The Dallas Cowboys have begun organized team activities, which gives coaches and fans alike the first real taste of the 2013 team.
Dallas is coming off two straight seasons when it lost the final game of the year and consequently missed the playoffs. The Cowboys haven't made a postseason berth since 2009, which means more than a few players must excel to end that drought this season.
Here are the latest players making waves (good and bad) in OTAs so far and what their recent performances mean going forward.
Archer said in his OTA observation article that Orton "wasn't as sharp as normal," pointing to a late pass to Jason Witten as evidence.
While the Cowboys coaching staff probably would like to see a more complete OTA session from Orton, it's nothing too much to worry about.
There's little reason to believe that Orton will not bounce back and have a crisp outing throwing the ball soon enough.
According to Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com, Lance Dunbar has been impressive in the early days of OTAs.
Broaddus noted that Dunbar spun around Sean Lee in receiving drills and has been quick during the team periods of the workouts.
This is good news for Dunbar considering there is only one likely spot open on the running back roster. Though, Dallas might choose to keep both Dunbar and Phillip Tanner if it decides to cut fullback Lawrence Vickers.
Tanner has also been showing some skill in the receiving drills according to Broaddus. That's good news for the Dallas coaches, but it makes it harder for Dunbar to stand out. His fate with the team depends on his work on the field and how the coaching staff shapes the roster.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne recently talked with Carlos Mendez of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The second-year player explained that he feels much better now than he did at the end of last season, saying:
I feel like I’ve had a tremendous offseason with getting in the weight room and trying to get stronger. Actually, I put on a couple of pounds. Last year, I was at 187. Now I’m at 193. So I’m just trying to learn how to move with that weight and just get comfortable.
Claiborne is a big part of the Cowboys' defensive plans for the foreseeable future. Due to this fact, it's encouraging to see him take initiative to improve his game. A stronger Claiborne means that he could match up better with stronger wide receivers like Calvin Johnson.
It is worth noting that the corner mentioned that he's learning to get comfortable at his current weight. Claiborne has plenty of time between now and September to do just that, but his transition is worth watching for now.
Matt Johnson is presumably going to start at safety for Dallas to start the year despite missing almost all last season due to hamstring injuries. In a recent interview with Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News, Johnson explains what might've led to the injuries.
Johnson believes the squatting of so much weight could be the reason behind his 2012 hamstring woes. He has since changed his lifting approach, telling George:
We’ve done more hamstring work instead of putting on 400 pounds and squatting. When I was in college, I did that some. When you get to the pros, and playing at safety, I don’t need to squat 500 pounds. We did more position specific and more dynamic work.
The Cowboys are expecting big things from Johnson after passing on Eric Reid and Matt Elam in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. The team also cut ties with Brodney Pool before the regular season last year due to Johnson's offseason performance.
Johnson needs to show that same offseason promise he did in 2012, but this year he needs to remain off the injury report. The fact that the safety looked into how to lessen his chances at re-injuring his hamstring is certainly what Dallas wants to see.
Tony Romo might not be able to throw on his helmet and sling the football around right now but he's making his presence felt.
ESPN Dallas' Todd Archer noted that Romo was very present during Day 1 of OTAs on May 21, saying he was "coach-like." Archer saw Romo giving pointers to the younger quarterbacks as well as several offensive skill position players.
His leadership cannot be felt in the same way as if he were out doing drills with the team, but Romo is doing everything else he can. Dallas owner Jerry Jones has made it known he wants his quarterback to be the unquestioned leader of this squad.
Jones has to be happy with Romo's approach to OTAs so far. No. 9 is doing his best to live up to his team owner's high expectations of him going into the 2013 season.