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Cowboys News: All eyes on Dak Prescott; Practice highlights; Rookie camp standouts; more

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

The Cowboys Are Now Fully Dak Prescott’s Team - Albert Breer, SI.com
In a very readable article, Breer takes a long look at what Prescott needs to do better, and how he needs to take charge of his team. Here’s an excerpt in which Prescott reflects on what went wrong in 2017.

The excuses might as well be right there for Dak Prescott, sitting on the coffee table in this spacious Residence Inn guest room. He could tell you that his NFL sophomore slump was thanks to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten getting older. Or to some moving parts along the offensive line. Or to Zeke Elliott’s suspension. Or to the fact that expectations were out of whack coming off his starry rookie campaign.

The now-firmly-installed face of America’s Team reached for none of those. And that’s probably why the people around Cowboys camp talk about him like they do.

“It was me,” Prescott told me on Saturday, without a second of hesitation. “It’s just about being more consistent. I simply was trying to do too much last year. And as I was trying to do too much, I was getting away from my simple reads. I was maybe passing by my second read to try to get to my third read, or skipping over one or two, trying to get to the big throw early, rushing things.

“I was wanting to make that big play, I was wanting to do the spectacular. [Ex-Mississippi State] coach [Dan] Mullen told me when I was in college, a lot of being a quarterback is making a lot of unspectacular plays that don’t necessarily look great but turn out to be the right thing. And so I think in Year 2, I was simply trying to do too much.”

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott dishes on the 12 days that changed his career - Staff, SportsDay
Dak opens up about how he handles the responsibilities and pressures of being the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, as well as how a certain 12-day stretch that he won’t forget.

On how he blocks out distractions as the Cowboys QB

Prescott: For me, I have a great group of friends, great family support. A lot of people I trust and I love that have known me as a little boy. It’s about keeping those people around me so I know exactly where I come from, I never forget it and I just stay grounded.

Through everything that happens, good, bad, controversy, naysayers, doubters, I know the people that are there for me and will always be there for me and that just keeps me going.

I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily a strategy I go about. ‘I try to avoid this or I try not to see this.’ It is what it is. People are going to say stuff no matter what. No matter if you think good things, say good things you do or bad things you say or do. For me, I mean, if I listened to what people said, I wouldn’t be here today. It’s just about putting that in my back pocket, taking it for what it is and just continuing to move forward.

On what he learned after three straight losses last November

Prescott: I was able to come out of that physically OK, but I learned from it. That’s exactly what that was. That was 12 hard days. I mean 12 days that I’ll probably remember for the rest of my career because I think it taught me a lot that I think is going to shape up everything I need and teach me a lot going forward in my career. You take it for what it is, you learn from it and you continue to push forward and that’s what I’ve been able to do.


Scrimmage Notes: Dak’s Day, Rookie Standouts - Staff, DallasCowboys.com
Lots of stuff in the mothership's summary of yesterday's practice, including a look at Prescott and two defensive linemen.

Dak Prescott wasn’t part of the Cowboys’ official scrimmage on Sunday evening, but he got plenty of reps in the early going of practice. Working in a variety of situations, from red zone to two-minute, Prescott saw a mixed bag of production. He threw a touchdown down the seam to Geoff Swaim; he was also intercepted by Anthony Brown. He hit Allen Hurns for a score in the back of the end zone; he also saw a tipped ball wind up in the arms of Jeff Heath.

It was indicative of what’s been a good, if unspectacular camp for the young quarterback to this point.

“I’ve made some good throws and I’ve made some not-so-good throws,” Prescott said after practice. “I’ve taken chances here and there, and I’m definitely improving.”

Whether he’s being aggressive or conservative, Prescott said the goal is simply to make the right decision.

“I think I figured out last year some of the throws I could make and throws I couldn’t make – in practice and then obviously some in the season,” he said. “At this point it’s just about going out there and making the right throw in the right situation every time. If it’s checking it down, that’s it, and if it’s taking that go ball, it’s giving it a chance.”

Quick Hits: Rookie defensive end Dorance Armstrong and new defensive tackle Jihad Ward continued to show pass rush ability in one-on-one drills, winning multiple battles against the offensive linemen.

Cowboys practice report: Dak Prescott throws two TDs, two INTs – Calvin Watkins, The Athletic
Watkins focuses on Prescott in his practice summary.

Prescott threw a pair of touchdowns in team drills and at least three touchdowns in seven-on-seven sessions. Prescott’s first touchdown, in the team period, was to tight end Blake Jarwin. The play was off play-action, which froze the defense and allowed Jarwin to reach the second level wide open. Zeke Elliott caught the second TD pass on a wheel route. Elliott’s speed is so vastly underrated at times — we may spend so much time marveling at his power and agility that it becomes forgotten. He hit the corner hard and fast with defenders chasing him. The great thing about this play was it started with a bunch formation to Prescott’s right, and three receivers cleared the room for Elliott to make a play.

Overall, Prescott had a pretty good day. He made a nice TD throw to Rico Gathers, who caught two touchdown passes in seven-on-seven drills. Prescott also found Tavon Austin for a 15-yard gain on his third read.

