I got some good feedback on my last summary of the discussion on Talking Cowboys, so since the OTAs are done, I thought it might be a good idea to listen in again and see what they had to say.
In case you aren't aware, Talking Cowboys is a weekly feature at DallasCowboys.com. This week the panel was again composed of Rob Phillips, Mickey Spagnola and Bryan Broaddus. During the OTAs, they got to see nine hours of practice during the three days open to the media, and they summed up some of their impressions. I have pulled some topics here I hope are of interest. I am not trying to provide a transcript of what they said. Rather, I am trying to give an overview of their conclusions. I have not tried to cover all of what they said, just the things that struck me as most pertinent. As always, any errors are all on me. If you have time, this is an interesting listen, but since it goes for over an hour, some of you may find this condensed version convenient.
They talked a bit early on about the Cowboys U activities on the last day of OTAs, when the team brought in 160 high school kids for their own camp. It is a nice feel good story, but there was one point that came up that caught my attention. I believe it was Broaddus who pointed out that Jason Witten was a very young player when he was drafted, just like Tyron Smith. Now, it may be a bit of a stretch to start comparing the talented but inexperienced tackle to a future Hall of Fame honoree, but you do have to admit, Tyron is off to a very good start. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.
More good stuff after the jump.
Each of the writers gave a quick overall impression of what they saw.
Bryan Broaddus said that he was pleased to see how the offensive line started to jell in the last session he watched. He thought that in the earlier practices, the line was having some difficulties adjusting to what Rob Ryan was throwing at them. This was likely due to how everyone was adjusting to different people around them and new positions. By the last practice, he felt that things were much better, particularly in blitz pickup. Smith and Nate Livings seemed to be getting a feel for working alongside one another, and he thought Phil Costa looked better as well.
Rob Phillips was focused on the cornerback and wide receiver play. He felt that this was one part of the game where you could make some decent evaluations, given the lack of contact. Brandon Carr in particular stood out for him. He had not realized how stout and physical a player Carr was until he saw him on the field, and he thinks he is a key part for Ryan's defense.
The wide receiver situation was probably the most discussed topic throughout the entire show. Cole Beasley was the standout, although not the only bright spot. They played a quote from Jason Garrett, where he talked about Beasley and how "every day, he catches five balls, every day he beats someone." He said this was the way he might just force his way onto the team.
There was a bit of a diversion into the issues that have come up with the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints getting a little too physical to satisfy the restrictions the CBA puts on the OTAs, particularly the Seahawks who lost training days. Broaddus mentioned that he had worked with the Seattle GM, and had called him. He was told that the practices were deliberately intense, and things got a bit out of hand. It led to some fighting, which was what apparently got the league's attention.
Mickey Spagnola used this to bring up how the Cowboys offseason has been a case of all hands on deck, with the one exception of Mike Jenkins (who all expect to be there for the mandatory minicamp on Tuesday). This is not the story everywhere in the league, and the Baltimore Ravens were talking about the voluntary nature of the OTA sessions to explain why nineteen players were missing. But the Cowboys are putting in extra time at the Valley Ranch facility.
The panel observed that this may be because of the large number of players competing for slots on the final 53. With the rookies, the new free agents, and the practice squad and IR players, there are a lot of people trying to make it. The new blood also brings some new attitudes, and Carr was mentioned for his level of play. Lawrence Vickers was specifically talked about for the fire and intensity he brings to the field.
They drew a nice contrast with the 2008 and 2010 seasons, when the team had high expectations, but a largely settled roster. There was not much competition. This year, as Phillips put it, "When guys feel uneasy, it's human nature to pick it up a bit." They accurately added the caveat that this does not mean the increased effort will translate into wins - but it is something to hope for.
Unfortunately, Chad Ochocinco's name came up. Broaddus said that the coaches and management all said flatly that the answer was no to signing him. He said that in his opinion the best plan was to look at what the team has in the young receivers. Cole Beasley has shone so far, and Tim Benford, Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes and Raymond Radway have all had their moments. The general feeling is that Kevin Ogletree is on a bit of a bubble. He is going to have to show that he brings more to the table than any of the other receivers. IF the team feels it still needs a veteran brought in, then that move is going to come late, much as Laurent Robinson was signed last season. And with Danny Coale still waiting on the sidelines, the team could go heavy at receiver and keep six this year, which does have precedent.
One thing that Coale does have is the ability to play both the outside and the slot, as opposed to Beasley, who is strictly a slot player. Holmes brings outside skills to the table. Again, the team may have more good young receivers than it can find slots for - not the worst problem to have.
Phillips brought up a topic I like related to this. He said that the team has gotten much more patient about signing older, established stars than it once was. He attributes this to the influence of Stephen Jones, and at another point the panel mentioned that Stephen will tell Jerry no when he gets carried away looking at picking up a shiny but not so new toy.
They also mentioned the way Jerry has, in a way, called Dez Bryant out. They did debate a bit just what Jerry meant, but agreed that this is not such a bad thing, especially since Dez seems to be taking it well. And Spagnola did defend Bryant, pointing out that he came into the league after playing two years and three games in college, and then missed the offseason last year due to the lockout. They also feel that the environment Jason Garrett has established is much better for Dez's growth as a player than the prior regime. And on the topic of the offseason, they noted that Dwayne Harris looks not only more confident, but quicker this year, another possible benefit of the full schedule of workouts and practices.
They also had praise for DeMarco Murray, Bruce Carter and Kyle Orton. They are curious how Murray will have to adjust to Vickers' style. He is more physical than Tony Fiammetta was, but Tony had more ability to react and adjust, they feel. Carter is showing he is a superior athlete on the field, but Sean Lee has a noticeable advantage in his speed in reading and reacting, something Bruce is still learning. And Orton made an observation that he had not realized how smart one Tony Romo was, and how much he could learn from him.
The show ended with an inconclusive discussion about who should return punts, with Spagnola voting for Dez, and Broaddus telling him he might regret that.
Overall, the sense I got is that the trio feels pretty good about where the Cowboys are right now, but temper their enthusiasm because all they really have seen is practice in shorts. The minicamp is going to be more of the same - but it is the only show in town until training camp convenes in Oxnard.