It is not exactly real football, but you still get this feeling that things have really started for the Dallas Cowboys as the first day of OTAs is now in the books. While the practices represent real work, it certainly sounds like the players are even more ready for this than the fans.
"The coaches are much more focused on technique and getting things done to make sure everybody's on their P's and Q's," safety Barry Church said. "I feel like we are as a defense and I know the offense is going to be ready, so I'm excited about it."
It is hardly a surprise, since Dez Bryant has no real protection against injury until he signs his franchise tender. This is just a business negotiation, but some are going to try and make something more of it.
Sources said Bryant, as expected, was a no-show Tuesday as the Cowboys kicked-off the OTA phase of their off-season program. The sessions are voluntary and the Pro Bowl receiver faces no repercussions for his decision. But it's a strong statement about Bryant's displeasure with the club's inability to agree with him on the terms of a long-term contract.
Nobody is pretending that having Bryant sitting the OTAs out is ideal, but as Scott Linehan observes, this may be a nice opportunity for Terrance Williams and Devin Street.
"I think it's a great opportunity for Terrance and Street for these guys to up their reps, especially with the first group," Linehan said three weeks ago during the team's rookie minicamp. "You're kind of practicing on your depth and giving guys an opportunity to work with that first group. Normally that's not going to happen - you're kind of isolating that first group, Dez and (Jason) Witten, Terrance only at the Z (position) and all that stuff. Now it really gives us a chance to kind of develop guys that normally would be working with the second or third group, with our first group.
The always analyzing Bryan Broaddus follows up his look at the offense with his position by position examination of the D. As always, it is chock full of good stuff, like his breakdown of the cornerback battles.
The forgotten man in all this cornerback talk has been Tyler Patmon. With the addition of Byron Jones and Corey White, it appears that Patmon's role might be much less on the defense. Morris Claiborne has made incredible progress, but the need for extra cornerbacks is still there. Patmon can line up outside, but we have also seen him play in the slot. This is an advantage that he has over White, who is much better in the slot than outside. Another challenge could come from rookies Jason Wilson and Joel Ross - both of whom were solid players in college. It was Wilson that took the majority of his reps inside during the rookie minicamp and did a nice job of handling that role. We could also see that Patmon, Wilson and Ross all play better than White and he is off this roster at the end of the day.
Speaking of the defense, DeMarcus Lawrence was in camp, along with about 20 lbs of new muscle he found during the offseason.
Here is Tank. Much bigger than last season pic.twitter.com/VMCZPhFp5p— Patrick Conn (@DraftCowboys) May 26, 2015
(If you want some more pictures from the first day of the OTAs, check this gallery at the mothership.)
The Adrian Peterson rumors simply will not die (perhaps because AD himself is so eager to keep them going). But that is not the real story about the running back position for Dallas.
The club's search for its next leading man begins in earnest Tuesday, the first of 12 offseason practices over the next four weeks at Valley Ranch.
Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams will each have a chance to impress coaches over the next month leading up to the start of training camp in late July in Oxnard, Calif.
The two are somewhat related, since both were seen as contenders for the swing tackle role. Chaz Green will now get more snaps, while Laurence Gibson will miss work. However, Gibson may have always been seen as more of a player to be stashed so he could develop. This may be the first step to him becoming another "redshirt" player, although it is too early to tell.
The Cowboys added A.J. Jenkins, who is now a competitor for the fifth wide receiver spot, but who actually may be more of a stand in for Dez Bryant, since he at least has NFL experience. Don't expect too much, although you can never know what might happen. The team cut former practice squad member Chris Boyd to make space on the roster for Jenkins.
One argument to not completely discount the Jenkins signing is the history Dallas has had of late in finding players that failed with other teams but that blossom with the Cowboys. Jeremy Mincey is one that may have a significant role again in 2015 after his own emergence last year after he was brought in to try and help make up for the loss of DeMarcus Ware. Sometimes, it is about more than just the real talent.
To pretty much everyone in the NFL, this is a colossal downgrade. Ware is one of the best linemen playing, and he was a staple of the Cowboys' defense. Mincey, who had floated from team to team and been cut several times, looks like, at best, a stopgap.
"The fire was lit," Mincey says. "I heard people say, 'They're gonna be 3-13.' I took it personal."
Oh, and maybe Jenkins is not without some talent to draw on himself. And maybe a guy name of Tony Romo might be good for him.
It was amazing how many poor passes that he had to adjust to from Alex Smith. Even with the screens, he had to adjust back with his body to make catches. Worked hard to make the catch. Has no issues trying to catch the ball in a crowd. Limited run after catch with the exception of the Chargers game. Didn't appear to fight the ball when it came in his direction - again made some soccer goalie type of plays. Will extend to catch the ball away from his body.
Greg Hardy will have his appeal of the ten game suspension heard by former NFL executive Harold Henderson, who also heard Adrian Peterson's original appeal. And that seems a guarantee that there will be further legal action, given that Henderson is not any more popular with the NFLPA than Roger Goodell.
And just a couple of other items not directly related to the Dallas OTAs.
Just read, watch the GIFs, and enjoy.
What is particularly amazing is that I thought his 3 best magic tricks were all in an 8-day span back in October. Forgive me if I am missing a good one or two.What is also interesting about these 3 plays in 2 games was that it was at a place in the season where some of us - at least I was chief amongst this group - were closely studying his every move as a sign that his back had healed and he could resume being a functional, upper tier, NFL QB again. At the time, it was certainly unclear as he spent most of September doing very few things that appeared to risk his body. But, then these 3 plays happened and he removed all doubt about his abilities.
Just had to throw in Greg Bedard's thoughts about the Giants' offensive line situation here because, schadenfreude.
I think the Giants are fooling themselves if they think the pectoral muscle injury suffered by left tackle Will Beatty, which reportedly could keep him out until at least October, won't have huge ramifications. Beatty had developed himself into a very capable left tackle, and now the Giants are left with either Justin Pugh (who underwhelmed so much at right tackle he had been penciled in at guard ) or Ereck Flowers, the ninth overall pick out of Miami earlier this month. I recently spent the weekend at the Coaches of Offensive Line (COOL) Clinic in Cincinnati, and the reviews on Flowers were not good. "Some of the worst technique I've ever seen in a player drafted that high," said one veteran NFL line coach. "He played for one of the best coaches, Art Kehoe, and his technique was terrible," said another coach. "That tells me he doesn't take coaching well. That's a big problem because all of the recent tackles have struggled making the transition. It now takes them until Year 3. You can thank the spread and the [collective bargaining agreement] for that."