This week the Cowboys held their voluntary (but expected to attend) team workouts. Based on observations I have read from twitter and various sites, a recap of players that stood out for their good play and not so good play too. Analyst Bryan Broaddus has provided excellent coverage of OTAs on the Cowboy’s site.
Injuries: Last year a big part of the Cowboys struggles were related to injured players and they have players sitting out of OTAs already.
Romo– The big story this week is that Romo had a cyst removed from his back which by the way, he suddenly discovered right after signing his phat contract. Just saying. He is expected to return in about 3 weeks. While it’s not necessarily critical Romo be active in OTAs, with rookies Escobar and Williams learning the offense, they would sure benefit from it.
Murray– DeMarco Murray who has already establish a reputation for being fragile, sat out of workouts with a “tweaked” hamstring. No word on how it occurred since up to now, there have been no practices. I do believe Murray could tweak a ham playing on the wii. He is expected to participate next week.
Joseph Randle– The Cowboys rookie RB who was brought in to replace the often injured Felix Jones, is well….injured. Randle had surgery on the thumb that he injured playing at OK St. last season. He is able to participate in some activities but certainly not catching passes out of the back field which he will be expected to do in the Cowboys offense.
OK enough on the stationary bike squad, on to the guys on the field.
Barry Church– Church was off to a great start last year when his season was ended with a ruptured right Achilles tendon injury. It was really good to hear that he was out on the field this week and ready to get his starting safety position back. Church was missed last year and will be needed this season.
Witten– Jason Witten had to play through a serious injury last season but by all accounts, he is looking good in OTAs. Witten appears ready to have another big season. That’s good to hear.
Spencer- Anthony Spencer had his best season last year and Dallas brought him back to play DE in their new 4-3 defense. So far Spencer has looked very good at the position he hasn’t played since Purdue. His ability to play DE effectively will be a key to the 4-3 and so far it’s going well.
LBs Bruce/Lee- Both Bruce Carter and Sean Lee are coming off injuries last season which really hurt the Cowboys defense. This week they looked great running around to the ball. And both look ready to thrive in the 4-3 defense too. A healthy Carter and Lee will make the defense much better this season.
WR Dewayne Harris– Last season Harris stepped up and became the Cowboys third WR and with Ogletree departed, it appears Harris is picking up where he left off last season. This week his route running looks solid and each year he seems to have improved his game. Could be a big year for Harris.
Guard Ron Leary-While he was on the practice squad last year, hopes are that Leary can step up and man one of the guard spots this year. Reports from OTAs have been mixed. At the rookie mini camp he stood out as better than last year however this week Broaddus commented he looks “a year away”. I think Leary will be given every opportunity to improve one of the weakest areas of the team but he needs to get going soon.
CB Morris Claiborne– The Cowboys top pick last year showed up in OTAs with an additional 5 pounds or so. They are looking for him to be more physical but so far in OTAs, I get the impression he still has a lot of developing to do. The Cowboys need a good year from Claiborne in the 4-3 defense.
Rookies: So how are the rookies looking in OTAs and how does it appear they will contribute at this early time?
Center Travis Frederick: This week the Cowboys number one draft pick is finding out the NFL game is fast and unfortunately he is not. It has been challenging for him to get to the next level and block LBs like Carter and Lee. No easy assignment for sure, but Frederick will need to get better at doing it. Frederick is sharing first team reps at center with Costa and it’s too early to say who will start. Frederick needs to step it up.
My take: I think Frederick will win the starting center spot but if Costa does hold on to it, then look for them to try Frederick at guard. Frederick does bring intelligence to the center position which will serve the team well in recognizing defenses and making the calls.
TE Gavin Escobar: The Cowboys second pick has impressed with his ability to catch. It has been noted that he doesn’t bring the speed that Hanna does to the position and Escobar has a long way to go to become an effective blocker.
Witten and Hanna will be the starting TEs when they have two in the formation. However Jason has been putting Escobar in a “Big” 12 formation (1 RB and 2 TEs) along with Witten.
My take: I think Escobar could be featured in the redzone as a tall target at 6’6″. He will certainly be difficult to defend in a jump ball situation as a former basketball player, and he does catch the ball well. While not a starter, I believe they find a way to get him involved in the offense.
Safety JJ Wilcox– The third round pick has had his moments in OTAs including picking off a pass. Observers often comment about his linebacker like size combined with good speed too. But the reality is, Wilcox has just one year of playing safety and he will need time to develop.
My take: Secondary coach Jerome Henderson indicated that Wilcox has a long way to go to see action. Unless injuries force Wilcox into action early, I get the impression they plan to bring him along slowly as far as safety goes. He can contribute on special teams right away.
WR Terrance Williams– Williams had a tough rookie mini camp with missed routes and dropped passes. In a nut shell, he has looked like a rookie and that continued into OTAs as well.
My take: I believe Williams will be fine and develop into a good WR but for now, Harris has shined as the third WR and it looks like it will be later when Williams gets his chance. For now Williams will develop and provide depth.
CB B.W. Webb– The Cowboys 4th round pick out of William & Mary was praised for his play in the rookie mini camp. He certainly looked smooth out there in the secondary. In OTAs he has had mixed reviews as he still shows potential but it’s clear he needs development too.
My take: Webb appears to be the 4th CB and he excels in zone defenses but will need work in man coverage. That actually was my assessment in my post draft analysis and my opinion remains the same. I look for Webb to contribute on special teams and in the secondary some. Thoughts of him replacing Scandrick should be kept in check for now.
LB DeVonte Holloman– The Cowboys last pick is growing on Broaddus. Broaddus has pointed out that his cover skills are better than expected and he is actually staying on the field during passing situations.
My take: It appears that Holloman will provide depth at LB to start the season but I expect him to be featured more during the season in pass cover packages. When tackling begins, Holloman will shine even more. In my view, the Cowboys have a better defender in Holloman than they realize.
Next week the Cowboys have another 3 days of OTAs.