Notes from the first two days of camp:
Anthony Spencer: As expected, DE Spencer went on the PUP list and probably will not be playing anytime real soon.
Ronald Leary: Went on the PUP list after straining a hamstring but is expected to return next week. Leary hurt his hamstring back in Dallas before camp actually. It occurred after head coach Jason Garrett wisely cancelled the condition test because he felt it was not worth the risk. But players decided they needed it and conducted it anyway. It brings up the question, “who is in charge of this team?” We have seen these kind of things before under Garrett’s leadership or lack of it. Last year when trailing by 32 points to the Saints, Garrett basically admitted that he should have removed Romo from the game but Romo insisted on staying in the game.
Brandon Carr: The high dollar corner has been a no show at camp so far as he attends to an unspecified personal matter. No reason for concern here yet, but stay tuned.
Rolando McClain: The Cowboys recent signee and possible replacement for Sean Lee at middle LB, was in court Friday for some misdemeanor charges. He was sentenced to 18 days in jail but that is being appealed. McClain participated in practices Saturday. Keep expectations low here but he may help them at some point during the season. I’m not yet convinced this guy is serious about turning over a new leaf in his life. We will see.
Bruce Carter has looked much more comfortable and confident at LB in camp than he did last year by all accounts. He needs to step it up this season and perhaps he will.
The Cowboys have used several different combinations at LB early in camp. I look for that to continue as they try to figure out the best three to put on the field.
Without Hatcher or Ware, the defensive line is younger and less experienced than before. Coach Marinelli begins the process of molding them into a unit. Some how it needs to play better this season.
So far Henry Melton has looked like he is ready to play after a knee injury last season. His movement in drills has been very good. That’s a good thing to see early in camp. Melton will play a critical role as the three technique on the defensive line.
Indications are All Pro tackle Tyron Smith has had no trouble blocking the 2nd round pick Demarcus Lawrence or Jeremy Mincey. Which brings up the question, is Smith that good or is this defensive line just not that good?
On one hand I think the Cowboys offensive line will be one of the better ones in the NFL this season on the other hand, I’m not convinced their defensive line is very good yet. A lot of work to be done on that defensive front in camp.
If there is one area that needs to show improvement other than the defensive line, it would be the secondary.
Mo Claiborne: Mo, an early pick a couple years ago, has a lot to prove and early word is he is healthy and playing tough so far in camp.
On Saturday he was mixin’ it up some with 2nd year WR Terrance Williams. Their battles were competitive and they continued after the whistles so to speak. It’s a good sign to see Claiborne getting after it this early. He personally needs a good season and the team needs it from him. Importantly, Mo seems to get it that he must deliver this season and he is practicing with a sense of urgency.
JJ Wilcox: Wilcox begins his 2nd year after a rookie season that would be best described as a “learning curve”. So far indications are he weighs less and is moving around noticeably quicker. Also seems to know where he should be in coverage which hasn’t always been the case. Wilcox is yet another guy who needs a good season. Looks like he is off to a good start and that is encouraging.
QB Tony Romo was very limited in practice Friday as he returns from back surgery. He did make throws on Saturday and word is he looked fine. Romo appears ready to go but they are bringing him along in camp at a methodical pace.
In drills, the Cowboys offensive line has been dominant for the most part. As mentioned earlier, Smith has been a human wall and the top pick rookie Zack Martin is making a successful move from tackle to guard. He has moved his feet well in drills and looks comfortable in pass protection.
The second year center Travis Frederick has been unbeatable in drills. It would appear the Cowboys offensive line will be their strength in 2014.
RB Lance Dunbar missed a large part of last season with an injury but in RB position drills, he was moving quite well. No signs that he has an injury as he navigated the rope drills smoothly and with quickness. I look for Dunbar to play a big part in the offensive scheme this season as a runner and particularly as a receiver out of the back field.
WR Dewayne Harris has been noticed in camp making catches and doing what my man Harris always does, make plays. He has even been running at times with the first offense. It would be good if they involved Harris more in the offense in 2014. A much under used talent last year IMO.
The Cowboys offensive line looks ready to go and will be a solid group in 2014.
The defensive line is young and unfamiliar with each other. A lot of work to do to get this group ready to play better this season. Good to see Melton moving well.
The defensive secondary looks improved already with Wilcox at safety and Mo getting after it at practice. They do need Carr to get back in camp right away.
The LB situation is totally up in the air at this point with many questions to be answered in the coming weeks. McClain showed up Saturday and appears ready to compete. Carter looks improved.
Romo appears right on pace in his recovery to be ready to go. Dunbar also appears ready too.