Cowboys OTA observations: Offensive changes, first-team O-line, play of the day -Jon Machota, The Athletic
Out with the old. In with the new. Here are some of the changes that the Cowboys are undergoing at OTAs. Plus, one big highlight.
One noticeable change is that there is a new veteran wide receiver working with the first-team offense. Brandin Cooks took reps with the starting group, which included CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Much like with Amari Cooper in the past, the Cowboys again have three starting wide receivers all capable of 1,000-yard seasons.
“Obviously I’m still learning, but as you know, McCarthy has been a part of a lot of explosive offenses everywhere he’s been,” Cooks said. “That’s what you feel. He wants to be explosive and dynamic with all of his players. And that’s what I’m still learning.”
A significant part of the offensive transition will be identifying what works best for the current group. Two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott is no longer on the team. Dalton Schultz, Dallas’ No. 1 tight end the past three seasons, is now with the Houston Texans. There are also several moving parts along the offensive line, which might not be completely settled for several months.
There’s a lot of work to be done between now and the season opener Sept. 10. One OTA practice doesn’t tell much of a story. Prescott believes the small details will be the difference in the group playing “faster” and “cleaner.” McCarthy’s West Coast offense is likely to limit the number of reads Prescott has on a given play.
Play of the day. Rookie RB Deuce Vaughn caught a 45-yard pass from Will Grier in 7-on-7 drills. Vaughn did an excellent job of tracking the ball and coming back to make the catch. The defensive backs weren’t going full speed or trying to intercept passes during the drill. McCarthy is being careful not to get fined for a third consecutive year for the team having too much contact during OTA practices.
Five months removed from a broken fibula, Tony Pollard was back on the field during OTAs. This is a good sign for his recovery.
After having surgery four months ago to repair his lower leg, head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Thursday that Pollard has participated in the reduced-tempo portions of the offseason’s organized team activities to this point.
Michael Gehlken, a Cowboys reporter for the Dallas Morning News, said Pollard had a planned exit about 20 minutes into action.
Pollard jogged through team drills, which is consistent with expectations at his stage in recovery from a leg fracture. OL Terence Steele (ACL) appears in excellent shape but took only mental reps.This is going to be a slow process, obviously.
Pollard averaged 5.9 yards per touch last season, leading the NFL in that category with at least 200 touches in 2022.Great news for Dallas, but with questions still lingering about whether or not Pollard will be healthy enough to be the lead back to start the year in September, we needed news, and it was good.
Ranking NFL Playoff Contenders That Need Free Agent WR DeAndre Hopkins - Gary Davenport, Bleacher Report
The Cowboys are ranked near the top of the list as far as potential suitors for the recently-released Deandre Hopkins.
The Cowboys already made a move at wide receiver this year, flipping a pair of late picks to the Houston Texans for Brandin Cooks. But that move doesn’t preclude the Cowboys from also pursuing Hopkins. A starting trio of CeeDee Lanb, Cooks and Hopkins would give Dak Prescott an embarrassment of riches in the passing game. Throw in Michael Gallup, and you have a quartet guaranteed to give defenses fits in four-wide sets.
It’s been three decades since the Cowboys made it as far as the NFC Championship Game, and if that long, dry spell doesn’t inspire urgency something else should. Lamb, edge-rusher Micah Parsons and cornerback Trevon Diggs are all nearing the end of their rookie deals. The salary cap situation in Dallas is going to get really dicey, really soon. The time for a “win now” mentality is, well, now.
And there isn’t an owner in the league who wants another championship more than Jones.
As things stand now, the Cowboys are about $10.5 million under the salary cap—the room is there if the deal is structured properly to get Hopkins on the team.
Early returns from KaVontae Turpin have been really good at OTAs. Is Turpin primed to turn up?
It didn’t take long for Turpin to become a fan favorite in Dallas after that, housing a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown in the same preseason game. While Turpin failed to score a touchdown in the regular season, he was one of the most electric return men in the NFL and was named to the Pro Bowl as a result.
Still, some felt that he could do more. After all, Turpin’s biggest contributions in the USFL came as a receiver, totaling 540 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games. But Turpin only saw the field on offense for 5% of the snaps in 2022, with two targets turning into one catch for nine yards and three carries resulting in 17 yards.
Fans aren’t the only ones who wanted more Turpin Time on offense. The man himself vowed to give the Cowboys “no choice” but to use him more on that side of the ball in 2023. And if the first round of OTA’s is anything to go off, Turpin is at least getting the opportunity to prove he belongs there.
Turpin faces an uphill battle, though. CeeDee Lamb is clearly the top dog at receiver, and Brandin Cooks is expected to step in seamlessly as the number two. Michael Gallup is also another year removed from his ACL injury and should see even more work this season. And the team still has high hopes for Jalen Tolbert, who actually saw 27 more snaps on offense than Turpin despite having a wholly disappointing rookie year.
More than that, though, is the size issue for Turpin. Standing at 5’9” and roughly 155 pounds, Turpin is naturally limited in what kind of routes he can run effectively. There aren’t many receivers at that size who last in this league, and it means Turpin would need a clearly defined role in order to make a real impact on offense.
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