FRISCO, Texas -- Last week the Dallas Cowboys concluded their nine organized team activities. This week it’s the mandatory three-day minicamp. Up next will be training camp in Oxnard, California, in July.
Before you know it, there will be real, live football to watch.
But before the pads come on next month, there remains plenty to watch at the minicamp.
Leadership has always been Dak Prescott’s top trait. Even as a rookie, he got guys to follow him. Now that he is the biggest voice on the offensive side of the ball for the Cowboys, he will be looked at for leadership even more. In the past two OTAs that were open to the media, Prescott got on tight end Rico Gathers and guard Chaz Green for mental mistakes. Gathers did not get out of bounds in a two-minute situation; Green had a false start. Prescott wasn’t afraid to voice his displeasure. In the final week of the offseason program, it is easy for players to think about their impending vacation, but Prescott will make sure the focus is on the practices at The Star.
Last week, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wasn’t sure Zack Martin or David Irving would be at the minicamp. The guess is they will, but their participation level could be limited. But what about some of the other players who have been held back during the program out of caution or conditioning? Sean Lee and DeMarcus Lawrence could do more on the field, like individual drills, during minicamp after not doing any on-field work of note during OTAs. The goal is to have them ready to go for the first training-camp practice. Adding a little bit more to their plate, while keeping them out of 11-on-11 drills, would make sense. Free-agent pickup Kony Ealy has also been working to the side as he looks to drop some pounds, according to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. He wants Ealy a little leaner, but he, too, could get into the mix more.
Through the OTAs, the tight-end rotation has been, in this order: Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Gathers, David Wells. The Cowboys are being a little democratic with the snaps at the moment, but the order of work has been clear. Jarwin has impressed and has a lot of fans inside the building. His work in the weight room has stood out to more than a few, and he has made plays during OTAs. Swaim has been steady. Schultz has been solid. Gathers remains something of an enigma. Will the coaches ever trust him to do more?
There has been a lot of talk about Byron Jones’ move to cornerback from safety, where he has started the previous two seasons, but there has not been a lot of discussion about his play. Sometimes a cornerback not being noticed can be a good thing. Jones has all the skills new passing-game coordinator Kris Richard wants in a corner: tall, long, fast. He made some plays in OTAs, but maybe more important is the fact that he has not been noticed getting beaten too often.
Leighton Vander Esch had been slowed by a minor ankle injury during the latter part of OTAs. The hope is he can do more in the minicamp. While the first-round pick didn’t take any first-team snaps during the OTAs open to the media, he has done a good job as the middle linebacker behind Jaylon Smith. Second-round pick Connor Williams has been the starter at left guard and gained some notice early on. Third-rounder Michael Gallup has made some plays for Prescott out wide. The Cowboys will need all three to play big roles in 2018, and they will have a chance to show more during the minicamp.