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Cowboys News: New-look secondary is turning heads in training camp

Latest Cowboys headlines: New-look secondary had an impressive start; how Dak Prescott can get even better; more.

Divisional Round - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Biggest Takeaway From The First Week Of Training Camp? New-look secondary had an impressive start - Dallas Cowboys
The staff shares their takeaways from the first week of camp: David Helman is particularly impressed with the new-look secondary.

David Helman: I’m about to state the obvious if you’ve been following along with our coverage, but this new-look secondary has had an impressive start to camp. We knew going in that all eyes were going to be on Chidobe Awuzie, the No. 60 overall pick in the draft. So far, he is delivering on the hype with a pair of interceptions and another pair of deflected passes in just two padded practices. It’s only two real days of work, but it’s exciting to see him moving around the formation, handling different duties – and handling them well.

Fellow rookie Marquez White is also off to a strong start, as he has looked physical and unafraid in one-on-one matchups as well as full-team repetitions. With all of that said, we haven’t even seen Jourdan Lewis yet – so his arrival will be another fun development to watch.

Obviously, the rookies are the big talking point, but the veterans deserve some mention, too. Anthony Brown nabbed the first interception of training camp when he picked off Dak Prescott on Thursday morning. Orlando Scandrick also had a really strong first day of practice, as he got the better of Dez Bryant on multiple occasions. It’s incredibly early, but it’s encouraging to see a strong start from a position group that’s facing a lot of scrutiny heading into 2017.

Position Battle Blog: Sorting Out The Crowded Cornerback Depth Chart - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Broaddus writes that the most impressive position group after one week of camp have been the defensive backs, and especially the cornerbacks.

Overall, this is a unique mix of veterans and youth with the potential of that youth pushing veterans out of jobs.

Carroll had a rough opening practice but managed to rally the following day during the one-on-one period in having to deal with Dez Bryant.

Scandrick finally looks healthy and his play has reflected that. When the defense goes to its sub packages (nickel/dime) Anthony Brown comes into the game and plays on the outside, kicking Scandrick inside. Like his counterparts, Brown has won his share of battles with the best receivers on the offense. His positioning on routes has been exceptional and he has shown the ball skills to create turnovers when those chances present themselves.

Camp Coverage: Dallas takes the day off and one unit earned it - Delaney Brey,
With Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, and J.J. Wilcox off to greener pastures, the new secondary is shining in ways the old one seldom did.

"Its on us as coaches at the end of the day. We got to put them in position, we got to coach, we got to teach and we got to bring them on and put them under fire," said Rod Marinelli, Cowboys defensive coordinator.

"We have a lot of athleticism, I think really at every position. I really like these young guys, they've came in and they are ready to learn. They have a lot of ability, god given ability," said Jeff Heath, Cowboys safety.

Dallas drafted four defensive backs and are counting on newcomer Nolan Carroll to help make up for the losses. So far so good, as returners Byron Jones, Orlando Scandrick, Jeff Heath, and Anthony Brown have all been impressive as well.

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott to other teams: I have a year of film on you, too - Mark Lane, All-22
Dak Prescott takes the favorite argument of all his naysayers ("Opponents now have a year of film on him.") and turns it around.

“I have a year of film on them,” Prescott told WFAA-TV in Dallas on Wednesday. “It works both ways. So, when people say that, it doesn’t really mean anything to me. Just as much as they’re watching it on me, I’m watching it on their defenses and their tendencies and their play-calling.”

How Dak Prescott Can Advance From Historic Rookie Season – Cian Fahey, Pre Snap Reads
Fahey prefaces his article by pointing out what every statistician knows to be true: statistical regression is inevitable for Dak Prescott. But that doesn't mean he can't improve as a passer.

An excerpt from this must-read article:

[His] poise is the starting point for Prescott’s success. It’s what allowed him to build out a wide skill set, establishing a foundation from which he can develop his proficiency as a passer. After his rookie season Prescott is already a good passer but he’s a better quarterback than he is a pure thrower. Prescott is already advanced at mitigating pressure in the pocket with his movement, at delivering the ball against arriving hits, at diagnosing coverages and at cycling through progressions.

He doesn’t need to get better in the areas that typically improve with greater experience. The only way Prescott can make major strides forward as a player is by becoming a different type of thrower.

His skill set combined with his situation meant that Prescott didn’t need to play with an aggressive mindset. As a thrower he didn’t need to attack tight windows. He took calculated shots downfield at times and, encouragingly, looked good when doing it.

If he is to take a step forward in his second season, Prescott needs to diversify the passing game by taking on a more aggressive approach while showing off greater trajectory control.

As Cowboys' Dak Prescott learns, he'll take chances to test his limits - Todd Archer, ESPN
Archer explains that where Prescott was focused on not making mistakes last year, this year "he is taking more chances in practice this year to test his limits."

