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Cowboys practice highlights: Big day for corners and pass rushers

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Highlights from the fifth day of practice in Oxnard.

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

Chidobe Awuzie, Cowboys secondary dominates Tuesday’s training camp practice - Connor Livesay, Blogging The Boys
The Cowboys starting outside corners are really showing up in camp so far. Livesay gives a good run down of Tuesday’s performance by the Cowboys’ young corners.

Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones were the two defensive backs that seemed to show up the most in Tuesday’s practice. Whenever one of the Cowboys quarterbacks targeted Awuzie or Jones the ball fell harmlessly to the ground or was deflected by the defensive backs. Awuzie and Jones are slated to be the team’s two starting cornerbacks when the Cowboys take on the Panthers in week one in Charlotte. If these two corners continue to play at today’s level, the Cowboys defense will be in for a good year.

Camp Stars: Big Day For Chido & Pass Rushers - Staff, DallasCowboys.com
Awuzie gets three of the five stars on offer today, but the other two go to Charles Tapper and Dorance Armstrong.

Nick Eatman: I’m not going to lie, when I read the story David Helman wrote on Charles Tapper and what he’s dealing with off the field, I’m definitely pulling for him to make it. Still, Tuesday’s practice was a good one for him as he won several 1-on-1 battles in the pass-rush drills, including one in Compete Period against Chaz Green.

Rob Phillips: Rookie defensive end Dorance Armstrong has a pretty unassuming personality, and quietly he’s showing up as a pass rusher in these practices. The fourth-round draft pick showed a blend of power and explosiveness off the edge against Cameron Fleming in one-on-one drills. He also had a would-be sack on third-string quarterback Mike White to end practice. The Cowboys have worked Armstrong at right and left defensive end with the backups and he’s off to a good start in Oxnard, along with fellow end Charles Tapper.

Cowboys practice report: Defense controls the day again – Calvin Watkins, The Athletic
The Cowboys’ defense returned from an off-day with a strong effort on Tuesday both in pass coverage and in the pass rush, Watkins writes.

Pass Coverage: Tuesday’s session prompted secondary coach Kris Richard to remark, “We want to make it as hard as possible,” on the offense. After quarterback Dak Prescott started the practice session completing his first five throws, he went five-for-nine, throwing an interception to Anthony Brown and seeing two passes broken up by cornerback Chidobe Awuzie.

Pass Rush: It was another strong day for a young defense missing key pieces such as ends Randy Gregory and David Irving, tackle Maliek Collins and safety Kavon Frazier. Without those players, Jihad Ward and Datone Jones are getting significant time with the first team at defensive tackle. The Cowboys continue to search for ends in the nickel package when Tyrone Crawford goes inside, but Taco Charlton and Charles Tapper have done their part during team and individual drills.

Taco Charlton made a nice spin move to get a sack on Jacob Campos. Datone Jones earned a sack over Marcus Martin. Rookie guard Connor Williams had a rough day, giving up sacks to Jihad Ward and Tyrone Crawford. Williams was pushed back into the ‘quarterback’ by Crawford. However, Tyron Smith had no problem holding off Crawford, La’el Collins stalled DeMarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin protected the quarterback against Jones, and Travis Frederick did the same against Brian Price.

Chidobe Awuzie stands out as defense makes So. Cal life tough on offense - Kate Hairopoulos, SportsDay
Hairopoulos focuses on Awuzie in her practice summary.

Awuzie impressesd during padded practice No. 3 on Tuesday. He showed up all over the field, breaking up passes, using impressive closing speed and good hands and position to his advantage on a day when the defense made life in Southern California tough on the offense. Among the defense’s positives: a fumble forced by first-round draft pick Leighton Vander Esch and an interception of quarterback Dak Prescott by corner Anthony Brown, though it was nullified by penalty.

”I feel confident, that’s the key,” Awuzie said. “Once you feel confident, you can do a lot of great things. As a corner, if you don’t have that confidence, you’ll probably get beat before the play mentally. It’s all about staying low, coming out of your breaks and being able to make plays.”

Chidobe Awuzie gives defense edge in two-minute work - Todd Archer via Facebook
In addition to highlighting the defense’s big day, Archer highlights some things that haven’t gotten as much headlines.

First-round pick Leighton Vander Esch forced a fumble of TE Blake Jarwin in seven on seven work and then came down with a pass deflection on a corner route by TE David Wells. He said after practice he is feeling more comfortable as time goes on. Not sure, but it looked like he got a first-team snap in the morning walkthrough at middle linebacker with Jaylon Smith at the strong side.

An issue the receivers have had on deep balls is not giving the quarterback a lane to their outside shoulder to throw a deep ball. Receivers coach Sanjay Lal had the group working on remaining on a red line painted 6 yards from the sideline in individual drills. We’ll see if that pays off.

