Yesterday's open-to-the-press OTA session gave us the most newsworthy Wednesday since the week of the Green Bay playoff game. Let's start with the general assessments, shall we?
The Broad One offers a dozen of his biggest impressions from watching the second day of OTA practices. Here's my favorite:
2) I will give Randy Gregory a tip of the cap this afternoon for his work against Tyron Smith, which is no easy task. I had heard through the grapevine on Tuesday that Gregory had some quality rushes and he was able to carry that over today. Gregory didn’t win every battle with Smith, but where he did have success is not allowing Smith to beat him down with his punch. Gregory was smart because he knew if Smith got his hands on him, it was over. Gregory was able to take Smith wide, then he worked back inside with an arm-over move that left Smith reaching for him -- which gave him a clear path to Romo. It is rare that you see Smith in this position, but to the rookie’s credit, he didn’t attempt the same rush over and over, which put himself in position to create some pressure. It was good work for both players.
As Broaddus mentions, Gregory faked an outside move against All-Pro OT Tyron Smith before using his speed to beat him inside and pressure Tony Romo. When asked about the move later, Gregory was properly circumspect:
"I’ll let him talk about it. I’m not going to speak too much on it," Gregory said, flashing a wide-mouthed smile, "but I think we had a pretty good battle. He did a good job, but I think I won a couple there. I know I won a couple there. He may not agree to it. The important thing is he made me better. Hopefully I’m helping him out and when it’s all said and done we can both help out the team."
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and radio color commentator Babe Laufenberg offered his take on Wednesday's OTA session. Here's what he found impressive:
Byron Jones’ talent just jumps out at you. His athleticism, his burst, his fluidity. That doesn’t translate into being a shutdown corner Week 1, but there’s a few guys like DeMarcus Ware, you looked at him and said, "Wow." I hate to make the leap he’s DeMarcus Ware, but you look at Jones and he looks like a corner, he’s physical he’s got the length he’s got the tools going against bigger receivers. He’s played safety and he’s been in a situation where he’s had to hit people.
Also garnering notice as "most interesting" was former USC wideout George Farmer...
After being held out of OTAs and mini-camp the last two seasons as he recovered from surgery on his back, Tony Romo has been full go. And you know who's happiest about that? Scott Linehan. To wit:
"It’s night and day for me as far as what we are able to accomplish with our first group,’’ Linehan said. "For him to be able to be out there and work his reps with the first group is little more normal, so to speak. "It’s going to be much more beneficial for us, especially early in the year and through training camp and getting ready for the opener.’’
Hmmm...offensive install with Romo or with Dustin Vaughn? I'd guess "night and day" just about captures it...
Also noteworthy was who didn't practice...
Rolando McClain was not at Valley Ranch for the second day of voluntary organized team activities, Phillips reports, but was back in Alabama for personal reasons and, more importantly, is rehabbing from a recent knee scope. His on-field availability before training camp is uncertain.
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett surprised the reporters gathered for his Wednesday press conference, Inabinett notes, by announcing linebacker Rolando McClain wasn't participating in the team's OTAs because he'd recently had his knee scoped. The Dallas Morning News reported in January that McClain had consulted with Dr. James Andrews, a noted orthopedic surgeon, after the 2014 season ended and was told he would not need knee surgery. I guess they were wrong about that...
As the Cowboys begin their second day of OTAs, Dez Bryant continues to work out on his own. Channeling Alfred E. Neuman, Jason Garret says, "what, me worry?":
"He's working on the business part of his contract, working through this franchise player tag," coach Jason Garrett said. "We've been in communication with him. He's been in communication with his teammates. He seems to be in great shape whenever we've seen him but he's not been here."
It’s unlikely that Dez Bryant will cross the white lines before training camp opens in late July, Tiny Jim reports. Given his dynamic nature, however, receivers coach Derek Dooley said he was confident Bryant was eager to return to the field:
"Dez is a competitor, and he not only loves to play but he loves to practice. He loves being out there with the team. I know he misses his teammates, I know he misses being here," Dooley said. "But that’s just part of the deal, and I think everybody understands it."
Romo offered a Bryant-related quip, and Machota had an article:
"Obviously when you have him, it makes things a little bit easier," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. "Tell him to come on back."
