What Stood Out In The Cowboys OTAs And Minicamp - Tom Ryle, Blogging The Boys
Ryle summarizes eight things that jumped out about the Cowboys offseason so far.
- La'el Collins is the starting right tackle.
- Ryan Switzer has quickly assimilated himself into the receiving corps.
- Veterans are facing real competition for their jobs from the young guys.
- The clear growth of Dak Prescott.
- The secondary looks to have taken a significant step forward.
- The Cowboys are crafting an incredibly versatile defense.
- How staying the course is panning out well.
- The (relative) lack of bad news.
The SportsDay staff takes a look at the ten things that occurred, including an incident between Byron Jones and Jason Witten, Jeff Heath vying for a starting spot in the secondary, and more!
Many Cowboys fans have loved Jason Witten’s toughness for years. He brings a toughness and leadership to the locker room that is needed for a winning environment. Although he is up there in years, the old man of the team still has some fire in him.
1. Jason Witten vs. Byron Jones
Early in practice, Jones was covering Witten in the right flat. After the play, both began pushing each other. Witten primarily used one hand, but Jones didn't back down from the 15-year veteran as the two were entangled for a short stretch.
"Just having a little fun, competitive, you know," Witten said. "It's been chippy all offseason between the offense and defense. Just making each other better. He's turning into this player and I'm constantly challenging Byron that I think he can play at that level. I think he can be one of those guys. It's good to have those competitions and get him fired up a little bit. Great stage to do it."
"We were just having fun. Just a little fun out there," Jones said. "One more day to compete so why not make it good."
As you know, the Cowboys let Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, and company go in hopes to revamp the secondary. The team spent draft picks on Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, and Marquez White. Jeff Heath wants to make sure that people know he isn’t going to lay down.
3. Jeff Heath
"He's been that way since we've had him here," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "He's either punching it out, or he's picking it. He doesn't say anything, but he keeps saying [with his play] this is my resume, keep looking."
"I just try to have the mentality that when the ball is in the air, it's a free ball," Heath said. "Coach Marinelli, he puts it like that. When you think about it, it's pretty simple, the ball is in the air and either the offensive guy is going to catch it or you're going to catch it. I just try to be aggressive and see my opportunities to make the play and just go for it."
The Cowboys spent their first-round selection on Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton to improve the pass rush and the defense as a whole. In minicamp, he found himself lined up against, perhaps, the best offensive lineman in all of football.
9. Taco vs. Tyron
"He's a Pro Bowler for a reason, one of the best left tackles for a reason," Charlton said. "We get after it -- he's making me improve and study my game. I'm watching a lot of tape to see what I can do better, different things to beat him consistently. I'm still a competitive guy so no matter who I'm losing to, I hate losing, period. Even if I'm losing to him, I'm still not liking it. I take my wins when I can get them. I just keep trying to improve and get better."
Speaking of Taco, the rookie has impressed so far at left defensive end. Charlton looks to make a big impact on the Cowboys during his first season in the league.
I don’t think it will be long into training camp – if at all – until we see the Cowboys commit Charlton to the LDE position fully. Yes, there is the fact that any right rusher work he’s gotten so far has come against the best LT in the NFL in a healthy Tyron Smith, but upgrading the strong side end position with a talented rookie is far from a worst case scenario for Dallas.
Martin goes on to write that Charlton’s success on the left could help with the right defensive end position.
Cowboys Nation may collectively be disappointed at the very fact that the first round pick we all demanded be used on a pass rusher went to a player that will excel in less of a pass rushing spot, but this team is actually set up better than years past when it comes to Rod Marinelli’s rotation on the right side – especially if Charlton draws enough attention on the opposite edge.
OTAs and minicamp are both complete, but the Cowboys are not planning on taking much time off. In fact, Dak, Dez, and others are already planning on getting together to work on their craft before it is time to report back for training camp.
Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten and others talked Thursday about getting together at different times during the upcoming weeks.
"Every bit is going to help," Bryant said. "We're excited about that. It's going to be good. It's going to lead all the way up to training camp."
Prescott said he's looking forward to throwing with his teammates even if it isn't the entire group every time.
"I don't care if we're both out in L.A. and accidentally run in to each other, we'll probably go get some work in that next day or something," the starting quarterback said. "It's about just communicating, knowing where we're at and trying to get a time together when we're all there and we can work on some things."
Charles Tapper looks to make an impact on the defensive line for the Dallas Cowboys during the upcoming season. Casas wrote that the second-year player out of Oklahoma is eager for the 2017 season.
The idea of Tapper shifting from an interior spot to the 5-technique — lining up on the outside shoulder of the tackle — is a mandate from defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
“Even if some of those guys were still around, I still feel like I’m a real option for this team,” Tapper said. “You can only control the things you can control, and I feel like I’m good enough as an athlete to compete.
