IRVING, Texas -- Football returns today with the beginning of the Dallas Cowboys' organized team activities, so there are plenty of things to wonder about.
We'll be wondering about five.
Away we go:
Greg Hardy played in one game last year. He is currently scheduled to miss the first 10 this year. I wonder if the Cowboys make sure they get him more work in the preseason games than a normal veteran. Under coach Jason Garrett the veterans generally play a series in the first game, into the second quarter in the second game and into the third quarter in the third game before sitting out the fourth game. Because of Hardy's long absence in 2014 and potential long absence in 2015, it would be wise to get Hardy as much work as possible. In reality Hardy's 10-game suspension could be an 11-game suspension since his first game back would be on a short week against the Carolina Panthers on Thanksgiving. Would he be able to sit out 10 games and play right away with just two practices? Last year Orlando Scandrick was scheduled to be suspended the first four games but did not see more preseason action. Of course, he didn't miss 15 games in 2013 either.
This is a huge offseason for Dustin Vaughan. The second-year quarterback will have a chance to show he can be a backup quarterback for the future. The bad news for Vaughan is that he will not receive a ton of work with Tony Romo more involved in the OTAs and minicamp after missing the last two springs with back surgeries. I wonder if the coaches try to press the action with Vaughan in the preseason games. Part of what intrigued the Cowboys so much about Romo was his work in the preseason. In 2006 he played a full game against the Seahawks and showed the coaches he would be worthy. I'm not saying Vaughan will get that much work, but if they want to see what they really have in him, then they must get him some work against some regulars in the preseason.
Last week the Cowboys worked out running backs Ben Tate, Felix Jones and Daniel Thomas and it sent many people into wondering why the Cowboys didn't work out Ray Rice or Chris Johnson. I've said this before: Rice and Johnson are not the same players they were earlier in their careers. But I wonder why more people weren't paying attention to the workouts of A.J. Jenkins and Kris Durham. In all likelihood the Cowboys won't see Dez Bryant until training camp. While his potential absence would allow more work for Terrance Williams and Devin Street, it also shows how thin the Cowboys are behind Bryant and Williams at receiver. The Cowboys signed Jenkins Tuesday morning over Durham, who had ties to offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, so it’s clear they were thinking of upgrading their depth at receiver for a little bit.
I wonder which undrafted rookie free agent will get noticed over the next three weeks with the OTAs and minicamp. Cole Beasley was that guy a few years ago. Jeff Heath was that guy in 2013. Tyler Patmon was that guy last year. La'el Collins is too obvious of a pick. He needs to be taken out of the equation since he was supposed to be a first-round pick. It's more difficult for offensive and defensive linemen to get noticed because the practices are not in pads. A lot of attention was paid to the receivers George Farmer, Lucky Whitehead and Antwan Goodley heading into the rookie minicamp, but Nick Harwell opened some eyes too. So did cornerback Jason Wilson. He showed quickness and awareness in the slot in the rookie camp. Every year the Cowboys find an undrafted free agent or two and their story always starts with solid showings in the OTAs.
Dan Bailey wasn't upset at the change in the point-after attempt this year but he does think it's strange. I'm with him. I can't recall a fan ever saying, “I hate the extra point.” To some fans it allows them a quick bathroom break. Anyway, I do wonder if the new rule could present more player safety issues. Most of the times the players police themselves in an extra point, knowing it's a near-automatic make and the defensive players peel off. Now with a 33-yard field goal attempt, there could be more risk of injuries with defensive players going for the block. And with a block there could be more blindside blocks as well. If I'm a coach, I'd always think twice about having a regular on the protection unit, like a Jason Witten. But I'd certainly think twice about it now.