Greg Hardy will miss the team's OTA session Thursday to attend and participate in the appeal of his 10-game NFL suspension, Werder reports. Here's the rest of the straight poop:
Hardy's argument is expected to be that he should not be punished since domestic violence charges against him were dismissed with prejudice when the alleged victim could not be located to testify, with prosecutors suggesting Hardy may have reached a financial settlement with her. If the NFL is permitted to punish him, Hardy's representatives from the NFLPA will contend that discipline should be limited to two games under the NFL policy in effect at the time of the alleged incident.
Here's what happened thus far, courtesy of Archer:
Joseph Randle received the first-team work, such as it is in late May, on Tuesday. He has received praise from ownership, coaches and teammates for a more serious approach to the offseason, which is a sign he understands the opportunity that is in front of him.
Joseph Randle knows he's in a competition with a bevy of other running backs to replace DeMarco Murray. His advantage is that he had a better view of what Murray did in 2014 as the backup running back. Which allows him to say things like this:
"He had a good year last year," Randle said, "and I got to sit back and watch a lot and I felt like there was a lot of meat left on the bone."
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan says he "can’t wait to see" what Randle can do with more opportunity:
"I don’t think there’s any reason he can’t have a real productive year for us," Linehan said. "It’s really too hard to say what the production’s going to be and who’s going to get it. We’ll let that play itself out as the year goes on, but certainly he’s going to have more opportunities to have a more significant role for us and I can’t wait to see him do it. He’s really working hard and doing a great job of getting himself prepared, and I think the competition we have at the running back position is really healthy and is really going to help us."
New Dallas RB Darren McFadden told reporters he knew how good this line was before he signed with the Cowboys back in the spring, but he didn’t know the kind of hours they put in:
"Once you’ve been in a place so long like Oakland, you can get set in your ways," McFadden said Wednesday, after his second OTA practice with the Cowboys. "Coming out here and being around guys that work so hard, it just brings out the best in you. It’s something I look forward to."
Oh, and nice burn on your former team, R-DMC.
Great quote from Mo Claiborne:
"You get a chance to build a stronger relationship with those guys from other positions," Claiborne said. "You get to see what those guys have been through, and their type of injuries, and you learn. Like Sean Lee. From the moment I started coming in for treatment, he wouldn’t let me be down on myself. It’s easy to go into a shell, and it’s hard to take responsibility and say, ‘This is what happened to me, and this is the next step I have to take.’ I’d be bitter about that, but Sean helped me through that a tremendous amount. And it’s not just him putting on a front. You can tell it’s coming from a good, genuine place."
Amid a sensitive climate in the NFL, with more focus than ever on domestic violence and a revised personal-conduct policy, Bell writes, one slip up and it will be open season on Jerry Jones. Jones the Elder doesn't bat an eye:
"We're not buying bonds here," Jones said, repeating a favorite mantra. "Risk takes on a lot of different forms, be it financial, the draft slot, something physical. I felt this was the time to be aggressive. Any pick you make, or any player you sign, something can go wrong."
For the third time in as many years, Will McClay has been given a new job title by the Dallas Cowboys. After being given the assistant director of player personnel title in 2014, McClay is now the team’s senior director of college and pro scouting. While he has a new title, the job description remains the same: run the Cowboys’ personnel department. Since that's the case, I just wish they'd name him the General Manager.
And we close today's linkfest with this little gem:
When NFL coaches meet to discuss the challenges presented by the next opponent on the schedule, Brooks writes, conversation immediately focuses on identifying the biggest threats on the opposition's roster. With that in mind,rooks offers up the 10 position groups that he believes create the most fear in meeting rooms across the league. Guess who's number one?
1) Dallas Cowboys' offensive line
When the Joneses decided to invest top draft picks on the O-line, they reversed the fortunes of the franchise -- giving Jason Garrett the option of relying on a physical, run-first approach to knock off heavyweights around the NFL. With three first-round picks (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin) and a pair of blue-collar blockers (Ronald Leary and Doug Free), Dallas' starting quintet pummeled defenders at the point of attack in 2014, allowing DeMarco Murray to lead the NFL in rushing. The unit could be even better in 2015 with talented rookie La'el Collins possibly joining the starting lineup at left guard. The undrafted free-agent signee was considered a first-round talent before a police investigation on the eve of the draft torpedoed his stock. (Collins spoke to police about the shooting death of his ex-girlfriend, but he was never labeled a suspect.) Thus, the NFL's top O-line added another blue-chipper to a group that's set to dominate the game for the next decade.
Yep, that's right.