“That’s why we’re all here, and we came here for a reason and that’s competing against the best offensive line in the world. Around here, they say if you’re quicker than everybody, show us. If you say you’re an athlete and you’re going to be athletic, show us. At the end of the day, I just want to give coach Marinelli a hard decision to make.”
Sunday was Father’s Day, so, naturally coaches and players talked about the impact their own dad had on their life. Jason Garret talked about his dad’s love for football and how it helped him. Here is a little bit of what he said:
“My dad had such a big impact for life and everything about life. For people and for sports. He absolutely loves football. He was a football coach for a long time and he was a scout. All through my upbringing, he was coaching different teams in the NFL and somehow, some way he transferred that, but not because of what he said, just because of how he was. He was so passionate about it.”
Dez is a father himself, and he talks about how fatherhood has taught him to set his priorities straight in life.
“It’s the best thing that ever could have happened to me. Back in my younger days I had a lot of fun, but watching and seeing my babies grow, combined with work, I had to set my priorities straight. I cherish every moment of it.”
Stacy Elliott and Odell Beckham Sr., the father of Ezekiel Elliott and Odell Beckham Jr. respectively, sat down with ESPN and explained how their lives have changed as a father of an NFL star. Here is what Stacy Elliott had to say:
“My life has changed a lot being the dad of Ezekiel Elliott. Me and my family were just down in Mexico about a month ago and people were stopping me and my wife, wanting to take pictures because we’re the parents of Ezekiel Elliott.”
On what he does to help Zeke stay grounded, Stacy Elliott says:
“For Ezekiel, it’s in his DNA to be humble. Of all the qualities that God has blessed him with, whether intellectually or on the football field, I think the greatest quality God has blessed Ezekiel with is that he is a very humble young man.
BTB’s Danny Phantom asks whether Ezekiel Elliott can become the best running back in the rich history of the Dallas Cowboys. He acknowledges that it may seem crazy to start the discussion already, but that Zeke has the potential to do it.
What if the greatest running back in the history of the Dallas Cowboys was the guy who was currently the team’s running back? Could we be witnessing a true Cowboys legend in the early stage of his career?
Now, I understand that when I decided to put these thoughts into an article that it would come with a lot of head shaking. Some will think I’m bunny-in-the-pot crazy and have already migrated to the comment section to let me know about it. Can you blame them? After all, Cowboys’ great Emmitt Smith is not only the top rusher in franchise history, but he’s the NFL’s all-time leading rusher as well. Rumor has it, he’s pretty good. Of course, there was a time early in Smith’s career where his greatness was just being realized and some fans were starting to make similar claims about him. Cowboys historians would simply tell them to simmer down and reminded them that Tony Dorsett played for this team as well. When Emmitt joined the Cowboys, Dorsett was the second all-time leading rusher in the NFL, trailing only Walter Payton.
In order for Zeke to reach Emmitt status, he will need to make an impact in more ways than one. After such a spectacular rookie campaign, can he have a bigger role in 2017?
According to ESPN.com, that is the hope of team owner Jerry Jones. Jones is guessing his star running back will be more involved in the passing game after Elliott had just 363 receiving yards in 2016, though it wasn't for a lack of pass catching skills. Elliott was only thrown the ball 39 times and caught 32 of those. The 82.1 percent catch rate is better than any of Le'Veon Bell's numbers over a full season, though Bell gets more than double the amount of balls thrown his way.
"He really is problematic for defenses in the passing game, and certainly every time we can get him the ball, I feel good about it," Jones said.
This might be pie-in-the-sky thinking for Jones, unfortunately. Elliott accounted for more than one third of Dallas' 6,027 offensive yards last year and nearly 25 percent of its total points. The push to have him become Bell or Cardinals running back David Johnson is admirable, though the real focus should be getting Elliott anywhere close to his production from 2016.
How quickly can Dallas lock up the man blocking for Zeke and protecting Dak? Brandon George takes a look at the best offensive guard in all of football:
Martin continued to establish himself as one of the league's top right guards, if not the best, in 2016.
Martin has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons and for the second time last year was named first-team All-Pro.
Martin helped pave the way for rookie Ezekiel Elliott to lead the NFL in rushing yards a year ago while also continuing to dominant as a pass protector.
Doug Free, the long time starter at right tackle, decided it was time to hang it up back in March. So, the offensive line needs Tyron Smith to take over the leadership role, writes George:
2017 outlook: Smith is now the veteran among the Cowboys' offensive linemen after right tackle Doug Free retired this offseason.
Smith avoided offseason surgery on his injured back and is healthy again, helping to tutor first-round draft pick defensive end Taco Charlton in offseason practices the way defensive end DeMarcus Ware helped Smith early in his career.
Smith isn't the vocal type, but he may need to assume more of a leadership role among the Cowboys with Free gone.