The interceptions were off tipped passes, and you just have to credit the defensive player for both. Prescott zipped a pass to Williams (who, by the way, is having a good camp) but it was tipped by Anthony Brown, who’s been impressive in his own right. The loose ball was snagged by safety Jeff Heath. Prescott’s second pick was on a quick-out pass where Marquez White jumped the route and took the ball the other way for a Pick-6.

Star of the Day: Austin, Rico Shines in Scrimmage - Staff, DallasCowboys.com
The staff writers hand out six stars. Here are two of them:

Mickey Spagnola: So many to choose from after Sunday’s Blue-White practice. Today’s Star could be Tavon Austin or Anthony Brown or Rico Gathers or Leighton Vander Esch or even Geoff Swain. But me, I’m going to Antwaun Woods, the first-year defensive nose tackle who has been playing so well, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli moved him up to first team in place of Jihad Ward. Even head coach Jason Garrett said before the afternoon practice of Woods, “He’s showing up.” And Woods continued his assault in the middle Sunday, making two stops of Ezekiel Elliott on the first two plays of team, and continued to be a menace to the offense in the middle – to the point I saw him doubled- or tripled-team at one point toward the latter part of practice. Let’s see if he can sustain this type of play.

David Helman: Don’t overthink this one. Tavon Austin did all of the things that make him an intriguing weapon in one practice. He took an end around from Dak Prescott up the field for 12 yards, he caught a slant over the middle of the field and he followed that up with a leaping, deep ball touchdown. Austin continues to showcase his athletic ability on a variety of levels.

Disruptive DT Antwaun Woods moving up depth chart as quick as punch (to Frederick) - Clarence Hill, Star-Telegram
Get ready to hear a lot more about Woods in the coming days and weeks.

So you think Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Antwaun Woods was just a no-name backup getting into a fight with Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick on Saturday?

Well on Sunday, Woods was working with the first team at nose tackle and drew praise from coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli for the progress he has made. Woods impressed the Cowboys most with his work during the goal line period.

“I see a lot,” Marinelli said. “He has been very disruptive. A very explosive player with balance. He is coming out and competing.”

Is he a prototypical nose tackle?

“Yeah but with movement,” Marinelli said. “Some of these guys are just anchor guys. I don’t like anchor. I like guys who can run and wrap and do those things. He’s got that stuff. Just working. Got to keep doing it.”

Behind the change Kris Richard made to the Cowboys CBs that's giving Dak Prescott, Dallas' offense fits - Brandon George, SportsDay
A look at the new-look secondary that's been terrorizing the offense in camp (so far).

Richard made it clear this offseason: As soon as his cornerbacks and safeties buy into what he's teaching them, the production should be there. Nine practices into training camp, that's been evident.

The cornerbacks have been aggressive at the line of scrimmage with their press coverage, giving the Cowboys' new-look receiving corps fits. In previous seasons under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, the cornerbacks didn't deflect many passes. That's because Marinelli preferred that the cornerbacks play off the line of scrimmage in a bend-but-don't-break approach to limit big plays. Now, Richard often has his cornerbacks in press coverage. He wants to limit big plays but also not give the quarterback any easy targets.

"The installation is starting to get smaller," Richard said. "So when the installation starts to get smaller that's when the execution needs to increase. That's kind of at the point to where we are. By no means are we a finished product. We absolutely need to get better in specific areas. That's what we're locked in on."

Seven takeaways from the Cowboys blue and white scrimmage - RJ Ochoa, Blogging The Boys
Ochoa looks at the standout players from yesterday's action, including this assessment of Tavon Austin and Ezekiel Elliott.

Tavon Austin is definitely an offensive weapon worth having: When the Cowboys traded for Tavon Austin during the draft many rolled their eyes. He’s done nothing but make plays throughout camp, and that note was echoed loudly on Sunday.

Not only did the Cowboys use Tavon Austin on a reverse (!) but he caught a pass on the outside by going up and snatching it. Yes, Tavon Austin.

This is going to be fun.

Ezekiel Elliott looks to be in fine form: Zeke ripped off some big runs early on before the scrimmage. In a season where he’s looking to bounce back big time, everything is coming up Elliott early on in August.

The Cowboys also seem to be using Elliott more in passing situations (something we’ve all screamed for) which is a very good thing. Any time the ball is in Zeke’s hands something glorious is on the cusp of happening. Let’s feed him however we can.

Recapping the Cowboys Blue/White scrimmage, including details on the big plays - Michael Strawn, Blogging The Boys
Strawn takes a deeper look at yesterday's red zone drills, two-minute drills, and much more.

Red-zone drill: The red zone drills featured the first teams against each other and second teams against each other. It didn’t matter who was in, however, as the offense absolutely dominated, scoring touchdowns on all four “possessions”.

Fans got a treat on the first play when the Cowboys ran a successful reverse to Tavon Austin, followed by a textbook Dak Prescott to Geoff Swaim touchdown pass on Jason Witten’s signature route.

When the 2s faced off the defense got confused leaving Blake Jarwin open for a long gain leading to a short Rod Smith touchdown.

