The Dallas Cowboys are starting their last organized team practices until training camp on Tuesday. This is a time where the staff wants to install the playbook and work on team- and position-specific techniques.
A great deal of the plays and schemes that fans will see during the season are developed here and in training camp.
The big story coming into this mandatory minicamp was whether Kyle Orton would show up or not.
Kyle Orton officially a no show for minicamp as expected. Will be fined $70,000 this week. Now d day moves to t camp. Cowboys will not cut— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) June 17, 2014
The absence of Orton gives Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie even more time with the Cowboys' offense, which is crucial. The longer that Orton decides not to show, the closer he is to losing his backup quarterback job.
Orton is going to have to decide to either retire or swallow his pride and remain a Cowboy because it doesn't appear the Cowboys will cut him.
It appears the Cowboys' training staff is doing whatever they can to help prevent the same rash of injuries that crippled them last year:
Cowboys have seemingly gone all in with hamstring prevention. Majority of skill position players wearing long tights in minicamp heat— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) June 17, 2014
Cowboys outfitted all their O & D linemen in custom made knee braces. They'll practice in em. May wear em in games. Preventative measure.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) June 17, 2014
It seems logical that the Cowboys would do whatever it takes to prevent injuries, and if these knee braces and tights can help, even a little bit, then it is worth it.
Another interesting development from minicamp is Scott Linehan's plan to play Dez Bryant in the slot more often.
This type of move would create plenty of mismatches for the Cowboys' offense. The best shot a defense has to stop Bryant is to jam him at the line of scrimmage and disrupt his timing on the route. However, if Bryant lines up in the slot it will make it much more difficult to get a good jam him. Anything that can get Bryant more free releases is a bonus for the offense.
It looks as though Romo's rehab is going well since he participated in individual drills.
Romo back doing individuals. Bernadeau is getting center snaps.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) June 17, 2014
However, as much as he may have tried to get some snaps in, he had to sit out the team portion of practice.
Romo and Hanie switched jerseys during full team today so Romo could sneak a rep or two. Garrett sniffed it out though.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) June 17, 2014
Romo trying to sneak his way into the team portion of practice further proved how passionate and driven he is. He simply wants to compete and help the team.
One of the biggest questions entering this minicamp was who would make up the starting defensive line.
Cowboys first-team defensive line today: DeMarcus Lawrence, Terrell McClain, Nick Hayden and Tyrone Crawford.— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) June 17, 2014
Three out of the four players that are on the first-team defensive line did not play a snap for the Cowboys in 2013, and that number may drop to zero once training camp rolls around. Henry Melton will likely start at the 3-technique position once he is cleared to practice while Terrell McClain moves over to the 1-technique.
In any case, the defensive line will look very different in 2014.
One of the training camp position battles will be at left guard. Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary will compete against each other for the starting job.
Ronald Leary getting 1-team reps at LG.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) June 17, 2014
At the moment, it seems as though Leary is ahead since he opened with the first team today. One thing that may be a hinderance to Bernadeau is his versatility. He can play center or either guard position and may be most valuable as the swing guard and backup center.
Two players that many have high hopes for on offense appeared to have a good day:
Gavin Escobar and Lance Dunbar got some good work in with the 1st team offense today. They've got big plans for these 2 guys.— Jordan Ross (@JordanRoss08) June 17, 2014
Dunbar has the potential to have a huge impact in Linehan's offense—much the same way that Reggie Bush did while Linehan was with Lions. Also, Escobar should grow into a bigger role within the offense. The Cowboys need to find a way to utilize Escobar's size and catch radius better than they did last year.
One of the rookies was turning heads during the first day of minicamp:
I will say this about Terrance Mitchell and I hope I don't jinx him but he is working really well so far. Looks quick. In shape.— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) June 17, 2014
Terrance Mitchell will have the opportunity to take B.W. Webb's spot in the Cowboys' secondary if he continues to play well.
If the Cowboys can find adequate fourth and fifth cornerbacks then they won't have to cringe every time they go in the dime package or any other coverage scheme that requires more than three corners—like they did with Webb last year.
Overall, fans have to be happy with the way the first day of minicamp went. It appeared as though things were relatively injury free, and there didn't seem to be any meaningful players that were making constant mistakes—which is a step in the right direction.