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Cowboys training camp news & notes: Highlights from Day Two

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Why Dallas’ passing game may soon look similar to New England’s; Randy Gregory and Taco Charlton have bulked up; who has the most potential at WR?

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


VIDEO: Sights and sounds from Friday afternoon practice at Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, CA, Friday, July 27, 2018. - Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Short video on yesterday's afternoon practice.

Cowboys 2018 training camp: All the sights & sounds from practice #2 for the Cowboys - Michael Sisemore, Blogging The Boys
Sisemore with a rundown of the social media highlights from the second practice. No Dez Bryant talk to be found anywhere. Promised.

Cowboys training camp Day 2 report covers Jaylon Smith, Rico Gathers - Shawn Kairschner, CowboysWire
Our good friend rabblerousr with his take on Day Two, including what he saw at defensive end and receiver:

On the defensive line, recent high draft picks Randy Gregory and Taco Charlton look like different players. Both were always long and lean, but Gregory’s shoulders are impressive—and Taco’s upper body is massive. Gregory didn’t have a chance to show off his quickness (other than when helping to re-set the bags between reps), but Charlton is evidently more violent and sudden during drills.

It was notable that the offensive staff was lining their receiving corps up at a multitude of positions. [...]

I ask you to hearken back to Week 5 of the 2015 season, as Cowboys Nation wrung its hands and pulled its hair after watching the Patriots use scheme — picks, rub routes, pattern combination from bunch formations — to create a litany of big plays in the passing game. “Why, oh why, can’t the Cowboys do the same,” we wailed as we pulled out our fingernails, one by one.

The answer is that those concepts rely on technical precision and exact execution—not a hallmark of the team’s recent wideout rosters. Bryant was a beast, but that was not his game.

Precision is one of the ways the new WRs brought onto the roster win. As a consequence, I’d venture to say that we’ll see a bit more of the, um, Patriot Way, in Dallas’ 2018 passing game.

Dak draws more Aikman comparisons while Zeke shows more leadership on Day 2 of camp - Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Hill's five observations from training camp include a look at the versatility at wide receiver and how the Cowboys are bringing Leighton Vander Esch along.

Tavon Austin was billed to be a running back and receiver when the Cowboys signed him. But he has played mainly receiver the first few days of camp and taken a lot of reps with the first team offense alongside Cole Beasley and Allen Hurns with Terrance Williams being brought along slowly due to his off-season foot surgery. It speaks to the team having big plans on using Austin. The lineup of diminutive Beasley and Austin on the outside with the taller Hurns in the slot is certainly interesting. Hurns said he played primarily slot in Jacksonville. But it allows the Cowboys to be more unpredictable and potentially more explosive.

The Cowboys like starting first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch at second team middle linebacker because it allows him to call plays. Sean Lee calls plays with the first team with Jaylon Smith going first at middle linebacker. Vander Esch is getting as many reps as Smith at middle linebacker. But he gets a better grasp of the defense with the second team because he gets to call all the signals. Interestingly enough, the Cowboys plan to rotate all three at the weakside and middle linebacker slots. When Vander Esch and Smith are on the field, Smith will play the middle with Vander Esch playing the weakside spot. Also look for Smith to be used more as a blitzer from the middle.

Cowboys practice report: Dez Bryant, the ‘snake’ and the national anthem – Calvin Watkins, The Athletic
There was a lot going on at Cowboys training camp yesterday, and some of it even involved football. Here’s what Watkins writes happened on the practice field.

New position coach Sanjay Lal is teaching his group to get off the line of scrimmage quicker. He also wants the receivers to run with their arms tighter to their bodies to offset wasted motion, much like how a sprinter runs.

The Cowboys are mixing and matching slot corners. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown got looks at the position during the morning walkthrough. Brown got a few more reps with the first team over Lewis, but it’s early. The starting corners are Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones. Things could change quickly here after Saturday’s first padded practice.

It’s unclear who will be the starting tight end. The Cowboys have used Dalton Schultz with the first team and rotated everybody else with the exception of Rico Gathers. The problem at times with Gathers, a former Baylor basketball power forward trying to play football, is that he doesn’t run smoothly. It appears as if he’s fighting himself to relax and run routes.

