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Cowboys practice highlights: ‘Web back’ Tavon Austin shines; Dak Prescott with 72.4% completion rate in camp

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All the highlights from yesterday’s Cowboys practice in Oxnard.

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

Cowboys break out Tavon Austin in backfield - Todd Archer via Facebook
Archer looks at Austin’s role and drops an interesting nugget on Dak Prescott’s completion rate in camp to date.

To be clear, Tavon Austin is a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver but on Monday the Cowboys finally used him in the backfield. When the Cowboys acquired Austin during the draft, executive vice president Stephen Jones said Austin would be a “web back,” lining up all over the formations, like he did for the Los Angeles Rams.

Austin lined up in the backfield three times, taking two handoffs from Dak Prescott but not getting very far on either carry. On another he was on the field with Ezekiel Elliott lined up wide. He even took a jet sweep as a receiver. The Cowboys are trying to get him as many touches as they can.

“When the ball’s been in his hands throughout his career, he typically does good things,” coach Jason Garrett said. “I think everybody saw that in college. That’s why he was such a high pick. I think throughout his career, teams have been trying to just get him the ball — whether they throw it to him or hand it to him or certainly in the return game. He’s got great quickness, speed and acceleration. I think he has playmaking ability. So we’re going to try to give him some chances to do it.”

On to the observations:

** Dak Prescott completed nine of 12 passes in team and seven on seven drills. The highlight of the day came on a scramble situation when he was flushed out of the pocket to his left in blitz drills and was able to find WR Cole Beasley deep down the field with S Kavon Frazier in coverage. The defensive backs wanted an interference call on Beasley, who was a little subtle as the ball was coming down with a push off.

In eight padded practices, Prescott is 76 of 105 [72.4%] in team and seven on seven drills.

Star of the Day: First Appearance For Rookie LB - Staff, Dallas Cowboys
The writers over at the Mothership hand out their gold stars for the day.

David Helman: There’s no way around it. This was an ugly practice. The offense was out of sync, the defense couldn’t stop jumping offside and everything just felt out of whack. With that in mind, I’m going to shout out Tavon Austin for the second-straight day. The coaching staff got Austin involved in the run game on Monday. He lined up in the backfield, he took handoffs and end arounds from Dak Prescott. He motioned out wide. It was a great look at all of his different abilities, and it was interesting.

And Spags gave some praise to the rookie linebacker.

Mickey Spagnola: This is somewhat of a two-day evaluation, but starting to sense first-round draft choice Leighton Vander Esch is growing more comfortable with the transition from college to the NFL. The Cowboys have him solely as the second-team middle linebacker, and Sunday, he made a couple of plays in the running game and did a good job moving from sideline to sideline. Monday, LVE in team filled a hole nicely and made what would have been a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Can’t wait to see him when the pads start popping and players are being actually tackled Thursday night against the Niners.

Cowboys practice report: It’s Anthony Brown’s world - Calvin Watkins, The Athletic
Watkins provides a summary for Monday's action, including how the team is experimenting with their new "whatever-back" and Anthony Brown’s progress.

Zeke Elliott and Tavon Austin lined up in different spots with Prescott at quarterback. We saw formations where Elliott lined up outside the numbers and in the slot. Austin lined up in the backfield and ran a play off a shuffle pass. It was the first time in camp we’ve seen Austin in the backfield. A majority of his snaps have come at wide receiver. It seems the further we get into camp, the more Austin’s role is being expanded in complexity — we’re seeing the Cowboys use Austin in reverses and now in the backfield.

The Cowboys secondary has taken to Kris Richard’s philosophy on being aggressive at the line of scrimmage and not giving an inch. Brown has personified this philosophy for the majority of camp. Along with starting outside cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones, the trio has made life miserable for the Cowboys’ offense, particularly the first-team.

“Whatever he says when we go on the field, it comes to light,” Brown said. “Man, this dude knows everything, he knows what he’s talking about. We trust him.”

Practice Recap: Anthony Brown’s Hands - Staff, Dallas Cowboys
The DC writing staff offers up their quick hits from practice on Monday, including the continued improvement of second-year corner Anthony Brown.

Brown picked off two passes during Sunday’s Blue & White Scrimmage, and he came back Monday with three total interceptions. He even added another in 11-on-11 drills, jumping in front of an out route that Cooper Rush intended to throw to Michael Gallup.

For a guy who missed several opportunities at interceptions in 2017, Brown said working on his hands has been a focus heading into his third year.

“Big emphasis,” he said. “I could’ve had, like, seven picks last year and dropped them. But it’s a new year with new goals and new dreams.”

One of those goals is undoubtedly to earn back a starting job. Brown started nine of the first 10 games of 2017, before ultimately being benched following the Cowboys’ lopsided loss to the Chargers on Thanksgiving. He came off the bench of the rest of the way.

And for a guy who was said to have brick for hands last year, I found this rather interesting...

Long after practice on Monday, when most players are visiting with family and friends, Brown was carrying Lal’s bricks around the practice fields.

Dak Prescott continues to be uneven in training camp - Patrik Walker, 247 Sports
Walker gives his 10 thoughts on Monday's practice, including what he thinks is an up and down camp for the team's young franchise quarterback.

It's been an inconsistent training camp for Prescott, who alternates between throwing beautiful dimes and arid tosses. On this play, it's a bit of a tweener, with the ball being just a tad outside -- not giving Cannon a shot to keep it inbounds.

Observations from Oxnard: Tavon Austin reveals this new wrinkle, Taco Charlton with the sack - Staff, SportsDay
Sportsday with a look at all the action from Monday's Cowboys training camp practice in Oxnard, including some quotes:

About Tavon Austin: "Jogged off practice field with Tavon Austin. He said he likes getting snaps "everywhere" and added that he believes he's having the best training camp of his six seasons in the NFL."

Randy Gregory: Randy Gregory has been participating in the morning walk-throughs but he hasn't practiced. Jason Garrett said he'll be pads in the next couple days but not sure when he'll practice. "We're still trying to lay that base and that foundation. He's done a really nice job, though."

Dorance Armstrong: Jason Garrett on Dorance Armstrong: "He's showing up every day. He's just really doing a nice job. And to me, it has a lot to do with the kind of young man he is. ... He works hard at it. You can coach him hard. He responds to adversity. He’s made a heck of a lot of progress."

LVE: Jason Garrett said Sunday was a "good day" for Leighton Vander Esch. "You saw some flashes of some of the things we saw on tape in college where he’s just sideline to sideline, he’s around the ball, he’s playing instinctively."

Cowboys 2018 training camp practice #10 recap (videos): Tavon Austin finally works as a running back - Michael Sisemore, Blogging The Boys
Sisemore brings you his daily training camp practice recap.