It was really a foregone conclusion that Ezekiel Elliott was going to be the starting running back this year. The only question was whether it would be day one of training camp or a few practices down the road. Now with McFadden out, Elliott is getting the bulk of the work with the first team, and that is a good thing.
"I would hate to overstate anything at this point," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "But he is a full-package running back. There is really not a time I would feel uncomfortable with him being the game right now, which is unusual for a rookie.
"Over my years, I have had some really good running backs. But there were certain areas of the game where you would say if we do this that is not his cup of tea. But I think Zeke is well rounded. I don't think there is ever a down or distance or situation where he can't carry the load. Obviously, we have other guys who are going to do it, but we will lean heavily on this young kid."
OK, this one will just get you pumped up.
This is the Cowboys' offensive line. It's a unit that blocked for castoff running backs and quarterbacks the majority of last season, yet still came away as PFF's highest-graded pass-blocking and run-blocking line. Unlike some recent top offensive lines—like the 2012 San Francisco 49ers and the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles—the Cowboys aren't doing it with anything innovative or different. They simply execute far better than any other team in the league.
On a more positive injury note, Orlando Scandrick is believed to be on schedule for full participation in training camp, and he doesn't mind the deliberate approach the team is taking with him.
"It's not tough at all," Scandrick said. "I'm really focused on becoming a better player than I was. I'm really being patient to get back out there. I don't want to suffer any setbacks once I go out there."
Oh, and Dez Bryant is also expected to be ready to go in Oxnard. He also is very accepting of things.
"I am fine with it. I understand what's happening, I understand what we're doing. But they're gonna let the boy out at training camp. And I cannot wait!''
And on the subject of injured players, it looks like Gavin Escobar and Lance Dunbar are healing up nicely.
Escobar & Dunbar sat out, like I said. But did run some routes and such off to the side. Impressive progress IMO.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) June 14, 2016
Receivers coach Derek Dooley thinks they are very deep.
"This is probably the deepest our core has been since I've been here, top to bottom," Dooley said. "We have a very talented group and a very competitive group, so it will be fun to watch them all the way through training camp."
Among Broaddus' many interesting observations, this may be one of the most meaningful.
Tip of the cap to Terrance Williams and the type of practice he had on Tuesday. Williams made the play of the day on a beautiful, adjusting catch on a fade from Tony Romo. On the snap, Williams broke hard to his left, which gave him enough room to get past Brandon Carr and up the field. Romo held Byron Jones in the middle of the field and by doing so allowed Williams to only have to deal with Carr one-on-one. Romo put the ball in a position where all Williams had to do was extend his hands to make the catch over the top of Carr, who had lost the ball. Williams came down with the ball and both feet in bounds just inside the pylon for the touchdown.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from that: It was not a body catch. I repeat, IT WAS NOT A BODY CATCH.
After missing OTAs, both Rolando McClain and Ron Leary showed up for the mandatory minicamp. They still look to be in the doghouse to a certain extent.
While Cowboys fans can now breathe a little easier now, McClain's presence does not automatically mean that he'll participate in minicamp right away, as the Cowboys coaches will probably want to first find out what shape he is in.
Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli both said the right things about the return of both McClain and Leary.
"Both of those guys have been out and they're really the only two guys who haven't been a part of the OTA portion of our offseason," Garrett said. "With that understanding, we want to make sure we acclimate them slowly and deliberately back into what we're doing."
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said he was glad to have McClain back working with the team because the Cowboys expect the linebacker to be one of their best defensive players this season.
While the sheer talent McClain brings to the field will likely be the determining factor in his playing, it does indicate a certain bit of friction between Jerry Jones and the coaching staff, something Jean-Jaques Taylor rather gleefully points out.
Jones, it seems, doesn't grasp players' perception of the head coach as ultimately deciding playing time and tenure with the team. When that doesn't happen, chaos has an opportunity to reign.
