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Biggest Offseason Surprise? Writers Weigh In

IRVING, Texas –Workouts, OTAs and minicamp are history. After two months of offseason work, the players and coaches get a few weeks of rest and relaxation before the team boards the plane to Oxnard, Calif., in late July for training camp.

The pads won't come on until then, but in non-contact drills we've gotten a glimpse of the 2015 Dallas Cowboys.

So, as Valley Ranch slows down for the start of summer, the staff will give our impressions of the offseason and a look ahead to camp over the next few days.

Biggest Surprise

Nick Eatman: This might have been a big surprise to me, but not really to this coaching staff. But before any of these offseason practices, I would've thought Lance Dunbar would be fighting for a roster spot. That doesn't seem to be the case. Dunbar probably won't be the starting running back, but his role as the No. 2 back, playing on third downs and even used as a slot receiver at times doesn't appear to change. Just listen to some of the things Jason Garrett says in his press conferences and it's easy to see that Dunbar will undoubtedly have a big role in this offense. That's a surprise to me because as he enters his fourth season with the team, I just don't exactly see why the Cowboys put so much stock in his game. He's making $1.5 million this year and the production doesn't just jump off the page. But, he's a versatile back who can be dynamic in the open field. He's just got to be consistent and healthy enough to make a difference. I thought Darren McFadden is a bigger, more accomplished version of Dunbar who would unseat him and his role. That's not happening. McFadden can make a difference on this team but it doesn't appear to be at Dunbar's expense.

Rob Phillips:The Cowboys expected a healthier Tony Romo this offseason, but it was a pleasant surprise he really didn't take or appear to need any breaks in the middle of nine OTAs and three minicamp days. Physically able to participate in the entire offseason program after basically watching the last two years due to his back, Romo has gotten to a point where he's actually regaining power through his workouts. Previously he could only maintain strength or strengthen areas around his back. That's a credit to him and the athletic training staff. His only rest day of sorts was the final minicamp practice Thursday, and I'd say he earned it. He looked relaxed and decisive in practice, and his rhythm with Terrance Williams was evident. As good as he played last year, the restricted preseason workload clearly affected his timing in Week One. Had the Cowboys won the opener, they might've had homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. We'll see if he has more of a pitch count during training camp, but seeing your franchise quarterback get healthy reps in the spring and summer is a good sign for the regular season.[embeddedad0]

David Helman:No offense meant to Darrion Weems, but I'm surprised at just how much he impressed me through these offseason practices. When OTAs started, his name was kind of one that you glanced over on the roster – especially considering the Cowboys brought in La'el Collins and Chaz Green, both of whom play his position. Fast forward a month, and I feel pretty confident that Weems has a shot to be this team's swing tackle. He's got an automatic leg up on Green, who just had surgery on a hip injury, and he's helped by the fact that Collins looks likely to stay at guard when training camp begins. With Doug Free recovering from his ankle injury, Weems took the vast majority of the first-team reps at right tackle, and he looked good doing so. Who knows what the future holds for the two rookies, but Weems is definitely making his case for playing time in 2015.

Bryan Broaddus: My biggest surprise was that I felt like we didn't see the real Darren McFadden until the final three practices before the break. Once these practices started I expected him to be in shape and ready to roll but it just didn't work out that way. He got nicked and Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar took advantage of the situation. I believe that these coaches would like to see McFadden win this job but he is going to have to find a way to stay on the field and compete for it. Of all the backs on this roster he by far is the most talented and capable of delivering the same type of performance that DeMarco Murray was able to accomplish, but these coaches are not just going to hand him this job. He is going to have to earn it, and how he starts in Oxnard will determine that.   

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