Dallas Cowboys

10 thoughts from Cowboys OTAs: Cobb’s speed; Quinn an upgrade; controversy at QB?

Here are several initial impressions from the Cowboys’ first open OTA practice on Wednesday:

1. The plan to give guard Connor Williams some reps at tackle materialized quickly. With Tyron Smith taking a day off and Cam Fleming nursing an injury, Williams worked with the first team at left tackle. Williams played tackle in college at Texas before being moved to guard after being drafted in the second round by the Cowboys last year. Although he could start at left guard in 2019, he is being eyed at right tackle in 2020 when La’el Collins is expected to leave in free agency.

2. Tyron Smith got the day off on Wednesday because he is a veteran they want to be cautious with. But it is notable that Smith looked healthier and stronger now than he did at this point over the last few years. Remember, he’s had issues with his knee, back, neck and groin that have kept him out of three games each of the past three seasons, while also limiting his effectiveness. He is not rehabbing or recovering from anything.

“Every year you always have little nicks here and there, but it feels good coming into this year with no injuries,” Smith said recently. “I’m coming back faster and stronger.”

3. Running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was detained and cuffed by police in Las Vegas over the weekend, didn’t talk to the media. But he screamed with excitement after watching fourth-round pick Tony Pollard rip off a long run. Pollard showed a tremendous burst and speed that should bring more explosion to the Cowboys offense.

4. Speaking of quickness, receiver Randall Cobb is healthy and spry. He still has some juice in his legs and will make the jet sweep a real weapon on the Cowboys’ offense again. Cobb showed speed and quickness catching slants as well.

5. Add in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and rookie undrafted free agent Jon’Vea Johnson and the Cowboys have more speed to burn on the outside than they have had in years. Johnson has caught receiver coach Sanjay Lal’s eye early for his ability to pick up the offense and show off his speed.

6. Robert Quinn looks like the real deal at right end. He is a professional pass rusher who has a better resume and more skins on the wall than the man he was signed to replace, the suspended Randy Gregory. Quinn looked quick and explosive. He will give the Cowboys a legitimate and consistent pass-rush threat opposite DeMarcus Lawrence.

7. The Cowboys signed safety George Iloka in free agency but it is Jeff Heath who remains working with the first team at strong safety opposite Xavier Woods. Iloka won’t be handed the job. He will have to beat out Heath. The real story at safety is Woods. The Cowboys think he can develop into a star.

8. Secondary coach/defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard acknowledged casting his vote on draft day for defensive tackle Trysten Hill over safety Juan Thornhill in the second round. Richard said Hill has a chance to be a special player, giving him a greater opportunity to impact the defense. And he believes in taking a good big man over a good little man. Richard also likes safeties on the roster, especially Woods at free safety.

9. Is there a backup quarterback controversy? Mike White took reps with the second team over Cooper Rush. It might just be an alternating thing. Rush has been Prescott’s primary backup the past two years since joining the team as an undrafted rookie in 2017. There are no guarantees in 2019 as White, a 2018 fifth-round pick, will be given a chance to unseat him.

10. The Cowboys are the deepest they have been across the board in some time, according to vice president Stephen Jones. And it’s especially notable on the offensive and defensive lines. So much so that other teams called and asked if the Cowboys were interested in trading a player or two at those positions. It all should make for intense competition during training camp and some options for deals on cut-down day.

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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.