Cowboys OTA notes: Lance Dunbar steals show

IRVING, Texas -- On Wednesday the Cowboys had their second of three organized team activities open to the media, so let’s empty the notebook with some observations made during the session:

  • If they handed out MVP of the day trophies, then it would have gone to running back Lance Dunbar. He caught four passes from Tony Romo in the two-minute drill work to close the first-team’s work in practice and had the linebackers on skates in seven-on-seven drills. Perhaps this really is the year the Cowboys use Dunbar more.

  • The Cowboys have not used a dime defense -- six defensive backs -- very much since moving to the 4-3 scheme two years ago, but they were in it a lot on Wednesday. The Cowboys had veteran Orlando Scandrick and rookie Byron Jones working the slots with Brandon Carr and Tyler Patmon working outside with safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox covering the deep part of the field.

  • With DeMarcus Lawrence not taking all of his normal snaps, Ben Gardner saw more time with the regulars in the nickel defense at left defensive end. While he wasn’t as noticeable Wednesday as he was in the first open OTA, he has a fan in Rod Marinelli.

  • In the special-teams portion of practice, the focus was on punt return. So who is taking over for Dwayne Harris? Cole Beasley, Lucky Whitehead, Wilcox and Nick Harwell took turns returning punts on Wednesday.

  • Reggie Dunn will have a tough time cracking the top five receivers this summer but he did a nice job of angling inside on a red-zone route to give Brandon Weeden a chance to put the pass to the far pylon. With Robert Steeples unable to get on top of Dunn, the receiver was able to reach out and make a nice grab for a touchdown. There was a lot of savvy to Dunn’s move.

  • One of the knocks on Terrance Williams has been that he has mostly been a body catcher. That came back to bite him on an end-zone throw to Tony Romo. Instead of using his hands to pluck the ball and score a touchdown, he let it get to his body and it fell to the ground.

  • The catch of the day belonged to tight end James Hanna. In seven-on-seven red-zone drills, Hanna outjumped Steeples and withstood some pressure from Danny McCray to come down with the acrobatic catch while falling to the ground.

  • In the matchup of the No. 1 offense and defense in the two-minute drill, the defense won when Romo was unable to connect with Antwan Goodley down the sideline while covered by Patmon. In a “normal” situation, Romo wouldn’t have been throwing to Goodley and I doubt he would have taken such a big chance on fourth down when he needed less than 5 yards for a first down. Earlier in the drive, Romo connected on a fourth-down throw to Devin Street.

  • Mental mistakes will kill a team. Working with the first team, left guard La’el Collins had a false start on a Romo hard count that saw the rookie get replaced by Ronald Leary for a snap. Last week Collins worked exclusively at right tackle. This week he was at left guard.

  • Sometimes it’s good these players aren’t in pads. Scandrick would have lit up Dunbar on a checkdown in the two-minute drill. Instead Scandrick pulled off and the offense had to go with just a short gain.