Mandatory minicamp is set to start on Tuesday, which means this is the last of practices before the long break until training camp opens up in late July. During the OTA period, media members were only allowed to briefly attend one practice per week. These minicamps are a bit different as they are allowed to be present every day. This will be as good a time as any to get all those last minute ‘nuggets’ of wisdom before the offseason turns into a desolate wasteland of nothing.
So before we head off into 100 years of solitude, let’s re-visit and point out a few things we need to keep our eyes on for this week.
Will Ro’ Show?
Jerry Jones put his stamp of approval on the missing of Rolando McClain at OTA’s, saying this is a time for RoMac to spend with his children. Jason Garrett has made it known that he would rather talk about players that are practicing instead of worrying about those that aren’t here. That may be looked at as sort of a rift between the head coach and owner of the football team, but we’ve all known that these two operate with different philosophies. On one hand, you can respect the man for being devoted to his family, on the other there is a whole team of players that would rather be with their loved ones instead of practicing in the 90+ degree heat.
Either way, there is one solution to this whole thing; McClain needs to be in shape. That’s the real question as a not-so-flattering photo went viral a few months ago during phase one. In the past, Rolando McClain has shown up to the mandatory portions of the offseason. Most around Valley Ranch expect that to be the case again but if he’s not in shape, you better believe that will turn Garrett’s hair even more fiery red than it is. When you don’t work out with the trainers, you’re certainly nowhere near as disciplined as you need to be. RoMac has shown that he’s a gamer, but first he has to get into football shape before he can play the game. He doesn’t have to be ready to play a game, but he better look as though he’s taken care of himself.
Turning The Corner
The Cowboys waived some cornerbacks on Friday, including Terrance Mitchell, a pet cat of a few around these parts. The Cowboys worked out Brandon Boykin but don’t look too keen on signing the former Eagle and Steeler. Still, Stephen Jones has stated that they could be in the market for another cornerback to replace that spot on the roster. It’ll be interesting to see if they do that ahead of this mandatory camp or wait until the dead season to make a move.
On that note, the Cowboys have been more than impressed with the approach both Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr have come to these practices with. Mo’ was at 150 pounds at one point last offseason, now he’s a chiseled 193 pounds and looking stronger. He’s been outstanding in his time on the practice field getting his hands on a few balls from what we’ve heard. Carr has made his switch back to his more comfortable position on the right side. He’s also looked crisp, but this is just shorts and jerseys. Still, these players seem primed for a determination of a redemption campaign in 2016.
An Unhappy Camper To Make Return?
Ronald Leary signed his $2.55 million tender in hopes to facilitate a trade before the draft. That never came to fruition and the Cowboys have allowed Leary to pursue other avenues in hopes to start for another team. The issue is that the operator of all thatl, Mr. Stephen Jones, is not going to let go of a very prized backup for peanuts. Of course, that doesn't sit well with Leary or his agent, but that's the way the game is played. Does Leary intend on missing this final portion before training camp? If he does, he really has nothing to gain but only to lose. Leary can and probably would be fined if he were to miss the mandatory minicamp.
Here's the rub in all this, Leary really has no leverage. However, you have to empathize with his situation. If not for some fluke accident that allowed the Cowboys to land La'el Collins as an undrafted free agent, Leary would still be the incumbent left guard. He also showed this team that he was pretty good next to Tyron Smith, but the talent level and upside both reside with Collins. Besides, there is that degenerative knee issue to always consider with Leary. Hence, the urgency for the Leary camp to find him a place to start, you never know when that thing may creep up and then it's curtains. The likelihood that Leary is traded is very low and it certainly won't happen anytime soon. His best bet is to begrudgingly get back to work, back in shape (see RoMac), and see what happens if another team becomes desperate enough during training camp.
Tony Romo 'Revving' Up The Team
Gil Brandt was at Valley Ranch a week or so ago and he said that it was evident that Romo being out there and participating rang throughout the practice field. There is just something special about Romo and his abilities for the Cowboys in 2016. Gil stated that he looked younger and fresh and supremely motivated. That has got be good for everyone involved. He understands that last year was unfortunate and just can't wait to get it all behind him. Our buddy, Marcus Mosher, has gone on record to say this is the healthiest he's looked in a while and local media types would agree. It's never about the collarbone folks, that's just a freak injury that is oh-so-common in the NFL. What matters is that Romo continues to distance himself from the back issues of the past.
The further he gets away from there, the better for the entire team and modern medicine is one heck of a mystery. What may be the most important aspect of having Romo is the work that he gets in with some of the younger players on this roster. Brice Butler and Terrance Williams have been receiving plenty of praise and that all starts with the trust they gain from number nine. This week, we'll have more access to what they're getting into, Butler has been looking very determined for a bigger role in the offense. Romo will determine the success of everyone on the field. It's awesome to know that he's taking all the reps and leading his team.
A Youth Movement Breakthrough
This is a defensive line that is full of youth and inexperience. Sometimes the best way to learn is baptism by fire, in that case, that's exactly what they will get going up against an All-Pro caliber offensive line. Randy Gregory has been getting some really positive reviews in his second year, routinely showing his pass rushing prowess. However, it is still in the back of everyone's mind as they realize he'll be unavailable for a quarter of the season. A lot of young guys are going to get their chances to shine. You have some mainstays like Tyrone Crawford at the three and free agent signing Cedric Thornton as the one. Guys like Ryan Russell and David Irving have shown that they may be in line for some more playing time.
It's all about creating that rotation that keeps the defense fresh and ready to rush the passer. Benson Mayowa will have a lot of eyes on him as he takes over as the presumptive right defensive end because of Gregory's suspension. While DeMarcus Lawrence remains rehabbing until training camp, there will be an open competition for the left defensive end too as he is awaiting results of an appeal for PED usage. There are so many moving parts here, it's hard to keep track but somebody needs to breakthrough sooner rather than later.