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Dallas Cowboys OTAs: Top 20 Takes from Inside the Star

Our Top 20 Takes from a day inside the Wednesday OTA session - on the field, in the locker room and in the hallways here at The Star:

FRISCO - The COVID-related restrictions are relaxed - but the Dallas Cowboys are on the edge, highly aware of just how short they fell from their 2021 goal ... and excited to prove the critics wrong.

“We know what we have in this locker room and we know what we can be,” QB Dak Prescott said. “I’m excited for those guys ... to prove people wrong.''

Our Top 20 Takes from a day inside the Wednesday OTA session - on the field, in the locker room and in the hallways here at The Star:

1) INJURY ISSUES The Cowboys insist these are not major issues, but ...

No Tyron Smith, as he was fine in the morning but sat out due to lower back tightness.

No James Washington wearing a walking boot on his left foot (see our 1-on-1 on the subject with the new wideout here) and no Jalen Tolbert, as worked on the side with trainers with his left leg wrapped in a long sleeve.

No Osa Odighizua, who was dealing with a minor thigh issue but has nevertheless been one of "the talks of the spring.'' More below ...

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2) Defensive linemen Osa Odighizuwa and Carlos Watkins were at practice but did not participate.

2) DALTON PLUS “The Cowboys want to be multi-dimensional at tight end. Rookie Jake Ferguson will help that. But Dalton Schultz has talked about working to be a better blocker, and that might be just as key as him getting backup help.

"The stress on the tight end position, whether it’s a back or blocking that C-gap area, it’s something that we need to be better at,'' McCarthy said. "It’s something that’s been identified. So, I think that just shows you where Dalton’s focus is.”

3) CEEDEE'S DAY CeeDee Lamb was an offensive star of the show on a couple of plays, once on a deep-ball throw from Prescott for a TD, once on a Hail Mary that he grabbed, has tipped away, and then make a spectacular (if just-shy) diving attempt at.

All together, the signs of Lamb as a No. 1 wideout were present.

“I’ve been ready,” Lamb said of that post-Amari Cooper role. “That’s just me and my competitiveness. That’s in my nature. That’s kind of how I grew up playing football. I’m always ready for my name to be called.”

Oh, by the way: Lamb said he's grown half an inch and added 10 pounds of muscle this offseason.

Good thing, as he's carrying a big load right now, with the wideouts who are out (including the rehabbing Michael Gallup). For the day, Simi Fehoko, Noah Brown and T.J. Vasher got some first-team snaps.

4) HYBRID BELL After undrafted rookie safety Markquese Bell made "the play of the day'' as he intercepted backup QB Cooper Rush and then returned it for a he-stepped-out-of-bounds pick-6, I asked McCarthy whether the vision here is about him being a "hybrid'' defender.

"Good point,'' McCarthy said. "That was part of our attraction to him ... I think you’ve seen what we’ve done with (Jayron Kearse) and the ability of the safeties to play nickel and dime and he definitely has that ability. That was the conversation we had in the draft room when we were talking about him.

"He jumped out at the rookie camp. He's been impressive.''

5) NO TYRON, SO ... Both young guys Matt Waletzko and Josh Ball took turns as the first-team left tackle.  But the rookie Waletzko - in competition with Ball for the swing tackle job - did commit a goof ... and got pulled for it.

Pre-snap penalties, you definitely don’t want them. ... No excuse for it. (But) Matt, that’s his second practice with a new cadence.''

So, just a tiny bit of an excuse.

6) AND NEXT TO TYRON? It is a significant thing: With Tyron down, Dallas didn't insert first-round pick Tyler Smith there. And why not? Because for now, Tyler is a guard. And on this day, he was the second-team left guard, mostly out of deference to Connor McGovern's vet status.

7) BUILD OFF LAST YEAR ... Said McCarthy: "I think clearly (we have an) opportunity to build off of what we had last year ... you can really see it showing up particularly early in the offseason program. I think the understanding of the players and coaches being on the same page, whether we’re talking about the connection in the locker room, the brotherhood in the locker room, the connection with the coaches, creating our space for development, I think we’ve done a tremendous job there.''

8) MICAH MOVING? No, no, no. Micah Parsons, the Defensive Rookie of the Year, was rumored earlier in the week to be moving away from playing on the edge to instead focus on being a linebacker.

