OTA Insider Observations

IRVING, Tex. - The Dallas Cowboys moved Wednesday's OTA practice from their training facility in Valley Ranch to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington because of inclement weather in the area. The rain didn't last long, but the air conditioning was a welcome change.

• Several players were not on the field at Wednesday's session, which (like all OTA workouts) was optional. Among those who were not present were CB Mike Jenkins, who has requested a trade, RB Felix Jones (shoulder surgery), S Matt Johnson (finishing classes at Eastern Washington), LB Kyle Wilber (finger surgery), WR Danny Coale (foot surgery) and DE Marcus Spears (neck strain). Among the others who were not in attendance were LB DeMarcus Ware, NT Jay Ratliff and DL Sean Lissemore. Whether they had specific reasons or just chose not to attend the optional session was not made clear. Rookie CB Morris Claiborne stretched and walked through some light drills, but did not catch any balls or run full-speed. At one point, he shot forward when a pass by QB Stephen McGee fell several feet short of WR Cole Beasley, but although he might have been able to make a diving play on the ball, Claiborne wisely pulled up and protected his still-healing wrist.

• In special teams drills, holdover P Chris Jones and free agent P Jake Rogers alternated punting duties. Each hit several very good ones that almost hit the video board hanging over the field, but Rogers had the upper hand — er … foot — because of his consistency. His punts were deep down the center of the field, while Jones shanked three out of bounds.

WR Dwayne Harris had a little trouble fielding the punts, dropping two. One bounced out of bounds, while the other was recovered by RB Lance Dunbar.

• Few, if any, NFL coaches are naming any starters in the month of May, but for those who are trying to project lineups, when the Cowboys went to "team" (11 on 11) drills, the first-team offensive consisted of LT Tyron Smith, LG Nate Livings, C Phil Costa, RG David Arkin and RT Doug Free. The second unit was LT Jeremy Parnell, LG Kevin Kowalski, C Bill Nagy, RG Ronald Leary and RT Levy Adcock.

• Several regulars from the defensive line — including DE Marcus Spears, NT Jay Ratliff and DE Sean Lissemore were nowhere to be seen Wednesday, but nevertheless, the defense offered little resistance to the offense on inside running plays, as RBs DeMarco Murray, Darnell Scott and Lance Dunbar found ample running room between the tackles.

• With the regulars out, the first-team defensive line was a fairly anonymous group: LDE Clifton Geathers, NT Robert Callaway and RDE Ben Bass.

• Practicing without pads is an inexact science. Players don't blast each other, of course, but there is contact. Linemen lean in to each other pretty hard, steering each other around the field, and receivers and defensive backs often collide when battling for a pass. But there is a limit, obviously in an effort to prevent injuries. That doesn't ensure everyone escapes unscathed, as proven when WR Tim Benford charged up the left sideline, blocking for RB Darnell Scott, who had just caught a screen pass. Benford slowed up in order to find a defender to block, only to have Scott run up behind him and drive his cleats into Benford's ankle. Benford clearly was in pain, but returned to drills shortly thereafter.

• Why is TE Jason Witten among the best at his position every year? In addition to his size, strength, speed, receiving ability, etc., he also is one of the hardest workers on the team, even as he gets ready for his 10th NFL season. During pre-stretch warm-ups, offensive players jogged through routes, fielding soft passes from the four quarterbacks in the workout (Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter). In between routes, many stood around and talked and laughed with each other. But Witten took advantage of the time between drills to work on his blocking technique, paying close attention to his foot placement and sinking his hips as he backed up while "blocking" a non-existent defender.

• Witten also made arguably the catch of the day. When the offense was lined up in the red zone, QB Tony Romo fired a pass through a tiny gap between three defenders to Witten, who was running a quick post route … and caught the back end of the ball as he crossed the goal line. It was almost as if those two had hooked up before.

• Speaking of Witten, he and fellow TE John Phillips lined up as twin outside receivers when the offense went to a four-receiver set (with WRs Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree in the slots). The play resulted in a screen pass to the running backs who rotated in and out, but to say the cornerbacks struggled to get through Witten and Phillips in order to shoot forward to make a tackle would be a gross understatement. Phillips also spent some time in the backfield as a blocking fullback during two-minute drills.

• OK, so it takes time to get used to new teammates. WR Andre Holmes beat CB Mario Butler (who joined CBs Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick on the first-team defense when a three-cornerback set was needed) by several yards on a deep post route, only to watch helplessly as a pass from new backup QB Kyle Orton sailed several yards out of reach. Not that his role as the starting quarterback was in even the slightest doubt, but Tony Romo was by far the most accurate of the quarterbacks.

• Rookie WR Cole Beasley had an up-and-down day. He made several good plays, including a catch on a deep out route when he screwed safeties Mana Silva and Eddie Whitley into the ground with a series of quick fakes and direction changes before making the grab on a pass from Orton on the sideline. But moments later, he and Orton almost hooked up again on a deep scoring play. Beasley got up high enough to get his hands on the ball, only to get clubbed in the head by CB Teddy Williams before the ball fell incomplete.

• It's hard to look at backup LT Jeremy Parnell and not conjure up a mental picture of former LT Flozell Adams. They're both tall (Parnell is listed at 6-6 and 305 pounds), athletic, quick and surprisingly light on their feet for players of that size.

• The session ended on an impressive play by the offense, as QB Kyle Orton showed impressive touch, dropping a soft pass over CBs Teddy Williams and C.J. Wilson into the waiting arms of WR Kevin Ogletree in the back of the end zone.

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