The Cowboys have now completed the OTA’s and mandatory minicamp. Next stop is Oxnard, CA! In five weeks, practice gets real with the pads going on. I’ve made my hotel arrangements and will be up there in Oxnard with a watchful eye on the practices in early August. Any recommendations would be appreciated on the specifics of attending the practices (what time to arrive for the 3:45’s), parking information, can you bring a cooler with water in, places that are a must stop to eat, etc?
Let’s look at player & position developments during the OTA’s, starting with the defense. What are the stories or news that are meaningful to the Cowboys faithful?
Our first round pick, Taco Charlton, showed growth but going against Tyrun has its challenges, for anyone, let alone a rookie. Read he looked better on the left side, but getting props when going against UFA’s doesn’t impress me in the least. Rare that a DE lights up the stat sheet as a rookie, so be patient. Damontre Moore got 1st team reps with Lawrence & Tapper sitting out and had some solid snaps. Bryan Broaddus wrote that Maliek Collins’s power against Zak Martin was noticeable. Rare anyone does that to Martin! We should expect a really good year from Maliek, my top player on the DL. We selected a couple of guys, Ivie & Carrell late in the draft. Not much was reported on them and best hope for them is to snare a spot on the practice squad.
The linebacker position has been focused on Jaylon Smith for quite some time. They’ll assess his ability to play once the pads go on. Hitchens appears to have had a very solid couple of weeks. The one guy, that caught watchful eyes was Damien Wilson as he was always flying around the ball. I’m looking for Wilson to have a really good season. There was hope for Mark Nzeocha but the recent knee scope may indicate he’s not going to be counted on with recurring injuries. Likely add another LB at some point late in camp though Lotulelei has looked promising. Sean Lee is Sean Lee, “nuff” said!
The secondary is being retooled and the new kids on the block appeared to be solid from the start. Awuzie “looked” comfortable & smooth on the outside according to everything I read. Jourdan Louis performed well out of the slot for most of his reps and same on the outside. Marquez White held his own. My pet cat, Xavier Woods, didn’t get many reps but was assignment solid from the little written on him. Jeff Heath had his day on the final Tuesday practice, picking off two passes, one in the red zone from Dak in the 2 minute drills. Byron Jones & Jason Witten had some pushing and shoving as Jones was knocking down a few passes. Anthony Brown apparently had some solid work against Dez and isn’t handing anyone a spot. Orlando Scandrick as he told the newbies he’ll help them, but he’s not handing them his job!
Offensively the key positions for us to look closely at is RT & LG. At first, I didn’t think the team wanted to seriously kick Collins out to RT. But as OTA’s went along it appears this may well be permanent and if that is how it plays out, it would speak volumes on how they feel about Chaz Green’s ability to stay healthy. Guessing they feel they can get any number of guys to play guard well enough, sandwiched between Tyrun & Frederick. Jonathan Cooper’s the favorite for LG but that’s not written in stone. Joe Looney has some thinking he’s got a shot at LG and they are likely to take a look at Bell there as well in camp. Cooper would give us four true 1st round selections up front and one who would have been, not for a disastrous story coming out draft week. Can Cooper anchor down on a guy like, Fletcher Cox? Having seen Looney last year for a few snaps, I’d like to get a better look at Bell inside or anyone else for that matter. Didn’t like some of Bell’s tape at OT, but if they kick him into LG, it might be a better fit for him. Someone needs to step up at the LG position.
We seem set at RB, yet Rod Smith, was getting more snaps than Morris, indicating a serious look at Rod. Morris doesn’t play any special teams, so that may be a huge factor in a decision in the backfield.
At WR, the most noticeable player was easily Ryan Switzer, who got all the snaps with the 1’s filling in for Cole Beasley. You have to believe that if Switzer stays healthy that it spells the end for Lucky in Dallas. Can’t see keeping three under sized WR’s! Going into camp, I felt that they were wide open to replacing Brice Butler. Yet from what I’m reading, Butler’s making that a difficult task. Butler seemed to have had a very solid couple of weeks. There are going to be several guys pushing for a 6th spot at the WR position, that’s what training camp will decide. Noah Brown has the size you’d like but lacks speed. At the moment, I don’t see them going more than 5 WR’s.
In rewatching the Packers game in January, my eyes saw Dez at perhaps his career best. He just took over the game the last three quarters. Didn’t matter who or how many guys were covering him. I expect Dez to have his most productive year in 2017. That doesn’t mean 100+ catches for 1600 yards. Just total efficiency of making big plays when needed most. When in doubt, put it up where only the great one can bring it down! Never seen anyone as good above the rim!
Gathers suffered with pink eye and missed about 4-5 practices over the last two weeks. When he did return, he made a significant mistake by running a route, when he should have taken on a blitzing LB who got a clean sack on the QB. OTA’s are where mistakes are to be made and learned from. In Gathers case, the coaches won’t be very forgiving. Gathers as the #4 TE, has no room for error.
No one wins position battles in OTA’s! Coaches don’t know what they have in players until the pads go on and who survives physically thru camp. What I liked the most was that the new additions in the secondary performed well, didn’t back down and were assignment sound. With 4 rookies drafted for the secondary, that’s exactly what we had to hope for. Those with me for draft week know that I was rallying for 2-3 picks for the secondary. Four was a bonus and now let’s see what they can do in camp.
The only positions I see any true battles with are the OL, at LG. This is one of just a few starting spots up for grabs on the team. How many guys do they carry on the OL & DL? My concern is keeping a guy like Joe Looney or Emmit Cleary who are JAG’s at best, versus say guys that may develop that are in the secondary? I’d hate giving up on one of them, just to have that extra back up guy sitting around on the OL. I just hate having below average players on the 53! Who will start at the two corners will be very interesting? While Heath is the early favorite at safety, does he hold onto that spot thru camp? The third spot at RB is up for grabs. Finally, do we carry a 6th WR? It’s pretty much a ho hum camp at the moment with most positions locked and loaded. Only two or three starting spots to be finalized, barring injuries.