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Cowboys news: Deep passing the focus in OTAs

Plus lots more as we get ready for minicamp.

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Training Camp
The wide receivers coach got a lot of attention when he talked about using deep passes more.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Calvin’s Cowboys Notes: Sean Lee braces for the end, Trysten Hill acclimates and the Cowboys’ most-improved receiver – Calvin Watkins, The Athletic
Come for more praise for little-known Reggie Davis, stick around for that final sentence.

Cowboys wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal called Reggie Davis the most improved receiver on the team. That begs the question, who is Reggie Davis?

Davis spent time on the Cowboys practice squad last year, learning the playbook and trying to gain weight. Davis is listed at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, and he’s gotten work with the first- and second-team offenses during the first three weeks of the organized team activities. He caught a touchdown pass from Prescott on Wednesday and continues to make plays from different parts of the line of scrimmage. Speed is his calling card, and a particularly valuable one given that the Cowboys will better utilize it as part of the offense this year. Lal said the Cowboys want Prescott to throw more deep balls to open the field while underneath routes will go to Randall Cobb and Davis, who will use their legs to create problems for defenses.

Dak Prescott’s deep ball improving, will be key to Cowboys success - Corey Clark, Cowboys Wire
The news out of the last OTA session continues to point to good things to come for the passing game.

During Wednesday’s organized team activities session, the last of its kind for 2019 and open to the media, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had another quality day throwing the deep ball. It’s a key item the quarterback needs to improve on heading into the 2019 season.

Prescott had respectable deep ball numbers in the past, but his frequency of those throws had been less than desirable and in 2018 his accuracy on those passes waned.

During Wednesday’s session, Prescott hooked up with wide receivers on multiple passes that stretched the field vertically, including to down-the-depth chart receiver Reggie Davis.

Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott is connecting on the deep ball | Clarence Hill, Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Some more interesting things about the emphasis on going deep.

Lal is teaching the receivers how to run and catch the deep ball.

“You got to dig for 25 yards before looking,” Lal said. “You never look back, you look up because that is where the ball is going to be. So we are learning all these skills. So it’s a lot better.”

It’s much better than in training camp last year when the lack of the touchdowns in practice was a major narrative that proved true during the regular season, at least until Cooper was acquired in a trade from the Oakland Raiders.

Michael Gallup has a Sponge-like Offseason Approach In Year 2 ✭ Brian Martin, Inside the Star
Veterans can help younger players develop, and it looks like that is happening in the Cowboys' wide receiver group.

Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb have four Pro Bowl appearances between the two of them and Michael Gallup counting on that experience to help improve his game.

“We go in there and watch film. I watch what they do,” Gallup said. “Cobb, he’s always in my ear trying to tell me something I could do a little bit different. Coop’s always trying to give out things for me to do, too. It’s definitely exciting to be with a group like that. It’s going to be fun this year.”

I don't know about you, but these are the kinds of things I really like hearing about, especially from first and second-year players. To me, it's an indication they aren't willing to rely on their physical talent alone, that they want to improve the mental side of the game as well. This is something often overlooked with these young guys.

Dallas Cowboys: Film room: Why rookie RB Tony Pollard will be a versatile weapon for the Cowboys in 2019 | John Owning, SportsDay
For those who remember, this comparison for new RB Tony Pollard is rather exciting.

To get an idea of how the Cowboys can use Pollard off the bench, we must first look at how the team utilized Lance Dunbar, who sat behind a talented back in DeMarco Murray for most of his career, a few years ago.

For those who don't remember, Dunbar was a diminutive back -- listed at 5-foot-8, 187 pounds -- and an outstanding athlete who was dynamic with the ball in his hands (averaged more than 10 yards per touch in 2015) during his Cowboys career (2012-17). Injuries, however, mostly derailed what could have been an impressive career with the team. He only played a full 16 games once and had three seasons with less than 10 played.

INSIDER: Cowboys seventh-round pick is prototypical edge talent - Patrik "No C" Walker, 247 Sports
Jalen Jelks was the last player drafted by the Cowboys. But he may have a real shot at making the team.