We then saw Ezekiel Elliott run a sweep for 20-yards on a play where Connor Williams dominated Kony Ealy. Ealy’s poor camp continued, as he also lost in 1-on-1s.

The red zone session concluded when Cooper Rush tossed a perfectly placed touchdown pass to Lance Lenoir, who made a highlight reel catch.

Cowboys 2018 training camp: Blue/White scrimmage recap with photos & videos - Michael Sisemore, Blogging The Boys
All the sights and sounds from the Blue/White scrimmage in one convenient place.


Scout’s Notebook: Martin vs. D-Law; More - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
Broaddus with a look at Saturday’s practice, and the battle between Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence.

Impressive battle between Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence during the pass rush drill. Lawrence made good on his promise to face Martin the next time he had a chance. Both players are technically sound and physically strong, which makes it an even battle. Lawrence tried to attack Martin with his first step, but Martin set him a little short -- which forced Lawrence to have to restart his rush. Once Martin made him do that, Lawrence had to go to his second plan of attack, which was trying to work the corner. That also failed when Martin just worked his feet in front of him and sat down on him, which put Lawrence down his middle giving him no chance to win.

Dallas Cowboys offensive guard Zack Martin on the good physical day between the offense and defense lines (VIDEO) - Max Faulkner, The Star-Telegram
The All-Pro guard discusses the competition and intensity between the two sides of the trenches during training camp.

“Our d-line and o-line are really pushing each other.”

Terrance Williams says surgically-repaired foot is ‘still a work in progress’ - Jon Machota, SportsDay
T-Will talks recovering from his foot injury and how he now has a clear mind entering this season.

“I feel like I can do a lot of stuff that I couldn’t do before, but it’s still a work in progress,” he said. “I’m trying not to push it just yet.

”It’s just something I got to fight through. Me being the guy that I am, I’m going to continue to fight through it no matter what. I’m just happy to be back out here.”

Williams mentioned having a “clear mind” during the six-minute interview. While asked to clarify what he meant, Williams confirmed that some outside factors impacted his play last year.

“There is a lot of folks that say a lot of stuff,” Williams said. “It kind of go to me a little bit. I feel like I’m good now. I’m in a different place. I’m with folks that actually care about the game. It’s a big difference than continuing to hear a lot of negative stuff all the time. It’s kind good just to hear folks that have your back all the time.”


Cowboys camp: Four things to think about before cut-down day - Tom Ryle, BTB
Tom Ryle also wrote about the choice that the Cowboys have to make about Mike White — among other things to monitor as the cut-down date gets closer and closer.

Will the Cowboys carry three QBs, or try to sneak Mike White onto the practice squad?

The conventional wisdom says that they will not risk the fifth-round draft pick on waivers. But while White has flashed some, he has not had the kind of rookie camp that Cooper Rush did to win the QB2 job last year, and Rush seems to be picking up right where he left off.

And the simple fact is that fans of a particular team often see more value in players than other teams looking through the waiver lists do. It will be interesting to see how they allocate snaps in preseason games with White. If he is not on the field as much as we might expect for a player who is really involved in a battle for the QB2 position, then the team may be trying to hide him a bit. The fourth preseason game is the one to really watch. If Rush goes most of the way, they may be prepared to chance getting White through waivers, and improving those chances by limiting the video on him. And if Dalton Sturm gets more snaps overall, that would be a real giveaway. They could also come up with a hangnail or something to IR him.


Hammy strain delays Richard Sherman’s comeback ‘at least a week’ - Nick Wagoner, ESPN
In other news, new 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman is dealing with a hamstring injury. There won’t be many starters, if any, suiting up when the Cowboys and Niners clash this weekend, but it’s still worth noting.

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman’s comeback from a torn Achilles took a slight detour on Sunday.

The Niners announced that Sherman will miss this week of practice and the team’s preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night as he deals with a right hamstring strain.

“We’re definitely going to rest him at least a week,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We don’t think it should be long term. It’s Grade 1, it’s a little higher than we expected, so we’ve got to be careful with that.”


Super Bowl Odds 2018: Breaking Down Each Team’s Chances Before Preseason Week 1 - Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report

Can Dak and Zeke lead to the Cowboys to glory? Read about each team’s chances to hoist the Lombardi Trophy come September.

Dallas Cowboys

Odds: 40-1

There’s a lot to like about the Dallas Cowboys. They have a capable quarterback in Dak Prescott, an elite running back in Ezekiel Elliott and a top-tier pass-rusher in Demarcus Lawrence. However, there are also questions—most notably in the receiving corps.

For one, Dallas doesn’t know who Prescott’s go-to guy will be. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are both gone, and Prescott will have the likes of Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin and rookie Michael Gallup. If Prescott cannot develop chemistry quickly, he’s likely to play more like he did last season (86.6 passer rating) than he did as a rookie in 2016 (104.9).

If Prescott can return to form, the Cowboys might make a run. After all, they went 5-1 in the NFC East last season, only losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.


Enjoy a recap of the scrimmage and the past week of training camp from RJ.