Dallas Cowboys OTAs: Latest Player Reports and Analysis
The Dallas Cowboys have their 2014 Organized Team Activities (OTAs) at various dates through May and June, with the first beginning on Tuesday. As the Cowboys head into OTAs, there are plenty of questions surrounding the team.
Will quarterback Tony Romo fully recover from his back surgery?
What’s the status of defensive end Anthony Spencer?
How will this year’s rookie class be utilized?
The answers to those questions are going to go a long way in determining where the Cowboys are headed in 2014. Let’s take a look at some of the latest player reports out of Dallas before OTAs kick off.
Rookie Zack Martin Will Start OTAs at Right Guard
First-round draft pick Zack Martin is going to start OTAs at right guard, according to Cherean Williams of the Star Telegram. Said Martin:
It’s good just kind of learning how to play on the right side again and playing inside rather than tackle. It’s been going great. Coach [Bill] Callahan and Coach [Frank] Pollack have been great teaching me. It’s been a fun first two weeks.
Part of Martin’s future is tied to right tackle Doug Free. If Free struggles this year, Martin could kick outside in a pinch. That’s probably part of the reason Dallas drafted Martin—as an insurance policy on Free.
Nonetheless, ESPN Dallas’s Todd Archer believes the Cowboys could actually give Free an extension. I disagree completely, but either way, it looks like Martin is going to start his Dallas career as an interior lineman.
QB Tony Romo Will Get Work at OTAs
Last week, the Cowboys were playing it by ear with Romo’s status for OTAs. It looks like his week of workouts went well because he’s going to get at least a little work, according to Mickey Spagnola of DallasCowboys.com.
Dallas is going to be cautious with its quarterback, though. Head coach Jason Garrett told the Star Telegram:
Obviously, we’d love to get him out there for everything, but we’re going to be smart, too. We recognize it’s the third week of May, and what we’re trying to do is get him ready to play in the regular season. So I think you want to be aggressive with it, but you also want to be smart with it.
The best thing the Cowboys can do for Romo is to give him rest; he’ll have plenty of time to learn Scott Linehan’s offense throughout the summer.
Ryan Williams Will Compete to Be the Backup Running Back
The Cowboys signed 2011 second-round pick Ryan Williams to compete with Joseph Randle, but it looks like he’s going to get a chance to earn No. 2 running back duties. The Star Telegram is reporting Williams will compete for a backup spot. Said Garrett:
We just think he’s a good football player. He was a guy we regarded very highly coming out in the draft. He was one of the best backs in the draft that year, and somebody we thought a lot of. We did our due diligence, and we feel like bringing in a guy like that in to compete at that running back spot is good for our team.
In all likelihood, current backup Lance Dunbar will retain the majority of the passing game workload, with Williams filling in as the backup on running downs. Let’s see how the trio of backups performs during OTAs.
DE Anthony Spencer Might Begin the Year on PUP
Rainer Sabin of the Dallas Morning News reported that defensive end Anthony Spencer could begin the 2014 season on the Physically Unable to Perform list:
As of now, it’s not even clear whether he will be back on the field by Week 1. Spencer is not willing to announce a definitive date for his return, saying it’s merely a "possibility” he will make his debut at practice during the late stages of training camp. The reality is that Spencer could be placed on the physically unable to perform list before the Cowboys play their first game.
Vice President Stephen Jones said the team was prepared for this:
We’re eyes wide open on this. I won’t be totally surprised if he starts the season on PUP. Anthony thinks he might be back. I hope he does. We came into this knowing that he could be a PUP guy.
The fact that this is already a serious consideration suggests that Spencer really isn’t ready to get back on the field any time soon. It’s looking more and more like Demarcus Lawrence and George Selvie are going to open the year as the starting defensive end duo.
Tyrone Crawford Is Starting OTAs as the Backup 3-Technique Defensive Tackle
As of right now, the Cowboys like defensive tackle/defensive end as a 3-technique behind Henry Melton, according to Star Telegram. Said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli:
I just want to get him in a position where he can really showcase what he can do. At that [three-technique] position, either you showcase or you don’t. If he can’t do that, then yeah, he’s a good left end, too. He’s solid, really good at left end. But you always have to have at least two of those guys [at the three-technique]. You have to. It’s a hard position to play. If you’ve got a guy who can come in and rotate with a guy in there, boy, it’s tough, and in third downs, if you find a nickel inside rusher, I think he’s got a lot of that. I’m going to really challenge him, and we’ll see how it goes.
I think the Cowboys are right to use Crawford as a defensive tackle, but not to keep him as a backup. You can call him whatever you want—3-technique, 1-technique, whatever—but just get the best guys on the field. Why not play Crawford right alongside Melton and dare teams to run?
My guess is that, if Crawford blows up in camp like a lot of people expect, he’s going to force Marinelli’s hand to get him on the field. At the very least, he should be in there next to Melton as a nickel rusher in passing situations.