IRVING, Texas – There's only so much we can glean from a handful of limited-contact practices in the months before training camp starts. As the Cowboys get deeper into Organized Training Activities, we can fully cover obvious developments like Tony Romo's recovery progress or the search for Sean Lee's replacement.
I wanted to take the time to look through some of the lesser-discussed facets of these practices, though. They might not gran headlines, but here are five things that could have big ramifications for the team going forward.
- I have had two opportunities to observe a practice with Scott Linehan as the primary play caller. He is big on putting running backs in the formation as receivers. He is not afraid to put a running back out wide near the sideline or in the slot.
One of the strengths of this running back position is their ability to catch the ball in space. There were times during his college career where DeMarco Murray was lined up as a receiver and had the ball thrown in his direction on the outside. As we work through these OTA practices and minicamps, Linehan will be able to add a wrinkle here and there to this offense and this is one of those opportunities.
- During Monday's practice, Mackenzy Bernadeau took some snaps with the first offense at left guard. I have written before that a battle for a roster spot could come down to Bernadeau and Tyronne Green, but we should not discount Bernadeau taking a starting spot away from Ronald Leary this summer.
It is not that Leary has been playing poorly, but Bernadeau just might be too good to put on the bench. Leary and Tyron Smith were a nice combination in 2013, but these are the days where you can experiment a little bit with combinations to see how they might work out. I look for Bernadeau to continue to split reps with Leary but also see a fair amount of work at center.
- Been trying to keep track of the wide receiver group and how that is shaking out. When they go into "11" personnel, Cole Beasley comes into the slot with Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams outside. The next receivers off the bench have been rookie Devin Street and LaRon Byrd.
Dwayne Harris has not practiced and L'Damian Washington is out with a sprained shoulder. Tim Benford has been getting work in the slot with Jamar Newsome on the outside. I was told that Newsome had a couple of really nice grabs in the red zone 7-on-7 portion of practice. Chris Boyd has not received as many snaps as the others in this rotation. This is one of those positions where a young guy other than Street might have trouble making the roster.
- Despite the fact that he might not enjoy playing as a defensive end, Martez Wilson is getting plenty of work. Wilson is lining up on both the left and right side. Wilson might not have the power to play on that left side and handle the rush, but as a nickel rusher he brings a little juice.
I can see in the second half of some of these preseason games where he and DeMarcus Lawrence will get plenty of opportunities. Wilson has a little shake when he comes up the field. He is a hard guy for tackles to cleanly get their hands on. In a rotational scheme, he has a chance.
- If you want a Mike linebacker to keep an eye on this summer, Dontavis Sapp from Tennessee might be your guy. We all focus on Justin Durant, DeVonte Holloman and Anthony Hitchens but with Holloman on the sidelines, Sapp has been getting more snaps and hasn't been disappointing at all.
One of his best traits coming out of college was his ability to play in zone coverage with his drops and his flow to the ball. He had a really nice awareness of where receivers were in routes. There were snaps where he was outstanding in working through the trash and making the tackle.
From what I have been able to observe, his sense of urgency has been better and this was an area that I had some questions about. Like his linebacker partner, Will Smith, I think he will be better when the pads come on.