McClain's ability on the field has made him the starter since he came to Dallas despite a seemingly continuous string of off-field issues. The team and many others think his talent has to trump all else, but not everyone agrees.
It all snowballs into a very real concern over if McClain will be in strong enough shape to start going into 2016, or if he'll need to re-earn the designation with a huge training camp. As it stands, the best course of action may be to not assume he's the lead Mike for 2016; and continue to give others a chance to step up and assume the role.
While the dominant talent McClain brings to the field may finally determine things, Jason Garrett's philosophy does leave some room to think McClain may have to put in a bit of effort to keep that starting job.
"We're trying to build our team," Garrett said. "One of the things we want are guys who are naturally competitive, we want guys who thrive in those kind of situations. It's our job as coaches to create some of those situations because they come up every week in the NFL. As you're building your team, you're running your plays, installing your defense, you're doing what you're doing schematically and technically and the kicking game, you also have to work these game situations. You want guys who want to compete in these situations."
Leary's case is a little different. Instead of skipping the voluntary workouts over nebulous "family issues", he was trying to use the tiny amount of leverage he has to try and get traded to a team where he could start. That strategy may have been a really bad idea from his agent, as he is now behind the power curve for minicamp.
Now that this week's mandatory minicamp is underway, Leary is back with his teammates and focused on football.
"Strictly football," he said. "I don't think about the business side. I let them handle the business side. I just think about football."
The business side has kept Leary away from Valley Ranch for the majority of the spring. The fifth-year veteran has started 35 games since 2012, but La'el Collins took over at left guard in the middle of last season and Leary was subsequently inactive for 10 of the final 11 games.
As an antidote to the negativism that goes with any player holding out, here is a refreshing take from Jason Witten, whose picture is found in the dictionary illustrating the definition of "right kind of guy".
Tight end Jason Witten has spent more than one-third of his life playing for the Dallas Cowboys, and the franchise's leading receiver can't see himself signing with any other team before his career is finished.
"Mr. Jones has allowed every opportunity and dream of ours to be reality, so there's a commitment and loyalty there that you want to bring [a championship] back here," Witten said.
More bad news came on Tuesday with the revelation that Darren McFadden broke his elbow, reportedly trying to keep from breaking his iPhone, and Benson Mayowa is getting some work done to clean up some issues with his knee. Mayowa is expected to be ready at or very near the beginning of training camp, while McFadden's recovery may take a bit longer.
This is a rather detailed look at trying to get a better evaluation of the effectiveness of quarterbacks, factoring in "where the pass was thrown, how far it was thrown, and what the down-and-distance situation was." It is a great read if you are into advanced stats. If not, the takeaway is that, since 2006, Tony Romo is the sixth-best QB in the league using this measuring stick.
This is the second year Tony Romo and his partners have tried to get a convention for fantasy football fans off the ground, and for the second year in a row, they have had to shut it down. The e-mail announcing this cites "the ongoing actions of the National Football League", which reportedly once again applied pressure to prospective participants and sponsors to keep them away from it. The league claims it is a form of gambling, but the real issue seems to be that they are appalled that someone else is making money off of pro football without giving them a substantial cut.
Finally, Father's Day is this Sunday (better get your cards and gifts if you forgot). Jerry Jones Jr., the lesser seen of Jerry Jones' sons, gave a talk about his father a while back, and the mothership ran a lengthy excerpt from it that may portray a different picture of the owner and general manager than you may imagine (hat tip to my fellow Cowboys fan Royce Brown for pointing this one out to me.)
My father is one of the toughest men I've ever known, and he has never been afraid to say I love you. Those words are so important to children. They are so important because they build the most basic confidence and the most sturdy backbones.
I've heard those words from my father a million times and it's a large part of why our relationship is so strong. Those three words mean so much, and truly, only the very strongest of men understand that. To be a strong father, you must first be able to communicate your love to your children.
Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there. I miss mine.