There are few things more pervasive in their success than how the NFL has become a true year-round powerhouse. With both the NBA and NHL deep in their playoffs, the biggest thing today for many sports fans is still the first day of limited no-contact football practices that are not even mandatory for players to attend. And despite some puzzling remarks to the contrary, the Dallas Cowboys were very glad to see one player in particular take the field. Tony Romo was there.
It's May. It's an OTA. It's only a step, but Romo is on a football field.
Hope has returned to the Cowboys.
The premise is kinda hackneyed, but here indeed are 26 different things about the OTAs. But frankly, the best one is the very first. (Even if it is a not-so-subtle slam of some other Dallas media figures.)
A is for ... AUTHORITY OF LIEUTENANTS
How you know how to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to Cowboys criticism: If the mediot is telling you only about "What Jerry Will Do'' ... unfollow. This is and has been, for four years, an organization increasingly driven by Jones' willingness to listen to lieutenants 30 years his junior. Stephen has authority. Garrett and Will McClay have power. Think about this: If Jerry was unilaterally making personnel decisions (not that he's uninvolved, but unilaterally in the way so many know-nothings envision) why would McClay turn down GM offers elsewhere? To be a powerless "yes'' man?
This is a link to 40 pictures from the OTAs for your perusal. One thing to note: The staff photographers for DallasCowboys.com (who were the only ones allowed today) are very good. There are some really nice shots in this slideshow.
As our own Dave Halprin covered, all was not rainbows and dancing unicorns for Dallas. Ron Leary, who probably would not be able to win back his starting left guard job from La'el Collins, reportedly wants to go somewhere he can be a starter.
One player who was reportedly absent from the voluntary OTA session was reserve guard Ronald Leary. Not only was Leary absent, but reports are circulating that he wants the Cowboys to trade him.
It was noted in the article that the Cowboys had looked for a possible trade partner for Leary before the NFL Draft, but did not get an offer they were willing to take. It is hard to see how things could change much unless some team suddenly found itself in need of a proven left guard who was, after all, part of a dominating run game in 2014.
Hmm. Byron Bell was projected to become the starting left guard for the Titans. Might be some interest. Now if only there was someone on the Tennessee roster who might vouch for Leary.
Tennessee has invested heavily in rebuilding its front five and run game under rookie general manager Jon Robinson, drafting (Jack Conklin) and signing free-agent center Ben Jones. Tennessee permitted an NFL-high 54 sacks in 2015 and brought in a pair of new runners, DeMarco Murray via trade and Derrick Henry in the second round, to take heat off Marcus Mariota.
The reason for Leary's discontent is that Collins took over the starting job when Leary was hurt, and never looked back. Now he is entering his second season, and has very high expectations of himself.
Now, in Year Two, Collins expects a major step forward. He wants to be a consistent force like the Cowboys' veteran linemen.
"It's a standard that we hold as a group," he said. "I think coming in for me last year as a young guy really having to live up to that standard, continuing to work like those guys has helped me become a better player."
The "triplets" term has been rather loosely thrown about, and this article points out how it doesn't really apply to the current trio of offensive stars. Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin came to the Cowboys more or less as a group.
With Romo, Bryant, and Elliott all three of these men are at different phases of their career. Romo just turned 36 on April 21st and is nearer the twilight of his career with many followers of Cowboy Nations would be ecstatic if Romo could lead the "Boys to one Lombardi Trophy. Bryant will turn 28 in November and is definitely in his prime if not the best player at his position in the NFL at this moment. Elliott is still a neophyte who has not had a carry in the NFL yet and while the potential is there Elliott will still needs to perform at a high level.
This is a nice defense of head coach Jason Garrett. It doesn't try to argue that he is the best coach in the NFL. Just the best one for the Cowboys.
Are there better options than Jason Garrett out there right now? Almost assuredly. It's a big world. However finding "the" head coach is more of an art form than drafting in the first round. Tabbing a guy who can co-exist with Jerry Jones ego? You get the picture. To be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys requires a unique skill set.
This still has Dallas as the favorite to win the division crown, but briefly points out what the rivals have done this offseason to fight them for it.
Sturm goes over the strengths and weaknesses of Charles Tapper, and has a concise summary of what appears to be the strategy for Dallas in trying to generate more of a pass rush this year.
I think the Cowboys have quietly assembled a defensive line that has very little sparkle with name recognition, but has plenty of young talent that might grow together and become something decent.
Oh, yeah, one of our beloved rivals does have this little controversy thing brewing.
The competitors: Sam Bradford, Carson Wentz, Chase Daniel
Early in free agency the Eagles seemed content to roll with Bradford for another year, re-signing him to a lucrative short-term contract. However, their quarterback situation -- and Bradford's morale -- got blown up when the Eagles traded a boatload of assets to move up in the NFL Draft, selecting Wentz with the No. 2 pick. Philadelphia doesn't exactly plan to start Wentz in 2016, but Bradford took the move hard, having a weak holdout before reporting for OTAs. The starting job is still Bradford's for now, though.
Since OTAs are in full swing across the league, it is interesting to see how the Bills are really putting the clamps on what gets reported about their practices.
NFL teams have been prohibiting the spread of information exponentially but the Bills' 2016 policy is bizarre even by bizarre NFL standards. From the Bills not wanting reporters to report in camp who's on the first team, second team to "who is rushing the passer, dropped passes, interceptions, QB completion percentage, etc.," the team is trying to crack down on any information from public practices getting to fans.
Finally, the league approved the proposed changes to the rules governing reviews, and for once, they actually seem to make things a little better.
The most visible change to the system is a clearly defined set of plays that are not reviewable. Anything that doesn't fall under this umbrella can be looked at. Penalties and other plays considered to be judgment calls for officials will remain ineligible for replay reviews.
The only new addition to the list of things that can be reviewed are four aspects of game administration. Penalty enforcement, proper down, spot of a foul and the status of the game clock are now reviewable.