After months of waiting, with only free agent news and the drama of the NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys, or at least part of them, have taken to the practice field. For me, it is the point at which the new football season starts to gear up, and it represents a truly key milestone:
There are finally some new pictures to post on our articles!
Of course, that may be a quirk that is particular to the writers here. For most of you, it is probably far more exciting to hear about how the newest members of the Cowboys fared. For most of the players who took the field today, it will be a short stay, but some of these players should be key figures for Dallas in the years to come.
This is the start of the evaluation process, and there will likely be some changes in the names after the staff gets to evaluate the try-out players to see if they can replace some of the current personnel contracted for the 90 man camp roster, but this is mostly about teaching the new players the playbook and seeing how they fit into the system. Early returns were good, given that they were all first issued their e-playbooks yesterday.
Just like many of you, I get a lot of my information about practice from Twitter. There are some near real time impressions that come out of reading things, and one of them was that the tempo was really up and that the coaches were pushing the players. It is a big step from college to the pros, and the toughness and energy to keep up at the next level can be a crucial factor in making a roster. J.J. Wilcox noticed this in comments after practice, calling the NFL "two times faster".
Taylor Reed (otherwise known as "Tank") seemed to be the most consistent linebacker, although sixth-rounder DeVonte Holloman became the first draftee to sign his contract. And Gavin Escobar got several nice mentions. For one, he was the tallest guy in the huddle. More importantly, he was described as playing faster than his 40 time.
Speaking of the guy who made many of those observations on Twitter, Brian Broaddus always puts up very nice posts at the mothership where he gives his impressions of several players who stood out for him, either good or bad. His coverage of the first session Friday was mostly positive. In addition to mentioning most of the draftees, he talked about how Ron Leary was looking, and singled out a couple of tryout players he feels bear watching, DT Nick Johnson of Baylor and OT Edawn Coughman from the well known football factory Fairmont State. (Bonus points if you can name which state it is without checking the Google, like I had to.) And he was impressed with UDFA running back Kendial Lawrence.
No offense to my Missouri Tigers' friends Mickey Spagnola and Brad Sham but what the heck were you guys thinking not giving the ball to Kendial Lawrence more? Lawrence did a nice job of showing some explosiveness hitting the hole. There was a play where he was going to his right then jumped cut back to his left to get through the hole. As I saw on tape he caught the ball well and during this practice he was able to do the same.
Lawrence is getting an opportunity to shine a bit because fifth round pick Joseph Randle is limited due to a thumb injury. He is wearing a cast, and at least on the first day of practice, he was only allowed to work with trainers on the sidelines. He is expected to be at full strength for the start of training camp. The battle between Randle and Lawrence may be interesting - or Lawrence may be a challenge to Lance Dunbar. Seeing Broaddus' take, I am leaning more than ever to dropping the fullback position (and incumbent Lawrence Vickers) and going with four running backs and four tight ends on the roster.
In his separate post for the second session, Broaddus added the names of receiver Jared Green, safey Jakar Hamilton, receiver Eric Rogers, and receiver Anthony Amos as players who caught his eye in a good way.
This was also the first time for the entire coaching staff to get together and, well, coach, since the end of last season. And that also meant that they were available to answer questions.
On a non-rookie topic, Rod Marinelli addressed the question of DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer making the transition to the 4-3. He was succinct.
"I don't see it as hard as all," he said. "It's going to be good."
On a related note, there were pictures of DeMarcus Ware, who was keeping an eye on things from another part of the Valley Ranch complex. Oh, and helping Cole Beasley work on defeating press coverage coming off the line.
It is such a damn shame the Cowboys lack leaders on the team.
Of course, considering the number of wide receiver candidates that kept getting mentioned today, Beasley is no doubt wise to be looking for every advantage he can get.
Jerry Jones showed up as well. He was wearing wraparound eyeglasses from a recent surgery on his retina, but the big issue that came up was the Doug Free situation.
"It's no secret that we're trying to renegotiate the contract," Jones said. "But I think it's a wrong assessment to say that anybody's saying 'take it or leave it' or we're at our wit's end or those kinds of things. That's just not the way I see it going."
Jones also reemphasized that he expect first round pick Travis Frederick to come in and start immediately. And the bearded one spent almost all his time working at center, which he told reporters was where he was preparing and expecting to play. He had a couple of bad snaps, but otherwise looked good for someone who, again from his own statements, has not had a helmet on since the end of Wisconsin's bowl game.
Of course, the coaches also had observations about the players they were working with. Quote of the day has to go to Jerome Henderson, who made this remark about third round pick, safety J.J. Wilcox.
"When you watch him play, you're like, ‘Oh God, he's going to kill somebody,' and that's what I like about the young man."
You have to give me a moment. I get a tear in my eye just reading that.
While I am talking about quotes and such, I have to mention my favorite tweet of the day:
Travis Frederick on what he likes most about football: "I get a chance to legally beat somebody up. I take advantage of that when I can."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 10, 2013
Do you sense a theme here? Pardon me while I grab a tissue and blow my nose.
Finally today, a special mention for a tweet that had nothing, really, to do with the minicamp, but that reminds us just how different it is to be a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Dez Bryant was 6th in NFL in yards, 3rd in TD catches, didn't make Pro Bowl and is No. 5 on a most overrated in NFL list?! OK ...— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 10, 2013