By now, everyone knows that if they want a good piece of the Cowboys' practices, they can tune into OTA's Live on the Mothership's site. Bryan Broaddus and whoever decides to hang with him will watch portions of practice and kind of give you an idea of what's going on. It's always been a great tool to get an understanding of who's looking good and who has some work ahead of them. It's just Organized Team Activities, but this is where chemistry for a team is planted before blooming in training camp. With all the musings of the practices this week, there are five guys that stood out when watching them. These guys are hopefully building toward something very positive in the 2016 season.
Tony Romo, QB
First and foremost, we can't say enough how exciting it is to have Romo participating in every aspect of the offseason program. He's not having to rehab anything which allows him to be on the field taking care of business. This is good for everyone because some position battles will almost certainly be decided by who has gained this guy's trust. It's important for him to be out there throwing to all the receivers and building a rapport with the young guys on the roster.
The best thing about great quarterbacks is their ability to make an impact on the players around them. Tony Romo makes a lot of guys get better, there's a reason that Cole Beasley was absent many times last year. Broaddus talked about a play in which Romo could have easily gone to his blanket, Jason Witten, but saw the route break perfectly for Beasley in practice. He hit him for a huge gain and that's what you missed with the quarterbacks last season. Romo is his best when he's able to turn decent plays into better plays. It's just really great to see him out there without setbacks and he's healthier than he's been in quite a while.
Jameill Showers, QB
What? Are we starting out with two quarterbacks? Yes, Showers has been getting some praise this week and Broaddus called him the "second-best" quarterback on the field. This is huge as my colleague, Tom Ryle, expanded on the idea:
"Given the previously cited limitations that Moore has, this could be a signal that Showers is involved in a real competition to become the QB2. If he beats Moore out through his performance, it will just help the team. There is no reason to think he could lose more games than Moore, who has, of course, never quarterbacked a win in his career. Moore may be bumping against his ceiling as a player already, which would be a low one indeed. Showers potentially has much more upside, and turning into a true NFL backup may not be out of the question for him. Given his UDFA status, that would be a significant achievement in and of itself."
If Showers can really keep up his momentum, I have to agree with Tomo, this can only spell good things for the Cowboys. They need competition at the position and though Dak Prescott is my guy, he's got some development to do. Showers did everything to make the roster last year and played multiple positions on the practice squad as well as special teams during the preseason, they rewarded him by letting him focus solely on quarterbacking. Showers is going to have to keep building on this as everyone knows the affinity that Scott Linehan has for Kellen Moore. Still, this is a very positive start for him.
Morris Claiborne, CB
When watching the OTA Live portion, Claiborne stood out as a guy that looks confident and completely chiseled in the right way. You can see the difference in his frame from where he was at last year. He was covering Brice Butler on the first two plays in 7-on-7 drills, on the second play Butler beats him off the snap, but Mo stays with him down the field. Butler, who is a pretty fast guy, has the perfect opportunity to make a big catch, but Mo kept very little room between him and Butler though Byron Jones came that way, the play was already out of reach for Butler.
This is another contract year for Morris Claiborne, who has been happy to remain in Dallas. It seems like every year Claiborne is talking about repaying the Cowboys for taking a chance on him. This year he's been a bit quieter and that's good. All he needs to do is focus on getting better and more confident each week. He certainly looked pretty good in what limited action I saw. It would a be a huge win for the Cowboys if Mo can keep building a consistent effort that pays off in the regular season.
Ryan Russell, DE
In a show of power, Ryan Russell got into Zack Martin’s body and drove him back in the pocket, right at Romo’s feet. Martin ended up on the ground after getting tangled up with Travis Frederick, but nevertheless, it was a nice sign to see Russell capture that much ground on the All-Pro guard.
Anytime you hear about a guy being able to get a push on Zack Martin, that's got to spell good things for him in the rushmen room. Russell has been a guy that the Cowboys were happy to have but understood he was going to be a project for Rod Marinelli. Last offseason, almost all of Marinelli's frustrations would be taken out daily on this poor kid and it's nice to see that he's finally coming around. He's hoping to become part of the rotation but in order for that to happen, he must produce.
There were never any questions about the physical traits that the 6' 5", 270 lbs. lineman had, it was a matter of him realizing his potential. He's starting out well but still has ways to go. It's a great sign to see somebody unexpected making some headway early into these practices.
Alfred Morris, RB
All that we've been hearing about lately only has pertained to the shiny new toy in Ezekiel Elliott, but Morris was brought in here for a reason. He's looked lighter than he was in Washington and was very decisive in his cuts throughout the available practice to the media. What gets lost on some folks is that this is a pretty good stable of running backs, which is not something you could say last season. With the injury to Lance Dunbar still keeping him in rehab mode, it's not likely that the Cowboys are in any hurry to get rid of what looks to be a surplus.
We've seen what Darren McFadden was able to do behind this offensive line, though he's not much of a scheme fit. Well, Morris is absolutely a scheme fit and allows for the Cowboys to keep running the ball in the fashion they feel most comfortable. Nobody is taking anything away from Elliott, who will certainly be the man. Morris just stood out as a guy that is here to help in whatever role they put him in and that one-two punch of him and Elliott is very satisfying. The running game is the focus of this physical offense and it's great to see it in action even if it's just jerseys and shorts.