The Cowboys minicamp came to an end Thursday as the team now faces five weeks of off time before they return to the practice field in Oxnard. This was the last chance to see our favorite football players do football things until late July. If you have been following BTB closely, then you’ve seen the daily reports from Michael Sisemore. If not, it’s not too late to check them out.
Here is a quick summary of some of the risers and fallers over the last few days.
The Cowboys may have drafted three new rookie defensive backs, but it was the returning DBs that impressed in minicamp, starting with last year’s rookie gem, Anthony Brown. Every day, Brown was standing out. Whether he was covering Terrance Williams or even Dez Bryant, the second-year corner made play after play. He has been in great position and smothering Bryant as he contest passes.
The young corner continues to show improvement. This was a player who was thrown to the wolves early in the year when Orlando Scandrick was dealing with an injury. But the kid got better as the season went on.
Over the last five weeks of his rookie season, Cowboys CB Anthony Brown allowed the fewest yards per coverage snap of any NFL cornerback. pic.twitter.com/W9W0AjK88o— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 31, 2017
Year two could be a nice jump for Brown.
Another defensive back that was covering a lot of ground these last three days was Byron Jones. While this will be Jones’ third year in the league, it’s only his second as the teams starting safety. So this could be a big jump year for him as well. And as we saw at the combine, he’s no stranger to big jumps. He had a stretch on Thursday where he was putting on a clinic.
Lotta people will talk abt Byron & Witten jawing. What was cooler was Byron being a one man show on 3 straight reps: pic.twitter.com/PQm8Xk0GIw— David Helman (@HelmanDC) June 15, 2017
Jones had more breakups than Ross and Rachael.
Jones talking it up with Jason Witten is great to see. Just because Witten is the most respected player on the field doesn’t mean Jones is going to kill him with kindness. These two are fierce competitors and have been going at each for the last few years. As Jason Garrett stated, it’s a good thing to see these two battling it out like this.
"Guys love to compete and that's what they do," Garrett said. "That's why those two guys are really good football players. It matters to them. Everything matters to them. They scratch and claw and fight for every inch. That's a really healthy thing for your football team."
The veteran backup safety is trying to earn the starting strong safety spot, replacing Barry Church. And he’s off to a good start, picking up right where he left off in last season’s Divisional Playoff game against the Green Bay Packers - intercepting passes. Whether it’s a tipped pass or a bail sailing out of the end zone, Heath always finds a way to be around the ball. He was the star of the first day of mini camp.
What if Jeff Heath turns out to be a good football player? Man, wouldn’t that be something.
All eyes have been on Jaylon Smith as everyone gathers around to see how he looks on the field. But while that is going on, another Cowboys player is reminding people that he’s still the teams starting middle linebacker. Four-year veteran Anthony Hitchens has played well, particularly in the passing game. He was able to catch Ezekiel Elliott after he caught the ball out of the flat and looked to be off to the races. Hitchens also locked in on Dak Prescott’s eyes and was able to jump a route. He wasn’t able to time his jump correctly and unfortunately didn’t come away with the pick.
It’s not common that a player gives All Pro guard Zack Martin fits, but that’s exactly what Collins is doing. The young defensive tackle has been able to use his power to knock Martin off balance. Of course, Martin is no slouch and will win his share of battles too when he gets a good punch in, stymieing Collins’ rush. This is a great sign to see these two go back and forth like this. Brace yourself Cowboys fans, this new 3-tech is going to make some big plays for the defense this year.
Other notable guys to keep an eye on...
DT, Cedric Thornton
While Collins gets a lot of attention as an up-and-coming defensive tackle, many are writing off last year’s free agent signing, Cedric Thornton. Whether it be a disliking of Thornton or the appeal of new free agent DT Stephen Paea, some are even questioning his place on the team. Well, right now that place is the starting 1-tech. Thornton had a nice spin move to tag out Zeke in the backfield for a loss. Currently it’s Thornton’s job to lose and if he keeps playing like he is, he’s going to hold that spot down.
LB, John Lotulelei
Not a lot of people know much about John Lotulelei and that’s fine. He’s an undrafted free agent that has spent the last few years on a few different teams. The Cowboys signed him to a future contract in January and now he’s getting a chance to earn a job. He has been the coaches choice to play the weak side LB spot when Sean Lee isn’t on the field and he’s making the most of it. He’s been impressive on the field so far.
Fan favorite Rico Gathers missed the first two days of practice with pink eye. And when he was on the field for the final day, it didn’t go well. Gathers struggled picking up a blitz which led to a sack and tight ends coach Steve Loney laid into him. Gathers had to leave the field and he wasn’t very happy about it. Rico slammed his helmet down showing obvious disappointment with himself. Gathers will need to get his blocking assignments down because mess ups like this will not put him on the football field when it matters.
It’s early and there are going to be growing pains for a rookie pass rusher. Don’t fret at all that he’s having some problems. For starters, he has logged time on the right side where Tyron Smith is going to beat you down every time. That is something one might expect, but Charlton is also having problems with the reserve left tackles as well. However, you put him on the other side and he does a lot better. On Wednesday, he also jumped offsides that nullified an interception by Chidobe Awuzie.
It’s early, kid. Don’t sweat it.
The Cowboys have been playing musical chairs with the starting left guard position this week. On Tuesday, it was Chaz Green who ran with the 1’s. Green initially struggled with his balance, but made improvements. Jonathan Cooper was given the chance to run with the 1’s on Wednesday. While he showed good technique, he had a mental lapse and blew his blocking assignment when he zigged while the other blockers zagged. And on Thursday, the Cowboys went back to Green.
Cowboys' first-team offensive line: LT-Tyron Smith, LG-Chaz Green, C-Travis Frederick, RG-Zack Martin, RT-La'el Collins— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) June 15, 2017
The left guard position is up for grabs and don’t be surprised to see a new face logging snaps come training camp. But as of now, it looks like Green has a slight advantage over Cooper.
On the bright side, there isn’t much talk of anyone else playing right tackle other than La’el Collins.
Are there any players who have impressed you so far? Anyone you’re worried about?