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Cowboys news: First look at OTA action

Plus contract talk and more.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
One standout was the star left tackle.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys OTAs Notebook: 2 OL subs & is D way ahead of these QBs? Mike Fisher, 247 Sports
While Wednesday's OTA session was the first one open to the media, the initial practice of the sessions took place on Tuesday, and some tidbits have emerged. Here are a couple of the most interesting.

BATTLE ROYALE: Tyron Smith says he's "coming back faster? and stronger,'' which I'm told helped set up quite a battle with new defensive end Robert Quinn. Tyron at right tackle knows all the tricks; the veteran Quinn, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, does, too. This is going to be fun all offseason long.

QBs BEHIND: To put a positive spin on this, "The defense is ahead of the offense.'' To put a more harsh spin on it: I don't think the QBs had a very good day on Tuesday. We'll see if Dak Prescott and his pals pick it up today ... and we'll excuse it, maybe, because it's possible that under first-year coordinator Kellen Moore they are learning new things on the fly.

Scout’s Notebook: J. Lewis Among Many OTA Stars - Bryan Broaddus,
And here is the gold standard for reports from Wednesday's practice. If you click to read any articles, make sure it is this one, because as always, it is chock-full of goodness.

Maybe it was the way their schedule fell, but I was a little surprised the coaching staff worked Connor Williams at left tackle while practice was open to the media. I had a feeling we wouldn’t see Williams practice at tackle until we got to training camp, but there he was in the lineup for Tyron Smith. Williams didn’t draw an easy matchup with Robert Quinn, who forced him into a holding call on the first snap of blitz period. Then later in the practice, Quinn was able to capture the edge when Williams was unable to kick far enough outside and get his hands in position to slow Quinn down. Williams did a much better job as a run blocker where he was able to get in on Quinn and move him off the ball.

It might not have been the longest pass of Dak Prescott’s, day but his tight slant throw to Michael Gallup was one of his best. Gallup did a superb job of winning off the line against Anthony Brown with a quick swim move to avoid Brown’s hands. Once clear, Prescott hit him with a low-angled dart that was right underneath a leaping Robert Quinn. Once the ball hit Gallup’s hands, it took every bit of Brown’s talent to chase him down. Pretty pass and an even better finish.

Jason Garrett expects 'evolution' in offense, via Kellen Moore - Patrik "No C" Walker, 247 Sports
We have to see it play out when the season starts, but all signs are that new OC Kellen Moore is not just a figurehead, including remarks from head coach Jason Garrett on Wednesday.

Garrett, speaking from his first press conference at team OTAs, continues to affirm his belief in Moore — adding that he expects an "evolution" in the offense for 2019. He furthers that the goal to begin the first wave of OTAs is to install Moore's new system that includes "new language", among other things, and believes "it's good to have a new voice" for quarterback Dak Prescott.

Dak’s Reps Make Contract Counteroffer
Things are still in the early stages, it looks like, but you can't say that the Dak Prescott contract situation is at a standstill.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday following the Cowboys’ second OTA practice of the offseason, Prescott confirmed that his representatives have sent a counter offer in response to an initial offer from the team’s front office.

Whether that means a deal is imminent, Prescott wasn’t sure. After all, this is his first experience in a big-time negotiation.

“I can’t really say on that – it’s one from each side,” he said. “This is my first time doing this. Ask me in a few years and I’ll be able to tell you ‘We’ve sent this one, they’ve sent this one, we’re about to get it done.’ But right now I’m learning the process to it and just letting my team handle their business.”

Dallas Cowboys: Randall Cobb told Dak Prescott to be his QB | Clarence Hill, Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram
I don't know just how true this is, but if it is at all accurate, it offers an interesting counterbalance to the things that keep coming from the guy Randall Cobb replaced.

Randall Cobb had his eye on the Cowboys before he was on their radar.

Well before Cole Beasley signed with the Buffalo Bills on March 14, leaving a hole a slot receiver, the former Packers standout had plotted to join the Cowboys.

It was at the NFL Honors in February when Cobb slid up to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and said, “Hey man, come get me.”

Jason Witten's return to Dallas Cowboys is 'like he never left' - Todd Archer, Dallas Cowboys Blog- ESPN
We all know that every year, veteran players talk about being in the best shape of their career. While that has to be taken with a large grain of salt, it is worth noting that the same kind of thing is being said about Jason Witten by, well, just about everyone.

Multiple teammates have said Witten looks to be running faster than he did when he left. One said Witten ran the fastest 20-yard split of his career recently. While calling games for ESPN, Witten kept in good shape, but he dropped some pounds that he has had to put back on to handle all that the Cowboys ask a tight end to do.

"He looks like the same guy to me," Garrett said. "He was doing different things, he was traveling the world, announcing football games, but you can tell he kept himself in shape and you can tell it's been on his mind. He really hasn't skipped a beat. Completely involved in our offseason program. ... He's moving well -- again, we're excited to have him back."

How Does DT Christian Covington Factor in Cowboys 2019 Plans? ✭ Jess Haynie, Inside the Star
This first sentence is dead on.

In what's become an almost forgotten move from this offseason, the Dallas Cowboys signed free agent Christian Covington in March to add depth at defensive tackle. After four years with Houston, Covington joins the Cowboys as they work to find consistency and increased solidity in the middle of the line. Can Christian help them do that in 2019?

Dallas gave Covington just a one-year, $1.5 million contract as 2019 free agency began. He is being asked to convert to a 4-3 DT after playing DE in the Texans' 3-4 defense.

How Can The Cowboys Force More Turnovers In 2019? ✭ Kevin Brady, Inside the Star
This addresses a real problem, and points out that there is no sure-fire solution.

The Cowboys forced only 9 interceptions in 2018, ranking 26th across the league. In fact, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was actually tied with Xavier Woods for the team lead in interceptions with just 2. When it comes to total takeaways the Cowboys' defense was a little better off, though, finishing 16th in the NFL.

Part of the "problem" seems to be their philosophy. The Cowboys have finished 26th, 24th, 27th, and 31st in interceptions dating back to 2015. They've also finished 9th, 25th, 18th, and 19th in team defense DVOA over that same stretch. Clearly there was an improvement in total defense in 2018, but neither their team defense nor ability to take the ball away has been strong since 2015.

The bigger problem, really, is a lack of luck. While this sounds like a cop-out, takeaways often do come down to just that. Of course putting yourself in the right place at the right time to benefit from a batted pass or overthrown ball matters, but those bounces finding the right hands is usually a matter of luck.

Josh Jones feels like available safety Cowboys could target in trade - Burke Downer, Cowboys Wire
The Cowboys are linked to every available player of note, it seems. But this one makes more sense than many.

Green Bay Packers safety Josh Jones is looking for a new home in 2019. According to ESPN, the third-year man is skipping the team’s organized team activities looking to force a trade out of Titletown. Anytime a safety become available, be it by trade or free agency, the Dallas Cowboys are going to sit atop the list of potential suitors.

In the media, Dallas always seems to sit atop these lists, but that sentiment seems to fit very well in this case. In this case a former second-round draft pick who is oozing untapped potential at a position of need and has a penchant for popping receivers is the target.

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