The Bright Side Of Cowboys OTAs

See, this guy's smiling. - Rick Yeatts

Enough with the nattering nabobs of negativity. Let's talk about some positives coming out of Valley Ranch during the OTAs.

I have been energetically railing at all the negative reports and presumptions of coming failure concerning the Dallas Cowboys. The offseason is supposed to be a time for optimism, where every camp body signee looks like the second coming of Red Grange or Lawrence Taylor, when non-contact drills are interpreted as showing unparalleled improvement for the veterans, when, frankly, we gladly submit to having sunshine shined where the sun just don't shine.

Here are some positive things that are going on with the Cowboys this year. Hopefully these will help lift your spirits and provide a bit of a positive outlook.

The Cowboys, under Jason Garrett, sometimes are seen as a somewhat straitlaced organization, but at Tuesday's OTA session, several writers noted that the sound system at the field was blasting out music for the entire practice. It is almost trendy, following reports of some other programs at both the college and pro level doing similar things. The playlist seemed to be a mix of recent and classic rap, classic rock, and a bit of heavy metal. I don't really know what it says about the team or anything, but it was interesting.

However, the crack about some old guy like Tony Romo picking that Bon Jovi track was a bit insulting to Romo. Or us old guys. I'm not sure.

While so much of the football world is casting aspersions on the Dallas defense, the offense is really seeing a lot of positive developments. When he was drafted, Devin Street was praised for his route running ability and knowledge. So far, he is living up to his billing.

Street is impressing as a rookie, but a veteran receiver has also been getting some good reviews with something of an unexpected role. Cole Beasley has started getting some work on the outside. Turns out Beas is starting to draw some attention.

(Wide receiver coach Derek) Dooley said an interesting thing happened to Beasley last year - teams started putting two defenders on him.

"Especially on third down, he was really effective," Dooley said. "The teams that just played him with one guy really sturggled to win. So they had to, later in the season, be aware of where No. 11 was. Two things come from that: it opens up the other players to make plays. The second thing is, now Cole has to continue to build his route inventory to get a little more downfield."

That means chances for players like Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Gavin Escobar and Street to line up in the slot. Which is a tasty prospect.

There are also some good reviews for Escobar so far during the OTAs. It looks like the team may be figuring out how to get the use out of his size and receiving skills that it seemed to be unsure about last season.

A couple of years ago, the biggest area of concern about the Cowboys was probably the interior of the offensive line. Now, with back to back first-round picks invested there, it may be the most solid part of the entire team. Things may change as real football gets closer, but for now, rookie Zack Martin is getting every opportunity to claim the starting right guard job. That leaves the starting guards from last season, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary, fighting it out to see who starts on the left side.

It is really a situation where the team doesn't lose. It has an opportunity to put the two best guards on the field and keep the third as a quality backup. For some time, Dallas has had issues with lack of depth, and at last the team is seeing a place or two where the talent level doesn't just plunge off a cliff if the starter is unable to go. Bernadeau is the primary backup for Travis Frederick at center, so the obvious move would seem to be to place him in reserve, but the team is wisely looking to figure out who really plays the best out there. There are ways to shuffle things if Bernie is outplaying Leary.

Darrion Weems is also mounting a challenge to Jermey Parnell as the swing tackle. And the most versatile player on the line may be the latest first round pick. Jason Garrett said he has an ability to line up at any of the five O line positions. And the team gave him a chance to try out one position he has not played, center, with some eye-opening results for the rookie.

"It's hard," he said, and laughed. "The first time I was in there, I came to the side, I was like, ‘God, you got a lot going on out there. You got to know a lot.' "

Fullback was literally an afterthought last year, but after all the hype on the 12 personnel package before the season, Dallas wound up signing Tyler Clutts to have a full-time FB on the roster. Now he is in a competition with J.C. Copeland as well as the rest of the offensive positions. Running backs coach Gary Brown thinks the Cowboys need go into the season with a fullback on the roster.

"I think you do," Brown said. "If you look at the teams who are winning it - Seattle, Baltimore - they all have a running game and they have that fullback in there for that presence, that physical toughness you have to have when you want to close games out."

It is encouraging to see someone on the staff thinking about that ability to close out a game. However the team winds up addressing this, the running back/fullback positions seem to be in good shape. Free agent Ryan Williams and UDFA Ben Malena look ready to challenge Joseph Randle for the backup RB position, so the unit should just get stronger.

Those are all some more positive things coming out of the OTAs. Just a reminder that sometimes, you find what you are looking for. It is not all bad news for the Cowboys if you are just willing to see the good things.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB
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