“For the most part, I’m just executing the play and what comes with what I see,” Prescott said. “I’m going to react off that. That just comes with preparation out here. Now, I think being at camp and these extra reps, this will give me time to rate, I guess, my risk versus reward, kind of test it sometimes. I may go into practice one day and just gamble the whole practice, but that’s what this time is for, so when I get in the game I know my chances.”

The Cowboys are now among the very best at home-grown talent - Bob Sturm, SportsDay
Sturm explains that the Cowboys are now among the very best at building their team with home-grown talent.

According to our research from last season, the Cowboys trailed only the Green Bay Packers in this category (49), among all of the teams in the NFL that we surveyed. The Cowboys had 43 homegrown players on their 53-man roster last year, which compares quite favorably to many of the key teams on your radar.

This has two key benefits for the Cowboys, both of which Sturm expands on in much more detail in his highly readable article.

1) The list of teams that have the most homegrown players on their roster seems to correlate in a larger sample to long-term winning.

2) The list of teams who draft and sign their own talent out of college then have a magnificent advantage of extending those players to team-friendly contracts can help you manage your salary cap and your expenditures to keep your team together for years to come.

Scout’s Notebook: Generating Takeaways; Scouting Woods & Cooper - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
While most of the accredited folks covering the Cowboys at camp are busy chasing Lucky Whitehead and suspension headlines, or cobbling together player or coach quotes, Broaddus is one of the few writing about what is actually happening on the field in camp.

Which makes his Scout's Notebook is easily the best material coming out of camp, and I wish I could quote the whole article every morning. Can't do that though, so here are two observations from Thursday's practice that stood out to me, but go read the entire thing, there's much more good stuff there.

Better day for Nolan Carroll overall after struggling in coverage on Wednesday. He was matched up with Dez Bryant during one-on-one right from the get-go and was up to the task. Bryant tried to take Carroll up the field, then worked hard to the inside. Carroll was ready for him and was able to undercut the route and knocked the ball away from Bryant with a fine play. Carroll lined up across from Bryant two other times in the period and was able to hold his own by denying him the ball on each of those opportunities.

It was the first day of pads for Mark Nzeocha and he came up with a heck of an interception by reading Dak Prescott’s eyes. During the 7-on-7 period, he was in a zone drop and saw Prescott turn his attention to his left to pick up the route that Brice Butler was running to that side. As Butler started to the inside, Nzeocha began to drift to his right. Prescott fired the ball in Butler’s direction working against Anthony Brown, but Nzeocha moved himself into the throwing lane. The ball never got to Butler because Nzeocha reached up with both hands and snatched it out of the air.

Cole Beasley "excited" to see another "short white guy" in Ryan Switzer - Marc Sessler,
Cole Beasley had to wonder what the Cowboys were up to when they grabbed Ryan Switzer in the fourth round of this year's draft, but he says he's "excited" to be playing alongside the rookie.

"I was actually excited, more for the slot position itself than our particular situation," Beasley said, per The Dallas Morning News. "There's been so many guys like me, guys like Wes Welker who never got drafted. They weren't drafting short white guys. And part of my goal has been to push the position forward.

"It's just exciting that slot guys now are making more of an impact."

Dallas Cowboys pass rusher Damontre Moore has been suspended two games - RJ Ochoa, Blogging The Boys
The Cowboys have yet another pass rusher suspended to start the season in Damontre Moore.

The suspension is in relation to his December DWI [in Seattle]. I suppose there’s some solace in the fact that Damontre hasn’t had any sort of infraction since arriving in Dallas, but nevertheless this is extremely frustrating.

Cowboys sign quarterback Luke McCown to a one-year deal - Danny Phantom, Blogging The Boys
After losing backup quarterback Zac Dysert to injury, the Cowboys signed veteran QB Luke McCown to a one-year deal.

At 36 years old, McCown is a career backup quarterback, playing with five different teams, but he’s only started 10 games his entire NFL career. McCown most recently played with the New Orleans Saints, backing up Drew Brees, but became expendable when the Saints signed Chase Daniel.

Cowboys sign WR Javontee Herndon - Charean Williams, ProFootballTalk
More roster moves.

The Cowboys also signed receiver Javontee Herndon, who worked out for the team Friday morning. Herndon did not play last season because of a knee injury but had 24 catches for 195 yards for the Chargers in 2015 when he played in eight games, with two starts.

They waived running back Jahad Thomas with an injury designation. Thomas was an undrafted rookie free agent. He will go on injured reserve if he clears waivers.

Report: Roger Goodell hasn’t been involved in Ezekiel Elliott case - Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
The NFL is trying to make you believe that its top man has had no involvement in the most high-profile discipline case the NFL has handled in years.

Via Dom Cosentino of, “Goodell has distanced himself so much from this case that he hasn’t even been present for any of the disciplinary hearings involving Elliott.”

The implication of this new report is clear — Goodell, if he’s indeed keeping away from the Elliott case, may be trying to avoid any blame for the final outcome.

Looks like Goodell is once again trying to weasel his way out of a tough spot. My understanding is that's exactly the kind of leadership organizations are looking for from a guy they are paying $40+ million per year to run things.

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