Dallas Cowboys Who've Turned Heads in Offseason Workouts
Whether it’s full contact or not, the Cowboys have had various players turn some heads in offseason workouts. It’s easier to grade certain positions in OTAs because some are easy to assess even without full-contact drills, while others aren’t; linemen don’t necessarily get much game-like work in during OTAs, for example, while receivers and cornerbacks can run routes and cover just like in a game. Basically, players who don’t need to continually block or tackle can more easily simulate game situations.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at some of the top players in Dallas during OTAs. Note that the source for the Cowboys’ breakout players in OTAs is DallasCowboys.com’s Bryan Broaddus, who is a former NFL scout.
1. LB Bruce Carter
Carter has reportedly been performing well thus far in offseason workouts, particularly in coverage. He’s apparently playing with more confidence and excelling in the red zone as well.
Although Carter struggled in coverage at times last year, he’s not as bad as some think. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Carter allowed 487 yards on 73 attempts—6.67 yards per attempt. That’s decent for a linebacker, and he was actually quite good for the majority of the year; after the first quarter of the season, Carter allowed only 233 yards on 39 attempts—5.97 yards per attempt.
2. RG Zack Martin
Cowboys first-round pick Zack Martin has reportedly picked up things very quickly at right guard, so much so that Bryan Broaddus wouldn’t be surprised if Martin tries “a little position flex with a rep or two [at center].”
In my view, Martin should be getting reps at another position—right tackle. The Cowboys are already in a dicey spot with Doug Free out there, and they’d be in an even worse position if he were to get injured. Jermey Parnell would likely take over if the Cowboys want to keep Martin inside, which won’t be the best scenario for quarterback Tony Romo.
3. S Jakar Hamilton
According to Bryan Broaddus, safety Jakar Hamilton “has been running with the second defense and has been turning heads with his play.” Hamilton’s reps might get scaled back once Matt Johnson returns from yet another hamstring issue, but for now, he’s playing well.
One of the reasons the Cowboys were in a position to pass on safety in the draft is because of the numbers they have at the position. In addition to Johnson and Hamilton, the ‘Boys still have Jeff Heath and J.J. Wilcox, too. None of those names are overwhelming on their own, but the probability that one of the four steps up to play adequately is pretty high.
4. DE DeMarcus Lawrence
Since the Cowboys drafted defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, all of the feedback on the second-rounder has seemingly been positive. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli told Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News:
I think we got the right one. I think he's really smooth. He's got a great feel for a reaction to movement. That's what I look for, that's something you can't test, you got to see it. He's strong in here, pad level gets down, smooth, really, really good instincts, that's our job to build on it. He's going to be a big boy, a big man. The speed, the length, the movement, I just like this guy. He's tough. He's physical. I like that about him.
The reason any positive news on Lawrence is especially meaningful is because he’s typically going up against Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith in practice. If Lawrence is holding his own there, that’s an outstanding sign.
5. DT Terrell McClain
The Cowboys signed defensive tackle Terrell McClain to a three-year, $3.05 million deal and he’s reportedly played well in Henry Melton’s absence. McClain is a one-technique player who was brought in to stop the run.
The problem is that he will give the Cowboys basically nothing against the pass; in the past three seasons, he’s racked up only 12 pressures on 381 pass-rushing snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s a 3.1 percent rate, which is really poor.
McClain will play mostly on first and second down, but the Cowboys would still be better off playing Tyrone Crawford alongside Melton as a second three-technique defensive tackle.