Romo said he will be on a “pitch count” during OTAs as he continues to rehab from back surgery last December, but doing anything will represent an increase from what he was able to do in OTAs last year when he was kept out of drills because of surgery to remove a cyst from his back.
But there will be other questions at the OTAs, too.
Here are five:
What does the defensive line look like?
The Cowboys have revamped their line this offseason. They parted ways with DeMarcus Ware, and Jason Hatcher signed with the Washington Redskins. They added Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Amobi Okoye in free agency, though only Mincey and McClain are expected to work fully in the OTAs. Melton is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and Okoye is coming back from a personal medical issue that kept him out of football last season. Anthony Spencer was re-signed, but he won’t do anything on the field until training camp. The Cowboys drafted DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round and will welcome back Tyrone Crawford after he missed last year with a torn Achilles.
A quick thought on what the first-team line will look like (left to right): George Selvie (the leading returner in sacks from last year, with seven), McClain, Crawford, Mincey. And that does not mean this group will look like this in July.
Will there be a cornerback battle?
Orlando Scandrick was the Cowboys’ best cornerback in 2013. Morris Claiborne was the first-round pick in 2012 but has yet to play to that level in two seasons. Coach Jason Garrett showed last year he was unafraid to make lineup changes regardless of a players’ draft status or contract, so Scandrick should continue to line up with the first team.
It’s up to Claiborne to make the decision harder for the coaches. He is coming off offseason shoulder and finger surgeries and could be limited some. But if he can practice, he needs to show early he can be a factor on this defense. He also needs to show he can stay healthy.
Where does Zack Martin fit?
The Cowboys have all but declared him a starter, much the way they did with Travis Frederick last year. Martin worked at right guard in the rookie minicamp, which would push Mackenzy Bernadeau out of the starting lineup.
But the Cowboys could call it a three-man battle between Martin, Bernadeau and Ronald Leary for the two starting guard spots.
Martin performed well at the rookie minicamp but will face stiffer tests during the OTAs and minicamp. The Cowboys expect him to handle all the work the same way Frederick and Tyron Smith did as rookies.
Can second-year players make a jump?
Wide receiver Terrance Williams will be a full-time starter in 2013 since Miles Austin is gone. Tight end Gavin Escobar will get a chance to work a lot more. J.J. Wilcox is penciled in as the starting safety opposite Barry Church. DeVonte Holloman will battle Kyle Wilber for the starting strongside linebacker spot.
For the Cowboys to get off the 8-8 train, they need these young players to make jumps. Teams like to say the biggest jump a player will make is between his rookie and second season. The Cowboys will need all four to play more meaningful snaps in 2014.
What about the other QBs?
If Kyle Orton shows up, it will be a huge surprise. He has not taken part in the offseason program yet, but the team said it anticipates Orton at the mandatory minicamp in June. The Cowboys like what they have seen from Brandon Weeden so far, but would like him to be a developmental quarterback in 2014 and not Romo’s No. 2. At least that’s the thought going into the OTAs. The team also signed veteran Caleb Hanie and undrafted free agent Dustin Vaughan.
With Romo on a pitch count and Orton absent, Weeden, Hanie and Vaughan will get more work than expected. That’s a good thing for them as snaps in camp will be even more limited.