DE DeMarcus Lawrence showed his versatility in some pass rush moves, using a long-arm power move to get into Collins in one on one drills and then he was able to slap Collins hands with his outside arm to gain the corner.

Cowboys return with extra pep in step after day off - Shawn Kairschner, CowboysWire
Part of rabblerouser's always excellent camp report is dedicated to the 2018 draft class. Here's a slightly abridged version:

First-rounder Vander Esch has been solid, if unspectacular. It’s quite possible that the realities of camp practice don’t allow him to showcase his particular strengths; it’s difficult to exhibit a physical presence when one cannot tackle ball carriers to the ground.

Second-round selection Connor Williams had been running with the first team since the start of camp, and this has not been a courtesy; rather, he has shown strength and quickness and — most impressive — the ability to use his feet to compensate for a lack of anchor.

Third rounder Michel Gallup is the best receiver on the team and will be starting by mid-season; his smoothness and body control have been startling.

Fourth-round pick DE Dorance Armstrong has acquitted himself very well; insiders say he has earned the right to some first-team snaps.

We haven’t seen enough of tight end Dalton Schultz (paternity leave); before he left, however, he showed he is a smooth, natural pass catcher.

Fifth-round QB Mike While has the best arm in camp; the ball leaves his hand with a purpose. In addition, he has shown a deftness in the pocket, using subtle footwork to avoid the rush (which has often been fierce, as his third team O-line has generally been dominated by the third team D-line). The issue is this: his information processing is still a couple ticks slow, such that his rocket passes often arrive late.

Sixth rounders LB Chris Covington and WR Cedrick Wilson have yet to make much of an impression, unfortunately.

Seventh rounder Bo Scarborough has been running third team and, as a consequence, hasn’t has a lot of opportunity. That said, the former ‘Bama product had a couple of nice runs during team period today.

Practice Recap: Richard Rallies The Defense - Staff, DallasCowboys.com
The Cowboys’ defense dominated Tuesday’s practice, and their fiery secondary coach was right in the thick of the action to spur them on.

It’d be fair to criticize the offense for being out of sync, but perhaps part of that was because the Cowboys’ defense played so well. The defense dominated the Compete Periods, and it held the first-team offense to a three-and-out during the two-minute drill.

It seemed like the Cowboys’ defenders had an answer for everything the offense tried. Asked about it after practice, Richard said his group is picking things up quickly. Though, obviously, there’s still a long way to go.

“It’s starting to get to the point of camp to where the installation is starting to get smaller. So when the installation starts to get smaller, the execution needs to increase,” he said. “That’s kind of the point to where we are. By no means, and we all understand – we’re not a finished product. We absolutely need to get better in specific areas, and that’s what we’re locked in on.”

5 obeservations from practice - Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Hill’s five points are always worth reading, here are excerpts from two of them.

The flip side to the rough day by the pass offense was the stellar play on defense, especially by Awuzie and Byron Jones. Many of the completions on offense were underneath that were quickly covered up by the linebackers.

“We want to make it as hard out here as possible for our confidence and their confidence,” Richard said. “Iron sharpens iron. So the better we are, the better they are. The better they are the better we will become.”

Consider receiver Tavon Austin as a highlight on offense. When he was acquired by the Cowboys in a trade with the Rams he was described as a web back, a combination between a running back and a receiver. While Austin may get some carries on the end around, he has been strictly a receiver in training camp and getting a lot of reps with the first team. He was very busy on Tuesday, hauling in two receptions from Cooper Rush to spark the second team offense to a field goal drive. Lal is also impressed with Austin’s leadership. He has been the spark plug of the group in how he practices, even in walk-throughs, and with the passion he brings. Lal called it a pleasant surprise.

Observations from Oxnard: Watch Rod Smith vs. brother Jaylon, how Connor Williams and Tavon Austin bonded over John Denver, and more - Staff, SportsDay
Sportsday offers up a smorgaboard of videos, some thoughts from their writers, and some quotes from coaches and athletes. A sampling:

Cowboys DBs coach Kris Richard on CB Chidobe Awuzie: "I love Chido's progress. The little things he needs to fix he goes out there and fixes it. He's a conscientious player. Obviously he's a cerebral player for such a young guy and that's really cool to see."

Cowboys WR coach Sanjay Lal on his position group: "They will be where they're supposed to be and they will run detailed, nice-looking routes. We're going to turn the tape on and be proud of what we put on tape. There's not many guarantees, but it's going to be that way."

Cowboys 2018 training camp: Practice #5 recap with photos and videos - Michael Sisemore, Blogging The Boys
Sisemore with social media highlights summarizing yesterday's camp activities.