If you're looking for the prototypical frame for a weak side edge rusher, Jelks is a T-2000 and quarterbacks are nothin more than Jon Connor. The 6-foot-6, 256 lb. rookie is in at least the 86th percentile for arm length and height, and in the 93rd-percentile for wingspan. That alone warranted a look by the Cowboys in the pre-draft process, but his other measurables and sack-count at the collegiate level won't jump off the page, and that justified waiting until the final pick of the draft to give him a nod.

There's no denying the potential, however, with 15.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2017 to go along with seven pass deflections — the latter being a testament to his condor-like wingspan. For perspective, there are defensive backs who struggle to get seven PBUs in a season, and Jelks did it as a defensive end. That said, he'll need to really key in on what defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and defensive line coach Leon Lett are teaching if he wants a shot at the 53-man roster.

Inside the Cowboys’ Film Room: The 2018 pass-protection disaster, Weeks 13-18 (Part 4 of 4) – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
This is the conclusion to Sturm's excellent review of every single sack suffered by the Cowboys in 2018. But perhaps the most thought provoking reminder was that Kellen Moore and Jon Kitna are not the only offensive coaches who still need to prove themselves.

Frank Pollack was replaced by Paul Alexander last winter, and then there were all sorts of whispers about the downturn in the offensive line with the new tactics and fundamentals being taught by the long-time Bengals line coach. Alexander was fired during the bye week and replaced by former tackle Marc Colombo. Colombo, by all accounts, allowed the line to go back to the Pollack and Bill Callahan-taught ideas and concepts which were so successful through the years, only to immediately get hit with the injury rash of November and December.

So, anecdotally, it all says good things about Colombo and the way the Cowboys have “always done things” to get back to their roots, but that doesn’t really answer why they wanted to leave Pollack and those old ways in the first place. It also suggests that we are willing to say the stretch versus the Redskins, Saints, and Eagles was all health-related. It should be noted that Alexander enjoyed perfect attendance from the starters during his time in charge, while Colombo had no such luck. Of course, Alexander also had no games with Amari Cooper, while Colombo had no games without him. You would be surprised how much better a downfield target who is always open makes your pass protection.

Christian Covington is more than Cowboys safety net at DT - Zeke Barrera, Cowboys Wire
There are a lot of names that got noticed during OTAs, but some others have been mostly ignored. Christian Covington is one who seems lost in the crowd, but you might keep an eye on him when camp rolls around.

A former 2015 sixth-rounder, Covington has been a steady role player along the Texans defensive line for the past four seasons. He played base-end Houston’s 3-4 defense, but at 6-foot-2 and 310 pounds, Covington will team up with Antwaun Woods in forming a formidable 1-tech DT rotation.

Brett Maher has competition, but Cowboys still have a problem - Patrik “No C” Walker, 247 Sports
While things have been mostly very positive during the OTAs, here is a cautionary tale about kicker Brett Maher. Is the team paying enough attention to the kicking job?

Maher deserves a hearty praise for what he did right in 2018, but also the justifiable criticism and concern for the things he did wrong. It was a head-to-head with Bailey that got him the job in the first place, after all, as competition usually brings out the best in players. Of all the things the Cowboys must figure out over the next few months, the future at kicker is a top priority — even if it's not the need that grabs and carries headlines. That is unless the organization wants a cosmic reminder of how bad things were in the early 2000's, before they signed Bailey as an UDFA in 2011.

The last thing they can afford is to piecemeal things at a position that can determine the outcome of a game.

And yet, that's exactly what they're doing.

Glazer’s NFL mailbag: An under-the-radar offseason team, plus more on the Baker-Russell answer from last week – Jay Glazer,The Athletic
So this of course caught my eye.

Who’s the team that nobody is really talking about this offseason that surprises you the most?—Dennis H.

Hmm, good question. I’d say the Cowboys, which is odd because they are the Cowboys. But there’s been so much attention everywhere else with Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, etc, that they’ve somehow flown under the radar. That’s a rarity. I think roster-wise, top to bottom, the Cowboys are top-five in the league.

Well, now.

Let’s see, that works out to $32 million a year. For a QB with a 23-17 record, and who has not finished the past two seasons due to injury.

Dak Prescott: 32-16, two NFC East crowns and a playoff win. Hmm. Somebody gonna get paid.

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