The regular season is still months away, but how the Dallas Cowboys will perform come September is being shaped right now.
With the expectations always being "Super Bowl or bust" from the Dallas faithful, the Cowboys need to become as polished as possible during organized team activities.
The less teaching coaches have to do during training camp, the better. That way the Cowboys staff can focus on fine-tuning plays and where to put players in order to put Dallas in perfect position for a playoff push.
Here are five things we've learned so far from the Cowboys' OTAs.
Running back DeMarco Murray is easing his way back into drills as he continues to rehab from his hamstring injury.
Murray isn't quite back to full speed just yet, but he seems to be happy with his current progress, telling David Helman of DallasCowboys.com:
It was good to be back out there with my teammates and competing and just not being over there on those cords – those are definitely a beast. It just felt great to get back out there but mentally, physically, I had to make sure I was ready 100 percent.
While Helman explained in his article that Murray wasn't participating in full team drills, it seems like Murray is feeling confident about his recovery.
Dallas finished with the No. 31 rushing attack in the NFL in 2012. Murray is a huge piece of the Cowboys offense taking a step forward, so any positive news about his recovery is good for the team.
Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar have been fighting it out for one of the team's last running back positions all offseason and are continuing to do so.
With DeMarco Murray having missed time and Joseph Randle still nicked up, Dunbar and Tanner have had more time on the field. On May 28, DallasCowboys.com's Bryan Broaddus wrote that he "thought it was a good start for both Tanner and Dunbar."
Neither back ran for more than 75 yards all last season, but both have shown promise during their time in Dallas to contribute.
It will be interesting to see which rusher Jason Garrett and company choose to keep and which they choose to cut ties with. If both continue to make most of their opportunities, maybe both find a way onto the final roster.
After a 1,382-yard and 12-touchdown season for Dez Bryant in 2012, the No. 1 wide receiver is continuing to impress heading into the new season.
Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan said that Bryant "is once again a man among kids in terms of his physicality and his route-running confidence. This is a different, more mature, better player than Dallas employed a year ago."
The hope around Dallas' draft room back in 2010 was that Bryant would become the team's most dominant receiver since Michael Irvin donned the No. 88 jersey. The current No. 88 seems to be doing his best to live up to that thought heading into next year.
It's obviously still very early to make any judgments for next year. That being said, if Bryant continues to impress and build on his chemistry with Tony Romo, he could be in for a Pro Bowl season.
ESPN Dallas' Todd Archer reported on May 29 that Kyle Wilber took first-team reps in OTAs with DeMarcus Ware out. In his article from the same day, Archer seemed impressed with the young defensive lineman, saying:
Wilber had a productive day. He was active and was around the ball. Remember, he was going against Tyron Smith, too. Wilber did a nice job reading a reverse to WR Terrance Williams.
Ware and Anthony Spencer will be the team's two starting defensive ends this year, but that shouldn't discourage Wilber. The Cowboys probably wouldn't mind having a third end to rotate into the lineup to spell Ware and Spencer.
Dallas didn't have a top-20 ranked defense against the run or pass last year. The team needs some known names to step up and take some unknowns step into the limelight. There's no telling if Wilber can step into the limelight this year yet, but he made the most of his first big chance.
David Arkin might have been selected in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft by Dallas, but he has yet to play in a regular-season game. Right now, he's fighting for a final spot on the 2013 roster.
Arkin told Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News, "I just keep my head down and keep working. I’m just going to give it 100 percent effort and however it shakes out it shakes out." The lineman was listed as a backup right guard to Mackenzy Bernadeau last year.
Given that the guard situation with Bernadeau and Nate Livings wasn't overly impressive last year, perhaps Arkin can maneuver into a backup position again this year. Quarterback Tony Romo was sacked 36 times last year. That's the same amount of times he was sacked in 2011.
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan told Sabin he's hopeful for Arkin, saying:
He’s put two hard years in of good work and there’s been a lot of progress made in the weight room. His numbers, what he’s done, how he’s tested this off-season, those numbers have been elevated.
Considering Arkin was a fourth-round pick just a few seasons ago, the Cowboys have to be pulling for him to come into his own to return their investment.