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News & Notes from Cowboys Camp: Dak’s deep ball on display; big moments from Zeke & Jaylon; more

Rough day for the tight ends, Dorance Armstrong continues to make plays, DT Antwaun Woods giving Travis Frederick trouble, and much more.

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dak Prescott working on accuracy, deep ball - Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Scott Linehan said part of the focus for the rest of camp is on improving quarterback Dak Prescott’s accuracy and the deep ball, and Hill looks at how the Cowboys are trying to do that.

The Cowboys are placing an increased focus on the deep ball and getting Prescott on the same page with his revamped receivers corps.

There were struggles early in camp because of a lack of chemistry. The Cowboys have more speed at receiver than they have had in years and the quarterbacks were underthrowing them.

“They have gotten better,” Linehan said. “That is why we are practicing them. We are practicing more the timing of our route tree. We got new players, young players. Dak has got to get that extra work with those guys. The whole idea with the deep ball is we want to stretch and get it down the field. That is the way the whole 9 ball concept works. It is not always the bull’s-eye shot or the back shoulder throw. Those are changeups or things you do when people defend and stay on top of receivers.”

It goes without saying the back shoulder throw was a staple of the Cowboys’ offense when departed receiver Dez Bryant was in his prime. The Cowboys have a faster group now with a different skill set.

With the speedy Deonte Thompson nursing a sore Achilles tendon for much of the last week, Terrance Williams has had the most success catching the deep ball in practice.

“Terrance is doing a great job of digging and running and opening his stride up,” receivers coach Sanjay Lal said. “He looks different. He looks really good on film.”

Lal said the quarterbacks are doing a better job throwing the ball out there and letting the receivers run under it than they did early in camp.

He said it’s not a surprise that it would take some time when there is an influx of super fast receivers. The receivers just have to keep running and the quarterbacks will figure out where to put the ball.

Practice Recap: Riveting Red Zone Drills; More - Staff, DallasCowboys.com
The mothership's practice summary focuses on the competitiveness and energy on display during the red zone drills - despite this being the 11th padded practice of camp.

Red zone drills [...] got pretty spirited when the offense and defense lined up down inside the 20-yard line. Things started off smooth enough, as a short carry by Ezekiel Elliott and a nice catch by Michael Gallup moved the offense down toward the 10-yard line.

Dorance Armstrong helped the defense buckle down starting on the next rep, as he forced Dak Prescott to roll left out of the pocket, then batted down his pass behind the line. Elliott followed that up with a short run to the 7-yard line.

That brought up a 3rd-and-goal, and it was Randy Gregory’s turn to make an impact. Gregory drove Cameron Fleming back into the pocket, forcing an overthrow toward Blake Jarwin. The offense settled for a field goal.

The next possession started similarly, as Prescott found Gallup on a crossing route for a nice gain against Byron Jones. Leighton Vander Esch stepped up on the next rep, as he broke on an out route toward Geoff Swaim and broke it up.

Two-straight touches by Elliott, a catch and a carry, moved the offense down toward the goal line. On second down, Jaylon Smith played perfect coverage on Geoff Swaim to prevent a touchdown in the back of the end zone. Smith struck again on the next play, as he broke up an underneath route intended for Elliott.

That brought up a crucial fourth down, and a win for the offense. Prescott was flushed out of the pocket running to his left and found Allen Hurns running across the front of end zone – a last-gasp touchdown.

It was about as riveting as a non-contact practice can get, and it saw plenty of ups and downs for both sides. When Garrett talks about a competitive practice, it was on display on Monday.

Scout’s Notebook: Cowboys maintain high energy during practices - Bryan Broaddus, DallasCowboys.com
This is a report on Sunday's practice, but Broaddus also talks about the energy levels in camp.

Jason Garrett promised us a spirited practice on Sunday, and we sure got it.

The Cowboys only have a few days left in California, but this does not feel like a fatigued team when you get out here and watch practice. Sunday evening’s session was hotly-contested and energetic all the way through.

Rough day for the tight ends – Calvin Watkins, The Athletic
Watkins takes a deeper look at the tight end situation in his practice summary.

Who is the starting tight end? Geoff Swaim is getting first-team snaps, Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz are also seeing time with the first and second teams and then we have Rico Gathers and David Wells in the rear (no, not the fixer. This guy). Jason Garrett said nobody has separated themselves.“I think it’s a healthy competition,” he said. “Each of the guys have strengths, we’re seeing those and I think they’re addressing some of the things they haven’t had maybe as much experience doing, whether it’s blocking or running certain kind of routes. I think it’s a healthy competition for snaps and each of those guys has worked with the first unit, the second unit, and the third unit. So they’re all getting opportunities to show who they are and what they can do and that will continue this week.”

