IRVING, Texas – On paper, the Cowboys' front office has accomplished several offseason goals.
The team feels it has upgraded defensively with a combination of returning veterans (Sean Lee) and new talent (first-round defensive back Byron Jones and several new pass rushers, including 2013 Pro Bowler Greg Hardy and 2015 second-rounder Randy Gregory). On offense, La'el Collins presents perhaps the most gifted rookie free agent signing in NFL history.
What's the biggest positive of all for Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones heading into training camp?
Quarterback Tony Romo's full offseason participation – not just an indication that his surgically-repaired back is healthy, but the positive ripple effect he's had on the entire offense.
"I don't think there's been a bigger one," Jones said during minicamp, "but I'm pleased that he's able to (work) with these receivers. I'm really glad that they're getting to benefit from him throwing the ball to them.
"We've been really able to evaluate a lot of these guys, with the loss of (Dwayne) Harris (to the Giants), that are going to have to be in here and get some more reps – (Devin) Street in particular, also (Terrance) Williams and certainly some of these college free agents. I think that's been the biggest plus of all, is to be able to look at those receivers in that light."
Street, the Cowboys' fifth-round pick a year ago, got "very minimal" offseason work with Romo as a rookie while Romo was still working his way back from surgery.
"We didn't really get any reps together. It's been definitely beneficial (this year)," said Street, who has taken first-team reps while Dez Bryant missed workouts due to his unresolved contract situation. "I'm learning what he likes, what he sees and me being accountable to him, him having that confidence in me to go out there and make plays for him and this offense and this team."
Romo looked sharp in the OTAs and minicamp, and although his reps in training camp could be monitored as a precaution, his offseason work is an excellent sign considering he finished third in the league MVP voting last year despite some physical limitations due to his back.
How much better can he be at 100 percent?
"I'll take the way he's been playing," Jones said. "I will take it and call it a day right now, if you'll give me the whole year like that. I wouldn't dare have higher expectation, other than I'd like to (have) held the fumble, not fumble and beat Green Bay, or caught the pass (to Bryant in the playoffs). Other than that, we might have been sitting here talking about a dream season for Tony."