FRISCO, Texas – Can't wait for next week.
OTAs, formally known as Organized Team Activities, three-day-a-week workouts for three weeks, begin.
Specifically, Wednesday, the first day we get to watch some semblance of full-roster workouts, actual football, if that can be possible without full pads. But at least it's non-contact competition providing some idea of what players, especially the new ones, are capable of doing and just where they are lining up.
Unlike those rookie minicamp workouts this past weekend, where technique drills and conditioning were the priority of the day. This, basically, will be foot without the ball part, or as head coach Jason Garrett termed the three days, "rookie orientation."
- Taco Fixin's: Not only has Cowboys defensive end Taco Charlton undergone shoulder surgery this offseason, but now he's had an ankle scoped to remove a couple of loose bodies that have been creating discomfort. Since Taco is unlikely to participate in any of the offseason workouts while recovering from that surgery, with the goal to be ready for the start of training camp, the Cowboys figured might as well clean up the ankle while he already was going to be held out of the OTAs and the mandatory minicamp. Last thing Taco needs, with the amount of anticipated competition at the defensive end position this year, is to get off to a slow start once training camp begins.
- Taking A Knee: The Cowboys knew seventh-round draft choice Mike Weber had experienced some knee issues while at Ohio State, so when he complained of a sore knee after Saturday's morning practice they decided to pull back on his on-field activity to give him a chance to rest. Hope is this will allow Weber to be ready for next week's start to OTAs. Seventh-rounder can't afford to miss many, if any, workouts.
- Just A Reminder: Keep running into folks worried about the Cowboys offense. Well, here is a little perspective: As I pointed out last week, the Cowboys in the first half of the season scored no more than 20 points in six of eight games, going 3-5 and averaging just 19.25 per game. In the final eight games, while going 7-1, the Cowboys scored at least 22 points six times and at least 27 in four of those six for an average of 23.1. And remember, too, if not for that clunker in Indianapolis, getting shut out 23-0, the Cowboys averaged 26.43 points in those other seven games, and then 23 in the two playoff games. What changed? Went from the eras of B.C. to A.C. – before Cooper to After Cooper.
- Rookie Observations: For a 308-pounder, Trysten Hill moved through the blocking dummy drills with speed and intensity … Third-round pick Connor McGovern sure looks the part and moves well. Sort of a smaller Zack Martin starter kick … Fourth-round pick Tony Pollard is bigger than expected at 6-0, 209. Does not remind at all of Lance Dunbar, and as Garrett said, "Thought he was a complete back" … Cornerback Mike Jackson, typical of players from "The U," seemed quite confident and should be highly competitive for that fifth cornerback spot … Fellow University of Miami teammate Joe Jackson has some size to him, to the point defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli thinks the defensive end might have some inside pass-rush capabilities … Sure liked the way sixth-rounder Donovan Wilson moved out there. At times you thought the safety was a cornerback, and actually in some of the defensive skeleton drills was lining up in the slot … Weber will give Darius Jackson and Jordan Chunn a run for their money for the third running back position … And this might seem weird for a seventh-round pick, but defensive end Jalen Jelks moves awfully well, and in drills displayed the unique bend, as if coming off the edge, that Marinelli covets in his defensive ends.
- Like Father Like …: Son, Larry Allen Jr., not from a physical stature at 6-3, 307, mind you, but from his eyes and facial expressions. There were times while talking with the soon-to-be Harvard grad (biomedical engineering, May 30) the undrafted free agent guard reminded me so much of Hall of Fame dad Larry Allen. How he pursed his lips while talking, his eyes and how his face contorted at times. What didn't remind anyone of the Cowboys'10-time Pro Bowler is how much he talked, like more in 20 minutes that day than daddy Larry would say in an entire season. Feet aren't bad, and his initial goal should be to earn a spot on the practice squad where he would have an opportunity to grow bigger and stronger.
- What A Reach: No, not that the Cowboys chose to sign undrafted Kentucky cornerback Chris Westry, but instead those arms of the 6-4 free agent, measuring 33¾ inches – that's almost three feet – with an 81¼-inch wingspan. Plus, he moved awfully well for a cornerback that tall. He also knows what his best assets are to play the position he switched to from wide receiver his sophomore season in high school because "I couldn't catch the ball." Those would be "my press (coverage), utilize my arms." No kidding.
- Parting Shots: Garrett dismissed the notion the Cowboys signed Larry Allen Jr. to a free-agent contract just because he's Larry's son, saying Harvard head coach Tim Murphy "endorsed him to the highest." … Maybe an Ohio State pipeline, Ezekiel Elliott sharing the 2013 and 2014 college seasons with Cowboys recently-signed wide receiver Devin Smith and his 2015 and final Buckeyes season with Weber, during the running backs' redshirt freshman season … One more thing on Westry – he ran a 4.31 time in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day workout, which would have been the second fastest had he run that at the NFL Scouting Combine, those long legs eating up ground quickly.
And would be totally remiss if not bidding a fond farewell to two guys in the scouting department who have been with the Cowboys nearly my entire career covering the team. National scout Walter Juliff arrived in 1988, spending 31 seasons with the Cowboys, but has decided to follow Cowboys west coast area scout Jim Abrams to Oakland, where he was recently named director of college scouting. And then senior personnel executive Tom Ciskowski, a one-time assistant coach for Jimmy Johnson at Oklahoma State, who joined the Cowboys scouting department in 1992, totaling 27 seasons with the team – five of those as director of college and pro scouting/assistant director of player personnel – before deciding this month at age 65 he would retire.
Sure, will miss not seeing these two good-guy staples of the organization for so long at training camp and around The Star. Learned a lot from them.