It was a difficult day for some of the tight ends. During a seven-on-seven period in the red zone, No. 3 quarterback Mike White found a wide open Schultz near the goal line. Schultz tried to make the catch one-handed and it fell incomplete. It prompted Prescott to yell at Schultz to dive for the ball with two hands. “Get dirty,” Prescott said. Prescott and Linehan got on Jarwin for apparently running the wrong route during team drills. With defensive end Randy Gregory pressuring from the outside, Prescott made a strong throw toward the back of the end zone that landed incomplete. As Jarwin headed back to the huddle, Prescott and Linehan barked at him for messing up a route. Jarwin apparently was supposed to run down the seam and instead ran a hook route. These are the little things coaches notice that could make a difference. The Cowboys have to decide if they want three or four tight ends. Gathers did have a nice day during the seven-on-seven period. It would seem Schultz, the fourth-round pick from Stanford, is fighting with Gathers for a spot.

Star of the Day: Big Moments From Zeke & Jaylon
Both Jaylon Smith and Ezekiel Elliott have had impressive camps so far.

Rob Phillips: Zeke needs more ‘camp stars’ in this space than he’s gotten so far in camp. Not that we take Ezekiel Elliott for granted, but perhaps we haven’t said often enough how good he’s been in practice. He looks to be in terrific shape, and 230-pound running backs just aren’t this agile. Elliott made another one of those special cuts during team drills, bouncing outside (with a nice seal from Cameron Fleming) for a big gain. He might’ve scored about a 60-yard touchdown later in practice if he hadn’t slipped on the grass.

David Helman: I continue to be impressed by Jaylon Smith. if the guy carries this run of play into the season, he’s going to have a hell of a year. His improvement in coverage was on full display on Monday, as I counted at least three occasions where he broke up balls down the field. He started things off with a nice PBU on Dalton Schultz, and he carried that into red zone drills where he didn’t bite on a double-move from Geoff Swaim and kept the tight end from scoring a touchdown. He also played fantastic coverage on Ezekiel Elliott in the flat, as he denied him a short pass from Dak Prescott. His instincts are on point, and he is showing the athleticism to go with them. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

Cowboys can’t think of home yet - Todd Archer via Facebook
Archer offers up some observations that you won’t find anywhere else.

** Rookie DE Dorance Armstrong continues to make plays. He batted down a Prescott pass after the quarterback spun out to his left. He might have been able to drop Elliott for loss on a delayed run up the middle.

** LB Joe Thomas had a would-be sack of QB Cooper Rush with the second team. Thomas has been making plays in the run and pass game and showed he was able to get home with a pass rush too.

** DE DeMarcus Lawrence is known for his pass rush and his ability to play the run, but one of the more impressive things he did Monday was drop in coverage on a deep in route and find himself nearly able to break up the pass. He can move.

** DT Antwaun Woods has proven to be a difficult matchup at times for Pro Bowl C Travis Frederick. He was able to beat Frederick with a swim move in the one-on-one pass rush work. For the first time in camp Daniel Ross worked next to Woods as the three technique. That had been either Jihad Ward or Datone Jones for a good portion of camp.

Cowboys rookie DE Dorance Armstrong continues to impress, received some 1st-team work in recent practice - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Armstrong continues to be one of the surprises of this year's Cowboys training camp, Machota writes.

The coaching staff has been so impressed with Armstrong that they've given him more opportunities to work with the starters in team drills. In pass-rushing situations Monday, Armstrong lined up at right end with Tyrone Crawford kicking inside to play tackle.

"He's showing up as a good pass rusher," Marinelli said. "He can bend, he's got that nice long arm that he comes up with, his balance was good, he penetrated the run well. For a rookie like that, that was a pretty good start. Now he's got to build on it, but he had a good start."


Observations from Oxnard: LBs Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch excel together; rookies hook up for TD - Staff, SportsDay
Sportsday's camp coverage is split it up into analysis, highlight reels and more. Some highlights:

Per Brandon George: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith had a very strong practice Monday, especially in red zone work. He worked beside first-round pick LB Leighton Vander Esch with Sean Lee not doing team drills. They looked good together. Both had pass breakups in red zone.

Per Jon Machota: Random observation: Players are rarely tackled to the ground in camp. But since Ezekiel Elliott touches the ball so much, he’s hit the most. Never seems bothered, even when hit after the whistle. He has taken some shots this camp. Gets up, says nothing, walks back to the huddle

Per Jon Machota: Dan Bailey 6 for 6 on field goals today (34 of 39 in camp). His longest today: 48 yards

Cowboys 2018 training camp: Dak Prescott connects with Allen Hurns for a pair of TD’s! - Michael Sisemore, Blogging The Boys
Sisemore's always excellent practice summary gives you all the sights and sounds you need to stay up to date on what happened in sunny California.