The Dallas Cowboys' 2011 season limped to a close Sunday night.
The first moves for the 2012 season happened Monday, and we can already begin to get some vague glimpses of what the squad may look like.
First off, there was some positive news on a couple of players that the team clearly needs to have a successful season. DeMarco Murray spoke with reporters at Valley Ranch, wearing a walking boot and using crutches.
Murray wouldn't discuss the specifics of his rehab only to say things are going well. He's not expect to run for six weeks but should be on time for the start of the offseason program that begins in the spring.
I don't think there is any question that DeMarco's loss was a blow to the Cowboys. If nothing else, having him back will mean one less problem for the team to try to solve as it seeks to improve next year.
More things to hash and rehash ad infinitum between now and the start of training camp after the jump.
DeMarco is a big cog in the Dallas offense. Sean Lee is perhaps the biggest one in the defense, with that little green dot he wears on his helmet signifying his role as the on field play caller. So it is also good news to hear that he is not going to need surgery on his injured wrist.
Lee doesn't need surgery. His wrist has healed up well despite playing through the injury and protecting it with a cast.
"I'm ready to go," Lee said Monday.
While both those bits of news are reassuring, they were pretty much expected based on what we knew beforehand, or at least what we hoped for. But Murray and Lee were both parts of the team, just limited in their contributions by injury. The Cowboys know already what they do for the team.
There are still some significant issues that need to be addressed. The first small step was made when Dallas signed four practice squad players for next year.
The Cowboys signed four practice squad players to futures contracts for 2012 on Monday, including defensive tackle Robert Calloway, linebacker Orie Lemon, wide receiver Teddy Williams and cornerback C.J. Wilson.
Basically, the futures contract means that the team has locked these players up for the off season. They will sign a contract with the team at that time, as far as I can tell.
So what? Well, it means that Dallas feels that these four players are likely to be able to contribute to the team. These are players that the team has been able to evaluate and that they want to keep around. Orie Lemon is the one that caught my eye. He had good reviews coming out of training camp, and could become a backup to Sean and Bruce Carter at ILB. With both Bradie James and Keith Brooking having played out their contracts, a competent backup in the middle of the defense would be very valuable.
Robert Calloway is a name that meant less to me, since he was signed to the practice squad late after being one of the last cuts by the Detroit Lions. Back when he was signed to fill the final PS slot before the start of the regular season, KD did a post with his background and measurables. He looks to be someone who will at least push the current DTs and who may be able to wrest a position away.
Teddy Williams is a speed merchant (and occasional assistant coach assailant). A pet cat to some, he had some hamstring issues during preseason, but someone thought enough of him to put him on the PS. Given the fact that wide receiver was one of the strongest positions on the team this year, that does say something.
C.J. Wilson (not to be confused with either the former Texas Rangers pitcher or the defensive end drafted by Green Bay in 2010) played in 23 games with the Carolina Panthers over four seasons before spending the last year with the Cowboys PS. Again, I am hoping that the coaches like something about him, although given the dismal state of the secondary, I wonder how much they liked him if they didn't give him a chance already.
These are tiny, tiny steps, to be sure, but they are a start. The three defensive players, in particular, may serve as a kind of measuring stick to see just how much difference an off season will have in the development of the players. Based on admittedly sketchy data, I would not be surprised to see Lemon and perhaps Callaway make it out of training camp. Given how much the defense needs, it is not out of the question.
Besides, it's a long way to the draft.