No, no, no.

'"No,'' Parsons told CowboysSI.com. "I'm still me!''

Indeed, the Wednesday work saw Micah spend plenty of time working with both the defensive ends and the linebackers.

9) IS OSA OK? Osa sat, fellow second-year defensive lineman Chauncey Golston was noticed. He did work at defensive tackle, and not really and end, but no, he's not moving, either; his usage was simply the result of Dallas spending the day on third-down alignments, during which Golston would move inside.

Also inside: Neville Gallimore, who was with the first team while telling NFL.com that he's put on 15 pounds of muscle.

Gallimore, to our eye, is ... big all over.

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11) TANK TO THE BANK Lawrence has shaved off his dreadlocks, joking that "they got heavy.''

"So I chopped them off.”

A "lighter'' Lawrence aims to win the Dallas sack title. Lawrence had three sacks in seven games in 2021, while Parsons led the team with 13 sacks.

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“I let a rookie show me up last year,” Lawrence said. “Shot out to my boy Micah. ... (but this year I'll) re-state my dominance.'

13) 'NO BETTER BACK' How ready is "22 MPH'' Ezekiel Elliott?

"Nothing ever changes for my expectations of Zeke, of who he is, how he leads this team, how he approaches the game,” Prescott said. “He comes in like a pro each and every day and does that, so I expect his best. When you do that and do it with the (intent) he does, he’s going to get better. 

"When Zeke’s healthy, I don’t think there’s a better back.”

And as of today, even with Tony Pollard sharing the load (both were on the field together on the first plays of practice, Pollard sliding to the slot), Zeke is healthy.

14) DAK AND STEP BACK? The team leader Prescott simply won't hear of it.

“We know what we have in this locker room and we know what we can be,” Prescott said. “I’m excited for those guys ... to prove people wrong.

“I know what this team has and the men that they have and the coaches and the leadership. We definitely didn’t take a step back. We’re going to continue to get better and that’s what this offseason is about, and that’s what moving forward is.”

15) TRADE WINDS? A source tells us Dallas is continuing to "look at'' veterans receivers. ("Deebo in Dallas''? Yeah, but nah.) We know for a fact that the search for a kicker will continue maybe all summer. A vet pass-rusher? Maybe so.

How about a QB change behind Dak?

We address the Colin Kaepernick Question here.

16) LOCKER TALK The Cowboys have shuffled their locker stalls around a bit, with Dak moving next to Lamb.

“My other locker mates left, so I was a little lonely,” Prescott, said, laughing. “With him being young, hopefully he’s my receiver until I’m done playing. Just bring him closer, more conversations, he’s right there to talk and communicate.”

17) SPEAKING OF DAK WRs ... The Cowboys seem to have been involved in Dak making that pre-Draft call to Jalen Tolbert, and the QB revealed that he called a few other guys, too - maybe eight or nine of them.

“The (front office) has their own process,” Prescott said. “I obviously respect that. More importantly, they respect my thoughts.”

18) DETAIL MEN “For me, my details are footwork in the sense of just being consistent late in the year. … I’m just trying to be dialed in,'' said Dak, who is particularly haunted at some "details'' that he believes led to Dallas' playoff loss to the Niners.

Dak said he is back working with QB guru John Beck, with footwork a focus.

19) 'A LONG, LONG TIME' From Dak Prescott, who in recent offseasons had dealt with surgeries and rehabs and contracts: “This is the healthiest I’ve been in a long, long time ... It feels great.”

20) UVALDE Coach Mike McCarthy was joined by team leaders Dak Prescott and DeMarcus Lawrence in speaking about the elementary school shooting that took place Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas, a gunman killing 19 children and two teachers.

“I don’t like talking about these things because it’s hard enough to think about as a parent,” said McCarthy, holding back tears. “We’ve been talking about it a lot today. This is obviously a topic for all of us here. We got to be better. ... To not protect the future of our community, it’s tragic.''

Said Lawrence, who is a father: "I don’t feel safe sending my kids to school.''

Added Prescott, most chillingly, though he is not yet a parent: “I don’t have kids and can’t imagine having to send my kid to school with that anxiety. Honestly, it makes me fearful to have children. And that’s not right.

"That’s sad.”

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