GRAPEVINE, Texas –What a great day out at Cowboys Golf Course on Wednesday. There were Shots flying around left and right.
Some golf shots, too, down the middle. Even saw one go right in the hole on a short par-3 here during the 29thannual Cowboys Golf Classic, with Cowboys players, coaches, personnel and sponsors scrambling around.
Can't ask for anything better with the team's rookie minicamp getting underway this weekend, what Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is calling more of a "rookie orientation" than actual football practices. And to me, that's a good thing. Get these youngins' in shape before asking them to compete on the football field without shoulder pads.
"We think it's better to pull back a little bit," Garrett says of what will take place twice a day on Friday and Saturday.
But as for our Shots, let's get going.
- Just Observing:As for the veterans, they have entered Phase II of the offseason program, actually adding a little football work to the strength and conditioning drills typically taking place this time of year. Time to get in shape. And just seeing Ezekiel Elliott out here dressed in his golf duds, sure looks like he has his weight under control, supposedly an issue last year at this time. And pointed this out a couple of weeks ago that Taco Charlton appears to have grown a larger set of shoulders. Visually confirmed that here Wednesday. Just looks stronger, which he certainly needed to become. Told me he feels like he's added muscle without putting on weight, and that he has reduced his body fat by 4 percent. That's encouraging on both fronts.
- Tight End Wanted:Obviously, with the departure of Jason Witten, the Cowboys have a "Wanted" signed posted outside the tight end room. There is a bunch of candidates, and most asked about is Rico Gathers, along with fourth-round draft choice Dalton Schultz. But don't go to sleep on Blake Jarwin, signed last year as a rookie free agent out of Oklahoma State. When the subject is broached, from Garrett, to vice president of player personnel Will McClay, to COO Stephen Jones, word is, keep an eye on this Jarwin, who spent the first six weeks as a rookie on the practice squad before the Cowboys thought enough of him to sign him to the 53-man roster to prevent Philadelphia from poaching him. Now, he only played in one game last year, just four offensive snaps and nine on special teams, and those just for depth purposes with Geoff Swaim out injured. He, too, looks bigger and stronger. "It's been a real rollercoaster since I chose Dallas as a good place to start my career," he says. And with Witten stepping away, now he has a real chance to move up on the depth chart, admitting, "The opportunity came quicker than I thought it would, and I'm excited about it."
- A Good Word:Much is being made of the suspended Randy Gregory growing closer to filing for reinstatement with the league. The Cowboys, they would welcome the defensive end back with open arms, but as Stephen Jones said, "First and foremost, we're more concerned with Randy fixing himself off the field. … By no stretch are we saying we are banking on him." But sounds as if he's getting at least one teammate to vouch for him succeeding if reinstated. Veteran defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford said he actually made a call over the past couple of weeks to those who will review Gregory's reinstatement request, saying, "I tried to speak to them and put my two cents in to the league." Can't hurt to have a well-respected veteran have your back.
- FA Downside-Upside:So a downside to free agency just might become an upside for the Cowboys, who are bringing in their former starting defensive tackle Terrell McClain for dinner Wednesday night and a visit. Remember, after a strong 2016 season for the Cowboys, McClain was signed by Washington to a four-year, $21 million free-agent contract that included a $5 million signing bonus and $10.5 million guaranteed. Well, just one year later, the Redskins thought it better to take a $3.75 million dead-money cap hit than to pay McClain his $3.25 million base salary, releasing him. The Cowboys think McClain fits better in their defensive scheme than what the Redskins were asking him to do, but as Garrett points out on matters like this, there's always this little thing about money that comes into play, saying, "There's a business side to all these decisions, for us and for him." As it stands right now, the lack of experienced depth at defensive tackle still is somewhat of an issue, and why the Cowboys thought it wise to trade away Ryan Switzer for Oakland's Jihad Ward. Think about it, when it comes to defensive tackles who actually played a reasonable amount last year, it's David Irving, Maliek Collins and Ward, with no one else on the roster actually playing more than 13 percent of the snaps.
- Uh, Chip Shots:When it comes to free safety, Cowboys seem content to work with Xavier Woods this offseason, knowing that Byron Jones, moved to corner, could always go back and that Chidobe Awuzie, figuring to be the starting left corner, does have position flex if the Cowboys have enough quality corners to move him … Or as Stephen Jones said, there always is the possibility of a trade for an experienced safety before the season begins … There seems to be this preoccupation going on with the Cowboys being able to replace Witten's leadership, which has been considerable, but their biggest worry should be replacing his 63 catches, five for touchdowns, from this past season, and oh, just two years ago, 69 catches, both second on the team in those years … Or as Zack Martin points out about quarterback Dak Prescott when it comes to this leadership thing, "He's been great since Day 1 when he got here."
Amen to that.
And how about us keeping all these Shots inbounds.