Key scenarios to follow as OTAs get started


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Practices will also be limited to the media. As it is, only the practices for next Tuesday and those for June 3 will be open, and only small portions of those practices will be available to be filmed.

Even still, it will be the first good faith look at a Dallas Cowboys team since the 2020 season ended on January 3.

With an offseason full of changes in the rearview mirror, here are a handful of the bigger scenarios to watch.

After seeing the team struggle for a 6-10 finish without them, the return of injured starters Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith and La’el Collins to the roster is the most important topic of this year.

Prescott in particular is making headlines, given the gruesome nature of his injury and the $ 160 million contract extension he signed in March. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Cowboys’ success depends on the ability – and availability – of their franchise quarterback. Having his two star tackles to help protect him wouldn’t hurt either.

But what is it going to look like? The Cowboys have always expressed confidence in the recovery of all three players. But are they ready to be in the mix as early as May, or is it more of a gradual comeback?

Prescott said just a few weeks ago that he thought he could play a game right now if he needed to, but luckily he didn’t. The Cowboys undoubtedly have a plan for how to deal with all of their players who are recovering from injury, but it’ll be interesting to see where things stand with these three in particular – or if we get to see them at all. .

Non-contact off-season practices aren’t a good indicator of what’s to come, but it’ll be the first thing that looks like a glimpse of Dan Quinn’s plan for the Dallas defense.

Quinn took over the vacant defensive coordinator post in January, and details were hard to come by. But somehow the Cowboys will have 11 players on the court and mine Quinn’s playbook during these OTAs.

At the very least, that could serve as a preview of what to expect. Quinn said following the draft his plan would look like a 3-4 defense when the Cowboys play their core staff – but he also allowed that they would probably spend 60-70% of their time using a four-man front. in their nickel packages. .

This leaves a lot of leeway for player assignments. Throughout this defense, Quinn employs defenders with versatile skills. These practices should give us a clearer idea of ​​how they will be used. For example, how do the Cowboys view their various defensive linemen and what roles do they have in mind for them? Newcomer Brent Urban has played a defensive tackle and a defensive end during his career, while guys like Tarell Basham have played as both a point runner and a standing linebacker. At the back, there should finally be some clarity on this team’s safety pairs, as well as who will be expected to handle the strong and free roles.

Again, not much to do – but it is something. And that’s without even entering the most interesting defensive position of all.

Finally a chance to see the coaching staff sort through the suddenly huge number of talented linebackers on the roster.

The Cowboys drafted Penn State superstar Micah Parsons with the 12th overall pick a month ago. Two days later, they landed one of the best value picks in the draft when they grabbed Jabril Cox 115th. Immediately after the draft, Quinn confirmed that incoming free agent Keanu Neal will play linebacker. Oh, and that doesn’t even include last year’s starting duo of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, with 99 games and 770 combined tackles between them.

How exactly are the Cowboys going to play all of these guys – and where?

I hope we will have an idea by the end of these practices. Smith and Vander Esch both have experience playing between the middle linebacker and the weak side linebacker. Parsons worked as the team’s MIKE during the rookie mini-camp, and there has been endless speculation that he could be used as an additional passer. Neal has spent his five seasons in Atlanta safe and sound, so what might the transition to linebacker look like?

Sorry for sounding repetitive, but these answers probably won’t become clear during these practices. Even still, maybe we can start to formulate an idea.

We got our first glimpse of the 2021 Rookie Class a few weeks ago, but now they can begin to enter the depths of the pool. Even though these aren’t full speed workouts, there is still a big difference between training for beginners and training fully with veterans of the NFL.

Parsons and Cox have already been mentioned above, but it will serve as a first look at Kelvin Joseph, Osa Odighizua, and others as they seek to establish their place in the pecking order.

No one is going to win or lose a job in May, but it’s an early chance to set expectations.

Jersey numbers continue to be a fun topic of discussion off season.

Parsons became the first Cowboys player to benefit from the New NFL Shirt Rule, which allows offensive and defensive players to wear an expanded range of numbers. The rookie landed number 11, his college number, prompting veteran wide receiver Cedrick Wilson – formerly number 11 – to switch to his college number, the number 1 he currently shares with Cooper Rush. .

Right now, that’s the scale of the number changes – not counting new additions, such as Neal’s No.42. But with so much speculation about the veterans moving to new numbers, it’ll be interesting to see. if the first practices of the offseason team notify us of any further changes.

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