FRISCO, Texas -- With nine organized team activities down and a three-day mandatory minicamp next week being all that stands between them and the start of training camp in late July, here are some picked up pieces and thoughts about the current state of the Dallas Cowboys.
• Since the Cowboys play in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 3, they can begin training camp on July 18, but they won't. Instead, the Cowboys will have their rookies come to The Star for some pre-training camp work with the full team traveling to Oxnard, California on July 22. Jason Garrett doesn't want to have a training camp that drags on and on and on for the veterans. It's a smart move and it gives the rookies more time to learn the system and get more work before the veterans take over.
• When Brice Butler re-signed with the Cowboys early in free agency, he was staring at the possibility of being a starter. Then Terrance Williams surprisingly re-signed with the Cowboys, pushing Butler down a peg. Then the Cowboys drafted Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown. Butler might be on a roster bubble, so to speak, but if you're going by what you see, then there is no question Butler should make the team and get plenty of snaps. He has caught just about everything. He is running really well. He needs to show it consistently in training camp but he has had a good run this offseason.
• Not much was made of the signing of John Lotulelei after the Cowboys' season ended, but he might be a guy worth keeping an eye on as the summer goes on. The linebacker just seems to find himself around the ball a lot. With Jaylon Smith limited and Mark Nzeocha undergoing knee surgery earlier in the week, Lotulelei is getting some second-team work with the defense.
• Tuesday is a big day for offensive lineman Byron Bell. If he makes the weight clause in his contract, he will earn $150,000. He also has weigh-ins worth $150,000 on the first day of training camp and the first day of the regular season. Bell, who missed last season with an ankle injury, was signed in late March as a possible right tackle starter. While that still might be the case, he has spent a lot of time playing guard during the OTAs.
• The acquisition of Zac Dysert off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals earlier in the week and the workout of Ryan Nassib on Thursday, some have wondered if the Cowboys lack confidence in No. 2 quarterback Kellen Moore. That's simply not the case. What these move are about is making sure the Cowboys give a fair shot to the guys down the roster on the line, at receiver, tight end and running back. Having a more “veteran” presence, even if Dysert and Nassib, who has not been signed, don't have a lot of experience, will help more in that department over Cooper Rush or Austin Appleby, who was waived when Dysert was claimed.
• I was a little surprised the Cowboys looked at two safeties on Thursday with veteran Jeron Johnson and Duke Williams in for workouts. Robert Blanton was signed well into the offseason and he has received some first-team work defensively. Does that mean the Cowboys are not happy with Jeff Heath. Not really. Kavon Frazier is returning from foot surgery. Xavier Woods is a sixth round pick. So maybe they wanted more experience.
• As I go through some preliminary own attempts of putting together a 53-man roster, there are questions as to the reserve offensive linemen (Emmet Cleary, Joe Looney, Bell), the number of tight ends they keep (three or four) and the number of running backs. Alfred Morris is a bonafide NFL runner, but is he a fit for the Cowboys? He is third behind Ezekiel Elliott and Darren McFadden at the moment. He's not a special teamer or a third-down type. He is set to make $1.2 million this year. Given Rod Smith's ability to play special teams, fullback and tailback, plus a low cost, he could find himself in the mix with a good summer.