Observations from Oxnard: Dez Bryant drama, video of Ezekiel Elliott and WRs at practice, and more - SportsDayDFW
Back to football. Here is a media thread of SportsDayDFW writer’s observations from Oxnard after two days of practice.

Notes: Veteran Days & More - Rob Phillips,
The second day of camp already saw some players take veteran days.

The Cowboys are still not back in full pads, but they still held out some of the more experienced players for a scheduled “veteran day.” As expected, linebacker Sean Lee, tackle Tyron Smith and long snapper L.P. Ladouceur worked on conditioning drills for the most of practice. It’s likely the Cowboys will keep those three, and perhaps a few more selected vets, on a schedule to keep them fresh throughout camp.

With Smith sitting out Friday, free-agent signing Cameron Fleming took first-team reps at left tackle. The Cowboys signed Fleming for depth after Smith missed games with multiple injuries last season. The 25-year-old Fleming started last year’s Super Bowl at right tackle for the Patriots.

Mailbag: Who Has The Most Potential At WR? - Bryan Broaddus & Rob Phillips,
With camp finally under way, these types of questions don't need to be answered in a vacuum but can now be answered based on practice impressions.

Q: Thoughts on who has the most potential of the long list of WRs?

Bryan: That’s an interesting question. The easy answer for me is Michael Gallup. I had him in my Top 50 players in this past draft, so I believe in him. A sneaky guy to keep an eye on for me is Deonte Thompson. There is something about his route running ability alone, along with that ability to finish plays, that gives me a little hope they might have found one.

Rob: Gallup. If you watch him out in practice, it doesn’t take long to notice he’s got an explosive ability to separate downfield. It’s just going to be a matter of finishing plays and learning how to be consistent in this offense. This season, I think it's Allen Hurns who has the best chance to be that No. 1 option for Dak.


Rookies Impress On Day 1 Of Practice - Bryan Broaddus,
Broaddus offers a wrap-up of the first day's activities in Oxnard. Here's an excerpt:

I don’t know if Scott Linehan was messing with the practice observers today, but it was interesting to see the number of snaps where both Cole Beasley and Tavon Austin were on the field together. Linehan took the opportunity to work both on the outside instead of traditional slot, where we generally see them operate.

I’m really interested how they are going to roll with this defensive end rotation behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford. The initial groups were Taco Charlton at left end with Kony Ealy on the right side. The group behind them was Charles Tapper on the left side and Dorance Armstrong on the right. When Randy Gregory returns to practice he will likely be in competition with Ealy and Armstrong for that back up spot on the right side.

I don’t know if this something we’re going to see more of, but there were plenty of snaps where linebackers were coming on the blitz. There has been some buzz around camp that we could see that as a possibility and it appears that Rod Marinelli is at least taking an early look at that. At various times when the offense and defense were together, the extra rusher was in fact a linebacker -- whether it was Damien Wilson, Justin March-Lillard or Chris Covington.

Cowboys Training Camp: Breaking Down First Team Starters from Day One - Sean Martin, InsideTheStar
Martin sifts through social media reports to get an idea of which players are running with the first team.

The Cowboys wide receivers will take a while to sort out still, but the (very) early advantage goes to Deonte Thompson and Allen Hurns. Thompson's opportunity is potentially a product of Terrance Williams' absence from practice, as he was only present for the team's initial walk through.

The Cowboys also ran two tight ends onto the field with their first team, which removes projected starter Cole Beasley. Geoff Swaim was expected to get the first crack at this starting job, and Blake Jarwin sits right behind him.

This gives the Cowboys two versatile TEs that are both developing in the passing game while also being willing blockers. This is the difference in Swaim and Jarwin's game that could see them hold off Rico Gathers and rookie Dalton Schultz.

Wide Receiver Allen Hurns was signed to give the Cowboys some stability at WR prior to the NFL Draft -- where Dallas came away with Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson -- and so it's no surprise to see him running with the starters early.