Is the absence of star players at OTAs cause for concern for Cowboys?

OTAs have come and gone and the Dallas Cowboys are still awaiting the likes of CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons to report to workouts.

DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys concluded their second round of Organized Team Activities and, once again, the focus of the offseason training centered around who wasn’t attending the workouts. For the second consecutive week, star wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and elite pass rusher Micah Parsons did not join the team for the training sessions.

Lamb understandably wasn’t expected to be available because he still doesn’t have a new contract extension. However, Parsons’ absence was a bit of a surprise after it was proclaimed last week that he would be with the Cowboys for the OTA session. The All-Pro edge rusher was in Dallas briefly but left quickly after meeting with the team and doing some media work, but elected to do nothing on the field. 

This isn’t likely what the organization had in mind when Parsons said he would be at OTAs. It’s disappointing for Parsons to be missing the team workouts, especially when he talked about being a better leader for the Cowboys after the team was soundly beaten in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. How can the four-year veteran lead when he’s not with the team?

Parsons also needs to adjust to a fresh scheme being installed by new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, which is often one of the main focuses of OTAs. Still, the Cowboys insist that Parsons will be ready when training camp comes along.

Head coach Mike McCarthy has handled the Parsons situation well this offseason, and that continued when he was asked about his star defenders’ absence and how he’s not yet prepared to worry about those missing from the exercise. 

Keeping things in-house and close to the vest is a refreshing attitude from McCarthy, as he needs to worry about the entire roster, not just comment on why Parsons is missing practice. By focusing on the players who have shown up, McCarthy is setting a good tone for the season.

McCarthy also displayed his humorous side and recalled one of the great quotes in Cowboys history when former linebacker Darren Hambrick uttered the classic “What do voluntary mean?” line in regards to OTAs.

Another nugget from the workouts was how the team rotated several players on kickoff returns. KaVontae Turpin is an All-Pro returner, but with the new rules for kickoff returns, the Cowboys also tried out Deuce Vaughn, wide receiver Jalen Cropper, and safety Juanyeh Thomas as return men. This could be a place where the team gets creative to take advantage of their special teams where it favors the offense.

Vaughn, the second-year running back, also took some reps at receiver. Because of his shiftiness, the offense might be looking to use Vaughn more as a receiver to create mismatches out of the backfield. The name of former Cowboys slot receiver Cole Beasley was brought up in response to Vaughn getting work at receiver. 

Both players are similar in stature and the ability to get in and out of breaks quickly could be a reason for the comparison. It looks like Dallas is trying to find ways to get the play-making RB the ball this season, and Vaughn’s contributions may come as a pass catcher.

Perhaps one of the more interesting things to come out of the second OTA session was how McCarthy spoke about backup quarterback Trey Lance. The team knows what they have in starter Dak Prescott, but with his contract future uncertain, the Cowboys will want to get a long look at Lance over the next few months.

McCarthy told reporters that Lance has made “significant” progress in the system since joining the team last August.

That’s a solid endorsement and speaks to how much the team wants to see Lance in training camp and find out what he can do in the preseason. Expect to get heavy doses of Lance updates this summer.

Right guard Zack Martin was also noted as someone who participated in individual drills but did not go through the team portion of the workouts. Others who missed some, or all, of the week’s OTAs included defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, tight end Luke Schoonmaker, and defensive tackles Mazi Smith and Osa Odighizuwa. 

It was also announced that the Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams will be holding joint practices this summer. During training camp in California, the teams will work together in early August ahead of their exhibition matchup on August 11th. It’s become common to hold joint practices but these teams matching up is somewhat surprising considering things came to blows between the two squads at a high rate the last time that these two teams practiced together in camp.

The next time that the Cowboys hold practice, it will be a mandatory minicamp starting on Tuesday. It will be the first time a player can be fined for missing an offseason workout, so Lamb and Parsons could be lighter in the wallet if they choose to continue their truancy.

Do you think Parsons or Lamb will miss a bit after skipping OTAs? Share your thoughts with Ben on X (formerly Twitter) @BenGrimaldi.

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