IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys are exactly halfway through their offseason work, but questions still remain.
With six OTA practices in the books, the Cowboys still have three more OTAs and three more mandatory minicamp practices before taking more than a month off to get ready for training camp.
NFL teams don't need to have all of the answers right now, but it seems like there are more than a few uncertainties starting to pile up.
For this week's Top 10, the staff of DallasCowboys.com ranked the 10 most pressing questions for the Cowboys here in the offseason.
10. Pollack Takes Over – With three first-round picks, an established vet like Free and a talented rookie pickup in Collins, some might argue that just about anyone could coach this line. But with the departed Bill Callahan working as the offensive coordinator the last two years, Pollack has been hands-on with this personnel. Let's see if the line can expand on last year's success.
9. Who Returns? – With the loss of Dwayne Harris, the Cowboys don't have a true return specialist just yet, although there are plenty of options. One of the more intriguing rookies has been wide receiver Lucky Whitehead, who is a natural returner. But he'll have to be good enough at receiver to stick around. Cole Beasley is an option there as well. As for kickoffs, don't be surprised if Darren McFadden gets a shot, or perhaps Lance Dunbar.
8. Battle for SAM – One of the few starting jobs up for grabs, but it's really on a two-down position. Still, there's a spot to be had. Anthony Hitchens showed he needs playing time after recording 100 tackles last year. If he's not in the middle, he could be the strong-side linebacker, but Kyle Wilber and maybe rookie Damien Wilson should get some looks, too. Don't rule out some of the acquired veterans in the mix as well.
7. La'el's Landing Spot– The Cowboys were so excited to land a first-round talent in rookie free agency. Now the question remains, where to play La'el Collins, who projected as a tackle but could play guard. The Cowboys have used him in both spots so far this summer, even with Doug Free sitting out with an injury. Collins will probably be a tackle long-term, but the Cowboys always harp on getting the five best linemen on the field together and when the dust settles, Collins is likely to be one of them.
6. Rolando's Status – The Cowboys would prefer to have all of their players here this summer, especially the ones rehabbing injuries. But Rolando McClain is also taking care of personal matters in Alabama and hasn't been with the team the last few weeks. His arthroscopic knee surgery last month shouldn't affect him being ready for the start of training camp, but the club won't rush him back into action. If he's ready to roll, the middle linebacker spot is his to claim, but the Cowboys can always turn to Jasper Brinkley and maybe Hitchens if need be.
5. Lee's Transition –It's unlikely anyone will outwork Sean Lee this summer. The determination for him to get back is unmatched, which is why Lee considers himself fully rehabbed. He doesn't wear a knee brace after tearing his ACL more than 12 months ago in the first OTA of 2014. Lee has dealt with his share of injuries, so that's always a hurdle he must clear. He's also dealing with a position change from middle to weak-side linebacker. But when it comes to being a student of the game, Lee is at the top of list. His transition to the weak-side might have some small growing pains, but he should be fine if he can steer clear of injuries.
- CBs Covering Ground – This could be three different questions rolled into one. But right now, we don't know where Byron Jones will end up, even though he's playing mostly cornerback. It could be a combo of corner in base defense, and safety in the nickel. Jones' spot will likely be a result of Morris Claiborne's progress. Claiborne is rehabbing from a patella tendon injury, but could be ready by camp. Even if healthy, the jury is out on what kind of performance the Cowboys will get there. And then there's Brandon Carr's contract. It's looking more and more as if Carr will certainly be on the team this year, but his contract might be altered. And don't assume the Cowboys will try to reduce his salary. It's probably going to be more of a restructure that lowers his cap charge, but also benefits the player as well.
3. Hardy's Suspension – The Pro Bowl defensive end is looking at a 10-game suspension but is hoping to see that reduced after he had his appeal last week in Chicago. The Cowboys are hopeful it gets lowered anywhere from 2-6 games, which would get the dynamic pass-rusher on the field for the majority of the season. Regardless of the suspension length, Hardy will be able to participate in all of training camp and the preseason. Don't forget he missed 15 games last year so knocking off the rust will be vital for him in the exhibition games.
2. What's Up With Dez? – This is high on the list because it's Dez Bryant, but there aren't many who really expect Dez to miss any games. He's sitting out the voluntary practices right now. We'll see if he misses the mandatory minicamp on June 16-18. This week, Stephen Jones said there's no pressure to get the deal done before July 15. After that, the Cowboys can't complete a long-term deal until after the season. But we saw last week that Dez has a hard time staying away. The Cowboys miss his energy when he's not around, but only time will tell if this will be a long-term distraction.
1. Who Starts at RB? – The most productive player on the Cowboys' roster last year is gone. As of right now, his replacement hasn't been settled and it might take a while. Joseph Randle is garnering the most headlines and he seems to have the impression it's his job for the taking. But he knows he has to beat out both Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar for the spot. It's really a battle between Randle and McFadden, who has dealt with injury issues in the past, and the Cowboys are being rather cautious with him this offseason. Even Jones pointed out in April that they will continue to explore options to add another running back through other teams. So this question might not get answered until we get much closer to the start of the season.