OTAs are underway for the Dallas Cowboys. It is the first peek we have at the 2018 version of the team - and we do mean peek. The practices are very restrained as the team is just getting started with installing the schemes, as well as trying to avoid serious injuries as have already happened to other teams. And the media only gets to see one of the practices during each of the three weeks in the OTA run. But we are ravenously hungry for any hint of things to come. And one thing jumped out. Look at this tweet about how the first team lined up on Wednesday.
Speaking of meaningless offseason lineups, these are the different combinations I counted with the first-team, offense and defense*.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) May 23, 2018
*Worth noting that DeMarcus Lawrence was at practice but didn’t participate. pic.twitter.com/7acU9Mxsuu
Notice that one name was identified for every position - except wide receiver, where a total of seven players were rotated in and out of the three spots in the 11 personnel grouping used.
WR by committee looks like a real thing already.
Early opinions about the wide receiver group in Dallas have not exactly been universally glowing.
@MatthewBerryTMR Do the Cowboys have the worst WR core in the NFL?— Adam Medford (@_A_Med) May 21, 2018
The receivers themselves are quite aware of the skepticism being voiced about them.
“It’s all talk,” Hurns said. “I know for me the last two years I didn’t have my best years [missing 11 games to injury], that’s all the motivation I need.”
So it is already turning into a bit of an underdog situation for the Cowboys’ WR group. And that is not always a bad thing.
The talk about how this is going to be a new offensive approach, including the much-debated “Dak friendly” concept, has been prevalent this year. However you look at it, the team seems to be really focusing on using the strengths of third-year quarterback Dak Prescott. This is what Stephen Jones said in an interview.
“One of Dak’s strongest points has been his progressions,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “He likes to read through a progression -- one, two, three, four. He likes to do that and get it to the right player rather than maybe have pressure to get to a player.”
Now that the two players most likely to have been the primary target, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, are both gone, the table looks set for Prescott to work those progressions. And in that case, not having an obvious number one target just makes things more flexible and dynamic.
When adding in the somewhat tenuous status of Terrance Williams, who faces both recovery from an injury and his current legal entanglement, the door is wide open for the other wideouts to make their mark. Allen Hurns is at the moment the de facto WR1 among the group based on his past accomplishments, with Cole Beasley the top slot receiver, but opportunity abounds for the others to shine. Perhaps the biggest benefit accrues to rookie Michael Gallup and at least one writer thinks he will really shine.
Gallup will be the primary beneficiary of that decision, and he’s already facing light competition to find his way on the field. A polished route runner and willing blocker, Gallup has appeal and poses a reasonable chance to be the Cowboys’ leading receiving in 2018, much less the leading rookie receiver this season in the NFL.
However, the same chance to make a move now exists for Noah Brown, Deonte Thompson, Lance Lenoir, and KD Cannon. And we still haven’t seen exactly what the team plans to do with the man of many positions, Tavon Austin. Nor should we forget rookie Cedrick Wilson, either.
Is that too much to read into one list of the players taking snaps with the first team offense? Maybe. Or, just perhaps, it is an early tipping of the hand as to how the Cowboys will deploy their passing game, running different receivers out to confound the defense and wear the opposing secondary down. The best case scenario for Dallas is that several of the players in the WR room will have really good practices and preseason games between now and September, making them all viable options when the real contests get underway in September.
We only have tidbits to chew on right now. But this one looks very tasty, indeed.