Fans and media members alike have wondered why Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys have not made many roster moves this offseason. After watching this team go through its recent organized team activities, I now understand.
The bottom line is that this is a very good football team. I have been to five of the Cowboys' recent OTAs, and what I've seen is a very cohesive unit. Nobody is grumbling about contract issues. Nobody is complaining about being worked too hard. There are 20 starters back from a team that went 11-5 and won the NFC East last season. Wade Phillips, entering his fourth season as head coach, has lost 30 pounds - he looks like a different guy out there and you can see his enthusiasm.
After working with different coaches through his first four seasons, quarterback Tony Romo is heading into his fourth season with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. And the comfort level can be seen on the practice field. There are some thin spots - the offensive line in particular cannot afford to suffer any major injuries - but they also have excellent depth at some positions, running back and receiver to name a couple. If third-year back Felix Jones stays healthy, he could have a big year.
Thursday is the final day of OTAs, but the team comes right back for a three-day minicamp beginning Friday. Saturday's session will be held at Cowboys Stadium, starting at 3 p.m. CT, and will be open to the public. In addition to watching the practices, fans can take guided or unguided tours of the stadium. They did this for one of the OTA sessions last week and had a little more than 2,000 fans in attendance -- and that was on a Wednesday. There might be more people at this Saturday minicamp practice than we had at some of our regular-season games during the Cowboys' expansion season in 1960!
Jerry Jones was at the stadium on Tuesday to tape the four-minute speech that will be shown during the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony when Emmitt Smith is inducted. Jones was tabbed by Smith to be his presenter, and the new format for this year's ceremony is to have the presenter make his speech via this video piece. Jones will then be there with the NFL's all-time leading rusher to help him pull the cloth and unveil Smith's Hall of Fame bust.
Educating the media
The OTAs provide a great learning platform for younger players on the roster. But they're not the only ones to benefit. Organized by Phillips and Dallas media director Rich Dalrymple, the Cowboys held a 90-minute "class" on Tuesday attended by a group of local media members. Phillips and other members of the coaching staff showed them three plays from that day's OTA and broke them down -- showing why a play either worked or didn't work and explaining the formations. They didn't give away any secrets, obviously, but the session helped educate the media. I think it opened the eyes of a lot of writers to understand how much work goes into the gameplan.