it could be at quarterback, keeping only two, after Vaughan’s struggles against the 49ers. Fourth quarterback Jameill Showers has turned himself into a candidate for the practice squad.
4 Fourth running back. Do they go out and sign a veteran to add to the Randle-McFadden-Dunbar mix? The Cowboys will have a running back by committee and might add to the mix, especially if they have concerns about Darren McFadden’s injury history. They could wait until Week 2 of the regular season to make the move so they don’t have to guarantee the contract.
5 Middle linebacker. It’s Rolando McClain’s job when he returns, but he has missed all of training camp while rehabbing after off-season knee surgery, and he’s suspended for the first four games. The Cowboys have tried a lot of combinations, with Andrew Gachkar the latest to work with the first team in the middle.
Gregory’s big catch
Randy Gregory walked off the field with the football. It wasn’t a sack that made the pass-rusher a star Thursday, but a punt return.
Coach Jason Garrett moved Thursday’s practice from 5 p.m. to 9:15 a.m. At the end, he told the offensive and defensive linemen to elect three players each to catch a punt.
If one of the six can catch a punt, Garrett said, the team was headed home a day early.
Gregory, a rookie defensive lineman, completed the task as the first one up.
“I’m going to keep it for a little bit,” Gregory said of the practice ball. “They didn’t have faith in the rookies, especially the D-linemen. I had to step up, catch one for the team, send us back home. … The pressure was all on me. I guess I performed well.”
The Cowboys broke into celebration after Gregory secured the ball. The team charter was scheduled to land late Friday afternoon after a morning walk-through in Oxnard. Instead, they arrived home 24 hours early.
Former TCU receiver David Porter continues to rehab a groin injury that probably will keep him out of Saturday’s preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. Porter has not practiced all week.
The rookie has made an impression since signing Aug. 16. He caught three passes for 30 yards against the 49ers in his first preseason game, though he has sat out since.
“I feel like I’ve done pretty good, but I’ve got to get back healthy and keep showing them what I can do,” he said.
He said it
“Hell, yeah. I’m ready to go home. I ain’t going to lie to you. I’m ready to get the hell out of here and start this regular season. But we’ve got to play Minnesota first and then we got Houston at the end and then we can start the regular season. But I’m ready to go home.” — Cowboys safety Barry Church
63,535 Total fan attendance for training camp in Oxnard. It was the team’s highest training camp attendance since 2010 when the Cowboys practiced in front of 73,329 fans in a camp split between Oxnard and San Antonio.
▪ LB Rolando McClain (right knee): PUP
▪ OT Chaz Green (hip): PUP
▪ CB Orlando Scandrick (right knee): Out for the season
▪ G Zack Martin (stinger): Day-to-day
▪ RB Michael Hill (concussion): Must clear concussion protocol
▪ S Jeff Heath (concussion): Must clear concussion protocol
▪ WR Devin Street (ankle): Day-to-day
▪ QB Brandon Weeden (concussion): Must clear concussion protcol
▪ LB Mark Nzeocha (knee): Non-football injury
▪ DE Kenneth Boatright (neck): Returned to Dallas for further evaluation; out indefinitely
▪ TE James Hanna (left knee): Day-to-day
▪ LB Anthony Hitchens (foot): Day-to-day
▪ WR David Porter (groin): After Vikings game