One of the biggest stories during the voluntary OTAs was the absence of a couple of players, each for their own reasons.
Nick Eatman: I'll take the somewhat-easy answer here and focus on the players we haven't seen here at Valley Ranch this summer. Guard Ron Leary has skipped out on most of the offseason work, including all OTA practices, but is expected to be here for the minicamp. Likely not excited about his role as the backup guard here in the final year of his contract, Leary has requested a trade but the Cowboys have made it clear they aren't interested in giving away a proven starter that can provide quality depth for cheap. I think this is a good chance to see how he compares to veteran Joe Looney, who should be able to back up both guard and center spots. If Looney holds his own, it might give the Cowboys the peace of mind of parting with Leary for the right price. The Cowboys also haven't seen Rolando McClain much this offseason but the linebacker is also expected to be here this week.
The answer seems to be in on Leary, at least, as he gave Mike Fisher this eloquent and evocative answer when asked if he would continue his holdout.
"Nah,'' Leary said Monday, "I'll be there.''
Although the Leary and RoMac watch is mentioned by everyone, there are other stories to keep an eye on, and the ascension of Ezekiel Elliott to the starting job is definitely one of them.
Hand-off of the Baton -- Darren McFadden may still be the number one running back in the Cowboys backfield, but in the same way an outgoing President is still in charge during an inauguration. With the fourth overall pick, the front office voted in Ezekiel Elliott to be the club's primary ball carrier. Of course, the coaching staff won't simply usher Zeke to the top of the depth chart. Instead, they want him to earn it.
This is the end of an era for the Cowboys, as they plan to open up the dazzling new facility in Frisco when they come back from Oxnard. Jason Garrett has seen many seasons at Valley Ranch as both a player and coach, and shared some of his memories.
"I have such fond memories of being a player on some great teams and seeing some amazing players treating this practice field like it's a game field," Garrett said. "The competition they had between each other, the competition between the offense and the defense was just off the charts. It was the highest level.
"I can remember being on this practice field with Michael Irvin, by ourselves on hot July days when no one else was around and he has a weighted vest on. He has a weighted girdle on. He's got his shoulder pads; he's got his helmet; he's got his Walter Payton mouthpiece in; and he's running route after route after route."
Larry Brown is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, so he seems to be a pretty good coach. And he had some very nice things to say after his visit to the Cowboys' OTAs.
"I was just in awe of being here and watching them practice and work hard," Brown said. "I've been a huge fan of Jason (Garrett), the staff and the team since I've been here. Watching them, the attention to detail, how direct and honest (Garrett) is... it was neat hearing him coach them and how they accept it."
One of the more positive things coming out of OTAs has been the continued improvement of Morris Claiborne, who is looking to overcome his reputation as a first round disappointment.
The effort of Claiborne in OTA practices was impressive and with this week marking the beginning of mandatory minicamp, it will be expected he continue to raise his bar. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick is not yet practicing with the team (knee), but his eventual return will also aid in Claiborne having an improved season.
With the looming suspensions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, one possible solution to cover for them has been moving Tyrone Crawford back to DE until they return. He would rather not.
Crawford would move to defensive end if the coaches asked -- he just hopes he is not asked. He would prefer to stay at defensive tackle.
"That's where I think I'm best, that's where I'm getting most comfortable," Crawford said. "That's where I want to be great."
The team continues to be very deliberate, as Garrett puts it, with Dez Bryant during his return from injury. But wide receivers coach Derek Dooley doesn't like it very much.
Dooley makes very valid points; especially considering the lack of reps recently between Bryant and Romo. When in complete sync, the tandem has proven one of the most dangerous in the NFL. It's paramount the Cowboys enter 2016 with those two firing on all cylinders. The Dallas coaching staff understands this, yet must also be careful to not allow any setbacks with Bryant's foot.
One of the really underrated players the Cowboys have on the roster is long snapper L.P. Ladouceur. You never really hear much about him, for all the right reasons.
He joined the Cowboys early in the 2005 season and has been perfect ever since. Perfect. He has had 772 clean snaps on punts, 339 on field goal attempts and 475 on extra points.
He turned 35 in March and is signed through 2017. Only Tony Romo is older on the Cowboys' roster. Only Jason Witten has played more games on the Cowboys' current roster.
The wide receiver talk has been mostly about Bryant' return and the expected battle for the WR2 spot between Terrance Williams and Brice Butler, but you shouldn't overlook Cole Beasley's value. (Short joke considered and rejected here.)
The diminutive slot receiver plays an important role for Romo and the offense as their third down specialist. Watch any game and you'll see Beasley wide open on almost every route he runs. With the Cowboys getting a healthy Romo and Bryant back, as well as the threat of having a dominant runner to garner attention again, and Beasley should get plenty of chances to put up career best numbers.
There was some skepticism about Dallas putting its hopes for a quarterback that could at least be a quality backup in Dak Prescott, taken with a supplemental fourth round pick, but things are looking better than many expected so far.
Some may not have been comfortable with what the Cowboys did to fix their backup quarterback position this offseason. After watching the 2015 season go down the drain due to poor play at the position, going into 2016 with the same strategy is worrisome. There may be good news as, according to multiple sources, fourth-round pick Dak Prescott looks further along than many anticipated.
ESPN asked beat writers from all 32 franchises to name the social media star for each team, and Lucky Whitehead got the nod for the Cowboys.
Whether on Snapchat (@mustbeluck), Instagram or Twitter, Whitehead takes home the Cowboys' title. The second-year wide receiver doesn't take himself too seriously. Actually he doesn't take himself seriously at all. You can see him drop off his application to work at Popeye's. You can see him dressed up as Lucky Woods on the golf course. You can see him do the Running Man Challenge. And you can see some catch a football one-handed ... after completing a flip. -- Todd Archer
You know, that Archer guy is really pretty perceptive.
For you Mitchell fans, it looks like he has landed on his feet.
Texans claim CB Terrance Mitchell on waivers from Cowboys.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) June 13, 2016