FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys began Offeseason Training Activities — known as OTAs in the NFL — on Tuesday and the media will get a first look at the 2023 team on Thursday.
It’s still, as Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin used to term it, “the underwear Olympics.”
There will be no pads and no contact.
The team will do individual work, and run 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills with t-shirts and shorts on.
But it is football and it will offer a glimpse of the offseason changes the Cowboys have made since the end of the 2022.
Here are 5 things to Watch in Cowboys OTAs:
Mike McCarthy’s new offense
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy is back with the team after missing some time due to back surgery. He has spent the bulk of the offseason making changes to the offense following the firing of coordinator Kellen Moore.
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McCarthy has added some West Coast offense principles and changed some of the blocking schemes sin hopes of the Cowboys being more efficient and allowing quarterback Dak Prescott to make quicker decisions.
After leading the league in interceptions last year, Prescott has to rid the turnovers from his game.
Micah Parsons’ position
Linebacker/defensive end/stud Micah Parsons is back with the team after working separately during the first phase off the offseason program to add bulk and strength to handle the rigors of an increasing presence at defensive end.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn says Parsons is not making a full-time transition to end and called him a pass-rushing linebacker. The drills in OTAs will offer a glimpse of what position group he works with the most.
The offensive line shakeup
The Cowboys plan play the best five players on the offensive line. What that looks like in May likely won’t have the same look in August during training camp.
Tyron Smith has been working at right tackle and Matt Farniok at left guard so far. But that is not going to hold.
Terence Steele is still recovering from a torn ACL. He will get a look a right tackle and left guard before it’s all said and done.
Free agent signee Chuma Udoga is also expected to be a player at left guard. So far the Cowboys are focused on keeping Tyler Smith at left tackle.
WRs Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup and Jalen Tolbert
Brandin Cooks, acquired in a trade from the Houston Texans, is already making his presence felt as a deep threat in the offense and a mentor to the young receivers. He will continue to gain chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott during OTAs.
Michael Gallup says he feels like his old self after a down 2022 season that was impacted by his recovery from a torn ACL. He is springy again, he says.
This a big year for Tolbert, who was overwhelmed as a rookie. He needs to make a huge second year jump. It starts now. The disappointing third-round pick had two catches and played in only eight games in 2022.
How will rookies fit in
From Mazi Smith in the first round to Deuce Vaughn in the sixth, the Cowboys have a number of rookie draft picks who could play important roles in 2023. Smith should be penciled in as a walk-in starter at nose tackle.
There is no question that tight end Luke Schoonmaker will rotate with Jake Ferguson right off the bat. The departure of Anthony Barr and the use of Micah Parsons up front means the Cowboys will counting on DeMarion Overshown to have role in the regular defense.
Viliami Fehoko is a hidden gem who Dan Quinn believes can turn into a Pro Bowler at defensive tackle. And then there is Deuce Vaughn, who was the best story in the NFL on draft weekend.
With Tony Pollard still rehabbing a fracture ankle, the 5-foot-5 dynamo should be in the rotation at running back.