On one hand, we're excited to see photos and read reports of the Cowboys' practices in the first week of OTA's. On the other, we know soon enough the dead period will be here before training camp takes off. Still, we've learned a few things this week from all the reports that have been coming out of Valley Ranch. Some have been glowing, others not so much. It's not a perfect process, but we must process what we've got thus far.
Tony Romo Isn't Limited At All
For the first time in a few years, Tony Romo is participating in every aspect of the offseason program. That is more than good news for everyone involved. For veterans, it's easy to get back into the swing of things and especially for someone as cerebral and glued to the game like Romo. However, having him back in the fold and practicing with the team does more for everyone else that need their quarterback. It helps him as well because he's getting acclimated with the rookies and guys that he wasn't able to play with last year due to injury.
All the reports that have come out about his presence have been nothing but good. Terms like 'phenomenal', 'velocity', and 'accuracy' have all been used to describe what they've seen out of him in practice. He hasn't been limited in the slightest and made sure to be involved in everything. That's what you want in your quarterback, plus building a rhythm and rapport with some of the new faces will be imperative to their success in 2016.
Ezekiel Elliott Will 'Earn' Starting Role
I'll be the first around here to call a giant horse manure to that assumption. I get what they are trying to do by having Elliott "earn" his star, but make no mistake, he's starting week one. It is a formality more than anything else in letting Darren McFadden lead the stable throughout OTA's. Elliott is the fourth-overall pick, once he gets up to speed with the pace and tempo of these practices, he'll be taking the first team reps.
McFadden is a great influence on a young player like Elliott and in more ways than one, they want Elliott to see how to carry himself from a standup guy. That's basically what you could read out of that report. It's important for him to take notes from McFadden and Alfred Morris early on but that starting role is already stamped.
Cowboys Are Being Cautious With Approach
There is an importance to creating a physical-nature to every team, but at what point does that hurt the product that enters training camp? In some ways, it's just as important to have players know the mental aspects of the game along with the physical nature of the sport. With the CBA, there are some provisions that keep certain things from happening. This offseason, the Cowboys have been reluctant to throw all these guys into very physical practices. It's a smart move to ease some of these guys back from injury and with the rookies, they need to remain healthy for training camp.
In the past, we can remember a lot of the young guys getting banged up early because they simply aren't ready. From what we've read, we can determine that a lot of emphases is being put on conditioning and the mental digestion of what the playbooks will look like and what they need to know before training camp begins. It seems to be their goal to get everyone into training camp and healthy. For the veterans like Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Orlando Scandrick, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Barry Church; Mickey Spagnola has said they just need to be ready to play in the third preseason contest. So far, no issues should be taken with this approach.
Ronald Leary Isn't Happy, But Neither Is Jason Garrett
Leary doesn't want to be a Cowboy anymore after his role has been reduced from starter to reserve. That's perfectly understandable for a guy with a degenerative knee and on borrowed time. However, the Cowboys are seemingly happy to keep him in his current role and don't plan on moving him for anything less than substantial. In fact, Stephen Jones laid it all out:
"We told Ron that he could certainly look around, but we're not in the business of letting go of good football players for little or nothing," Jones said Thursday. "We got calls during the draft asking to trade for some of our running backs. We just don't have that interest. Ron's a big part of this football team.
Jason Garrett was quoted yesterday as saying Leary not being here is "neither good for him or for the team". The Cowboys take issue with players that prefer to work outside of Valley Ranch because they don't believe that the player will hold himself as accountable as the staff will. Leary is looking out there for potential suitors but unless a strong offer comes by, it's not happening. Until then, don't expect to see #65 until he absolutely has to report. However, the head coach voiced his displeasure with the situation.
"It's best to be here working and just going back to business," Garrett said. "Take care of your business as a professional on a daily basis, and usually good things happen for you."
Cowboys Have No Interest In Free Agent Pass Rushers
The Cowboys' situation at pass rush has been the topic of conversation for a long time now. The Cowboys don't have a rusher that will start in week one with more than four sacks in a season. Well, there is a particular pass rusher, Dwight Freeney, who has drummed up some interest as of late. Don't count the Dallas Cowboys as a team that is interested though:
"I think it's a little early for us," Jones said. "We kind of like our young guys right now. Obviously Dwight has had an amazing career; nothing to say but great things about Dwight with what he's accomplished in this league. But we all know this is a younger man's game. But I do think what he showed last year he was able to help a playoff team. So, all those things will be things that we keep our eyes on. But I don't think we're ready to make any move on any veteran that is available at this point."
It doesn't mean that they completely shut the door on a veteran pass rusher but it doesn't seem likely that they will go that route. They have a lot that is unknown about their roster, but it seems they are more confident in younger talent than going after a seasoned veteran.
Garrett Realizes That Randy Gregory Is A Work-In-Progress
Nobody has received more vitriol from Cowboys' fans this offseason than Randy Gregory. People were pretty upset that his college problem has carried over to his football career.The coaches seem to very much be attached to him and his prospects this season. Gregory has had these issues for quite a while and Garrett said there's a lot of work still left to do:
"Just in everything he does, how he handles himself," Garrett said Wednesday. "Again, it's a work in progress. He has gotten better. But he has a long way to go. A lot of guys have a long way to go."
He's absolutely right, a lot of guys are a work in progress. At times, it's easy to feel that the Cowboys are getting themselves into bed with players with histories of one thing or another. A lot of teams deal with these things too, it's just a reality. Everyone has their breaking point, but this is his sophomore year in the NFL, hardly a time to wash your hands clean of him. It's upsetting but they have to press forward and continue to get him ready for the season. What happens next is all on him.