1. Easy Dez It -- Jason Garrett doesn't like the word "cautious" when it comes to the staff's easing receiver Dez Bryant, who suffered in 2015 with a broken right foot, back into a football routine. Rather, the eighth head coach in team history likes the word "deliberate." However you dance to this semantics beat, the fact is the Cowboys have held Bryant back all off-season. The seventh-year All Pro tells us he feels "real good" and that he isn't tentative at all about the pain returning. If anything, Bryant wants to do more than the walkthroughs.
"It’s crazy. Coach be teasing me with that stuff, man. Don’t be bringing me out there just for a little bit. It happens. It feels good to be out there, especially going through those drills."
Though Bryant swears up and down the chemistry between he and Romo, who have not worked together for an entire off-season since 2012, receivers coach Derek Dooley can't emphasize enough how important it is for Bryant to be a full go for off-season workouts.
"I don’t care how talented you are. If you’re not out there working on your craft, it can go away from you. I’ve talked to Dez about that. So this summer’s really important for him and certainly training camp to get his skills back."
While not dismissing Dooley's concerns, one of Bryant and Romo's most prolific season's together in 2014 came after an off-season that the quarterback missed thanks to major back surgery at the end of the previous season. The connection only had training camp to work together, yet the two made the Pro Bowl that year and were a replay overturn away from the NFC Championship Game. The past supports Bryant's assertion that the chemistry between the two has never left.
2. Sweet Home Alabama -- While the Cowboys defense has toiled for the past three weeks in the North Texas sun, middle linebacker Rolando McClain has spent that time in Alabama with his kids. Though the OTA's for the past month have been voluntary, his absence involuntarily sends a message of "it's always something" with the mercurial linebacker. Sprinkle in the admission from defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli that A) he doesn't know but hopes McClain shows up for minicamp and B) he hasn't communicated with the sixth-year veteran, and it creates a suspenseful minicamp. Garrett has had some strong words for McClain, but if he doesn't show up to minicamp, the coach will be focused on the guys who are at Valley Ranch, not those who are not.
UPDATE: On Tuesday morning Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com reported that McClain is at Valley Ranch, with Fish on 105.3 The Fan adding that "family matters have been supplanted by financial matters'' -- meaning Ro probably wanted no part of getting fined for absences from this week's mandatory work.
3. It's Strictly Business -- Guard Ron Leary has been another no-show for Dallas off-season activities. For Leary, he ostensibly doesn't have a job, what with rookie La'el Collins starting in his left guard spot for 11 games last season. Admittedly, Leary didn't play like himself from Opening Day that year when he strained his groin against the Giants. So, Collins had an opportunity thanks to injury. And that's also the rationale why Leary shouldn't sit out minicamp or any further off-season or preseason activities. If anything catastrophic happens along the offensive line, the Cowboys will shuffle their pieces to fill the gap, and Leary would be an integral part of plugging a hole that he seemingly isn't part of. Naturally, if Leary is hellbent on leaving the Cowboys, COO Stephen Jones has stated a willingness to help Leary find a new home.
"We did tell him if the right situation presented itself or if it's a good situation for us, we certainly understand that he's a competitor and wants to start and go to a place that he has a better chance to start. But we expect him to come in here at some point. And we want to welcome him with open arms and hopefully he's getting in shape wherever he is right now. And hopefully he gets in here sooner than later."
But now the scoop, at our Mike Fisher reports after a one-on-one conversation with Leary, who, as Fish reported live on 105.3 The Fan on Monday, says of a continued holdout, "Nah, I'll be there.''
So at least a temporary end to the drama there.
4. From Rushmen with Love -- Since the double-whammy suspensions of defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence, both scratched for the season's first four games, the Cowboys have been tinkering with ways to get to the quarterback with the pieces they will have. This includes kicking 3-tech defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford outside or bringing in ex-Super Bowl champ Benson Mayowa and ex-rival Cedric Thornton, or re-signing Jack Crawford. Like a mad scientist who gets his jollies driving field generals into the dirt, Marinelli has been experimenting with different combinations to generate pressure. As Fish said in the video, the staff really likes Mayowa, though some of our colleagues really like second-year man Ryan Russell. The real second-year player to watch is 6-7 David Irving, who Jordan Ross has been keen on ever since the off-season began.
5. Hand-off of the Baton -- Darren McFadden may still be the number one running back in the Cowboys backfield, but in the same way an outgoing President is still in charge during an inauguration. With the fourth overall pick, the front office voted in Ezekiel Elliott to be the club's primary ball carrier. Of course, the coaching staff won't simply usher Zeke to the top of the depth chart. Instead, they want him to earn it.
"They’re always going to be competitors. He’s going to compete. He’s our starter. He’s going to compete. Zeke has to earn it. I think that’s the best thing for our team and for those guys going forward."
The reality is Elliott may not "earn it" fast enough for the media or tullipomaniacal fans. So, just get ready for the dreck to show up on your social media that Elliott is a bust or didn't live up to the hype. Fun fact: Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith, both first-round picks, did not start on Opening Day. More than likely the former Buckeye will wrest control of the mantle of Dorsett and Smith way before then, but should he not progress as fast as Coach Twitter would like, cling to that nugget. In fact, out of the seven previous Cowboy rookie running backs taken in the first round, Calvin Hill from 1969 remains the only one to start on Opening Day.