Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: OTA Observations, Life Without Lee, More

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Latest Cowboys headlines: First players making an impression at OTAs; Cowboys looking for Lee's replacement from within; J.J. Wilcox ready to step into leadership role.

First Impressions And OTA Leftovers - Bryan Broaddus, DallasCowboys.com
Broaddus provides some topline observations from the first OTAs of the year:

  • Broaddus was impressed by Terrell McClain's quickness off the snap and argues that McCLain was "totally out of place playing as the nose in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme."
  • The nickel rushmen could be Selvie, Crawford, Melton and Lawrence, with Crawford sliding inside to the one-technique.
  • The move to a zone-run scheme has helped Jason Witten and the other tight ends become better point-of-attack blockers.
  • Broaddus was impressed with Ryan Williams as a runner, but has concerns about Ryan Williams as a blocker.

Cowboys OTA observations: Strong start for Brandon Weeden - ESPN Dallas
The Sean Lee injury news dominated the first day of the Dallas Cowboys' organized team activities, but Archer summarizes some other observations from the first OTA workout.

  • Brandon Weeden "showed well" taking first team reps.
  • Martin looks to be the starter at right guard, with Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary splitting snaps at left guard.
  • With Selvie and Melton sitting out, the first-team defensive line from left to right: Crawford, McClain, Hayden, Lawrence.
  • Cole Beasley and Tim Benford only ran routes from the slot.

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Huge Loss, But Playing Without Lee Is Nothing New - Nick Eatman, DallasCowboys.com
Eatman makes a case for DeVonte Holloman

To me, I think I’d hand it over to DeVonte Holloman and tell the kid to become a middle linebacker. We saw it the last two games of last year and he was very impressive considering his limited time at the position.

I would hand it over to Holloman and let him grow up and learn on the run. If there is a silver lining to this Lee injury, it’s that we’re still early enough in the game to groom someone else.

I know you guys want to throw out the Jonathan Vilma and Brian Urlacher talk, and who knows, the Cowboys might be looking for that, too. But I’d start within and I’d start with Holloman with Hitchens getting increased reps as well.

How do Cowboys replace Sean Lee? Promote from within or go shopping? | David Moore, DMN
Moore writes that the Cowboys' preferred approach to find a replacement for Lee is to fill Lee's role from within, for which they'll use organized team activities and the minicamp over the next three weeks to see what they've got in DeVonte Holloman, Anthony Hitchens, and Justin Durant. If that doesn't work out, they'll have to look outside. And while they'll eventually find a body to replace Lee, Moore argues that they "will not find someone with his feel for the game and approach."

One day after injury, Sean Lee already back helping groom his replacements - Clarence Hill, Star-Telegram
After suffering a possible season-ending knee injury on Tuesday, Lee was back at Valley Ranch on Wednesday. Said coach Jason Garrett:

"That’s what he is all about. When he has been hurt in the past during the season when he has been on injured reserve we have meetings that start at 7:30 in the morning and he is there. He is there helping guys out. That is the approach he has always taken. Sean is a very special guy. He is a heck of a football player and there are a lot of reasons for that. A lot has to do with his athletic ability but also the approach that he takes to the game."

Forecasts for last year's 8-8 teams: Cowboys sliding - NFL.com
Gil Brandt looks at the six teams that finished last season at 8-8, and predicts that the Cowboys will only manage seven wins in 2014.

I was all set to pencil them in to finally win nine -- and then linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL during Tuesday's OTA session. Lee simply is Dallas' defense. He's such a force as both a leader and a playmaker, someone who seems to make everyone around him better. If he's out for the season, as is expected, it will be a severe blow to this team, likely costing it a win or two.

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Morris Claiborne feels 'better than ever' | Jon Machota, FOX Sports
Claiborne raised some eyebrows because he didn't participate in the 11-on-11 drills in OTAs. Claiborne is still recovering from surgery on his left shoulder and his left pinkie finger, and the team is simply being cautious, Claiborne explains:

"I'm feeling better than ever," Claiborne said. "They're sitting me out, just as a precaution. I can't control it, so I'm just doing what they ask me to do, until I'm free, [until] they let me loose."

Claiborne said he added muscle during off-season workouts but also "trimmed down a little bit."

"Last year, I tried to gain weight and that didn't work out," Claiborne said. "I gained and didn't play, so I'm just trying to stay slim and stay where I can move and stay fast."

J.J. Wilcox ready to step into leadership role - Charean Williams, Star-Telegram
Second-year safety J.J. Wilcox said the coaches want him to take a leadership role in the secondary.

"I understand that I only got one year under my belt, but I still have to communicate and be a leader back there in the backfield," Wilcox said. "My cornerbacks and my other safety and my linebackers help me with it and understand that I’m going to be a leader. That’s a role I’m going to have to step in and be."

"You have to start somewhere with a rotation," he said after working alongside Barry Church with the first-team defense. "My name was up first. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to start. But it’s how I’m going to attack it. It’s how I’m going to prepare for it."

Barry Church wins Home Run Derby - Charean Williams, Star-Telegram
Church beat out Jason Witten in the championship round of the charity home run derby, and he's not going to let anybody forget about it:

"For the whole year long, I'm the Home Run Derby champion, and to beat Witten in the championship round made it that much sweeter."

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