OTA Insider Observations

IRVING, Tex. - Wednesday was the media's day to peek inside Valley Ranch at the Cowboys' OTAs, and most players were in attendance.

CB Mike Jenkins, as expected, held out while hoping for a trade. S Matt Johnson remained out because classes are not finished at Eastern Washington. DE Marcus Spears and NT Jay Ratliff were nowhere in sight, reportedly because of lingering neck injuries.

Several players were present but did not take part in drills, or at least not all of them, because of injuries. CB Morris Claiborne remained an interested observer, going through light drills with secondary coach Jerome Henderson but not taking part in seven-on-seven or 11-on-11 drills. RB Felix Jones, LB Alex Albright (shoulder) and LB Kyle Wilber (finger) ran on the side but sat out team drills. DE Tyrone Crawford remained out because of a hamstring he pulled during the team's rookie mini-camp the first week after the NFL Draft. Crawford and DE Sean Lissemore (rib cartilage) did light conditioning work on the side.

OLB DeMarcus Ware has had a sore neck, but took part in Wednesday's drills.

• Four players — WRs Donovan Kemp and Dwayne Harris, S Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and CB Lionel Smith rotated as the return man during kickoff coverage drills. The foursome got through the drill relatively smoothly, which is more than could be said for several players on coverage, like rookie WR Saalim Hakim, who drew a colorful earful from special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, who clearly is in midseason form.

• Some coaches focus solely on how to beat an opponent, but secondary coach Jerome Henderson also teaches how to get a leg up by putting on past the officials. The defensive backs ran a drill in which two DBs would go head-to-head — one simulating a wide receiver — on routes in the red zone, including a mixture of slants, posts and crossing routes. When the players raced across the back of the end zone, Henderson stepped in, showing how to keep the receiver in sight by turning his back completely toward the quarterback … and then showing how a DB could turn and bump the receiver out of the back of the end zone. At that point, if the receiver comes back in and is the first player to touch the ball, a reception wouldn't count and contact with the ball would result in a penalty on the opposing offense.

• During previous stops with the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, some raised the idea that QB Kyle Orton didn't have ideal arm strength. Maybe he doesn't have a Brett Favre-like cannon, but he has plenty of velocity. He fired countless short and intermediate passes that drilled their intended targets with no arc, and also connected on several passes of 50 or more yards with pinpoint accuracy. At 6-foot-4, Orton is a couple of inches taller than starting QB Tony Romo, and he releases his passes from a higher position. When he hooked up with tall WRs Andre Holmes and Raymond Radway on high passes in the back of the end zone, it was hard to imagine many DBs having a chance to climb the ladder and knock the ball away. Such throws might not always result in touchdowns, but if they're not completed, the ball should sail harmlessly in to the first row of the stands.

RB Phillip Tanner made the practice squad, and ultimately the roster, as an undrafted free agent last year. But despite the departure last year of Tashard Choice, Tanner is not yet assured of a roster spot this year, as he faces a push from rookies Darrell Scott and Lance Dunbar. Tanner looks visibly faster this year, shooting through lanes in the line and twice beating the entire defense to the sideline on sweeps, after which he was able to turn upfield.

• Coaches and teammates might have caught their breath when WR Dez Bryant didn't get up right away after making a sliding catch along the right sideline during team (11-on-11) drills. Bryant walked gingerly back to the huddle after the play after appearing to have landed awkwardly on top of the ball, but was back working with the offense a couple of plays later, apparently no worse for the wear.

• Rookie G Ronald Leary has been a topic of some discussion after owner Jerry Jones identified the free agent from Memphis as one of the young players with a chance to earn a roster spot. Jones takes his share of grief for talent evaluation, but it appears the coaches might agree with him, as Leary is getting more attention in practice, taking some snaps at left guard with the first-team offense and at right guard with the second unit. No, it doesn't mean he'll make the team, but working with the starters certainly doesn't hurt.

• The hit of the day was made less impressive by the fact that teams aren't supposed to hit during OTAs. No, the Cowboys weren't copying the Seattle Seahawks, who lost two June OTAs because they had players engage in live contact. In this case, QB Tony Romo tossed a short pass to RB DeMarco Murray, who headed upfield. Murray planted his foot to spin away from a defender, and in doing so, turned right in to LB Sean Lee, who ran over his teammate. Murray got right up and harbored no grudge against Lee, saying such plays happen because "this is the NFL."

• The catch of the day — or at least the move of the day — was turned in by WR Cole Beasley. On a short route in the red zone, Beasley shot forward out of his position in the slot and froze CB C.J. Wilson with a pair of quick head fakes before making a diving catch just beyond the goal line on a short pass from QB Kyle Orton.

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