INSIDERS: OTA Observations

IRVING, Tex. - About 70 players gathered at the Dallas Cowboys' training facility in Valley Ranch for the second day of the first optional Organized Team Activity (OTA).

Wednesday is the only day of the OTA at which the media was allowed to watch practice and had access to players for interviews.

• As expected, CB Mike Jenkins was visible by his absence. Jenkins reportedly wants to be traded after the Cowboys spent about $50 million to lure CB Brandon Carr from the Kansas City Chiefs as a free agent and then traded up to draft CB Morris Claiborne in the first round of April's NFL Draft. Both moves came a year after CB Orlando Scandrick signed a long-term extension, meaning that at least financially, Jenkins is relegated to fourth on the cornerback depth chart. Secondary coach Jerome Henderson said after practice that Jenkins is setting himself by being absent from OTAs, as the first-year Dallas assistant is still getting to know his players while he teaches them what he expects and wants from them. "He's missing a lot," Henderson said. "He's got to get to know me, just like I need to get to know him. But I know he's a pro, and when he gets that other (contract) situation resolved, he'll get in here and be ready to go." Henderson said he had talked to Jenkins a few times this spring, but declined to go in to specifics of what was said in those conversations.

• Several players were in attendance watching the OTAs without participating, including CB Morris Claiborne (wrist surgery), DE Tyrone Crawford, LB Kyle Wilber (finger surgery), NT Jay Ratliff, RB Felix Jones and C/G Kevin Kowalski. While watching the secondary do drills, Claiborne did some light work on the sideline with the team's training staff, mostly stretching and working with large elastic bands.

WR Danny Coale, who reportedly faces surgery after breaking a bone in his foot Tuesday, was not in attendance.

OLB DeMarcus Ware was not in attendance, having chosen to skip the OTA so he could attend his sister's graduation. Victor Butler worked in Ware's place on the right side with the first-team defense in Ware's absence.

• On guard: the new-look offensive line featured more than a long-anticipated switch of the offensive tackles, with Tyron Smith moving from the right side to the left and Doug Free flipping over to the right. Also working with C Phil Costa on the first-team line when the Cowboys went to "team" (11 on 11) drills were a pair of new guards: free agent Nate Livings on the left side and 2011 draftee David Arkin on the right.

• The torch has been passed: Bradie James roamed the middle of the Dallas defense for years, and was joined inside by Keith Brooking over the last couple of seasons, but as expected, the starting lineup featured Sean Lee and Bruce Carter inside.

• The new-look secondary also has a different feel, with free agent Brodney Pool working Wednesday with Gerald Sensabaugh at the starting safety spots, while Pool also got some second-team snaps alongside Danny McCray.

• It's no secret that the Cowboys want to generate more turnovers in 2012, and although OTAs are like mini-camps in the sense that players wear no pads under their jerseys and contact is limited, defensive players were flying toward the ball in team (11 on 11) drills, trying to strip the ball from running backs and receivers. CB Brandon Carr and S Danny McCray each forced a fumble in the limited team drills, while CB Lionel Smith, an undrafted rookie out of Texas A&M, had a nice interception of a pass by QB Stephen McGee.

• The receivers and tight ends looked immensely better than at the rookie mini-camp a couple of weeks ago. That's natural, when you add proven veterans like WR Miles Austin, TE Jason Witten and WR Dez Bryant to the offense (when the first-team offense went to a three-receiver set while working in 11-on-11 drills, Austin and Bryant were joined by WR Kevin Ogletree). But of even greater significance was the addition of QBs Tony Romo, Kyle Orton and Stephen McGee, who made obvious the difference between real NFL quarterbacks and the warm bodies the Cowboys rolled out with the rookies a couple of weeks ago, only to miss more targets than they hit. Romo and Orton, in particular, looked exceptionally precise, albeit in drills that didn't put them under the risk of getting hit and called mostly for simple routes.

• With the medical status and football future of P Mat McBriar still in doubt — McBriar's 2011 season ended prematurely because of an injury to a nerve in his left (plant) leg and is a free agent — the Cowboys have two punters in camp: Chris Jones, who filled in for McBriar last season, and Jake Rogers, picked up from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Toward the end of Wednesday's OTA session, the two alternated punting to a quartet of candidates for the punt returner job, a list that included WRs Dez Bryant, Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris, as well as S Akwasi Owusu-Ansah. Each fielded about a half a dozen punts without dropping any, although Owusu-Ansah seemed to scramble a little when trying to get underneath punts that got caught in the wind.

• It's a very different look when WRs Andre Holmes and Raymond Radway line up in the outside receiver spots. The roster says Holmes carries 208 pounds on his 6-5 frame, but he said after practice that his time in the weight room has him up to 223. Radway, last year's hard-luck story who went down for the year when he got injured at the end of the preseason, is the "small" one of the pair, listed at only 6-3 and 198. They're not going to challenge for starting jobs, but they look like small forwards when lined up against most cornerbacks and they both have good speed. When Holmes, in particular, leaps for a high pass, there isn't a defensive back in the league who can get up as high. Remember, this is the guy who impersonated Detroit's all-world WR Calvin Johnson in practice before the Cowboys and Lions met last year, and drew rave reviews from his teammates and coaches.

Holmes showed he's more than just a tall guy playing receiver when he ran through two would-be tacklers after catching a pass on a post pattern and then maintained his separation from CB Teddy Williams, the former UT-San Antonio track star the Cowboys are trying to make in to a football player. Making the catch and fighting through an arm tackle against players without pads is one thing, but the fact that he didn't get chased down from behind by Williams was startling.

• The heat reached the low 90s before the end of practice, but when the team retreated inside to shower and find shelter in the air conditioning, three players stayed outside to get extra work catching passes fired from the Juggs Machine: WRs Saalim Hakim and Cole Beasley and S Gerald Sensabaugh.

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