The Dallas Cowboys got back to business Thursday in Oxnard after their first off day. That means Jason Garrett was back on stage for his regular press conference. Here are the subjects he touched on.
Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith growing as a duo
The pair became very comfortable playing next to each other through last season. The head coach emphasized how their communication grew and continues to do so, giving them a chance to play at a high level, which we saw in 2018.
Practice availability for Thursday
Sean Lee is out with his knee problem. Lance Lenoir is also not practicing. Rico Gathers “won’t see much”.
There are no veteran days off after having Wednesday to rest up.
Lots of praise for Amari Cooper
Garrett was fulsome (for him) in his positive remarks about the WR1. He said he is a real pro, handling himself the right way during his contract negotiations. He has excellent focus on working hard to be the best he can, and a superb work ethic. In particular, he is benefiting from the time to work with Dak Prescott. Having a full offseason and camp should just make things better after he came in and had such a tremendous impact mid-season last year.
One of his biggest values is his ability to play from any position. He is really good whether he is outside or in the slot due to being so smart and talented. He makes things hard on the defense however they try to contain him.
Garrett mentioned that the Cowboys always had a high regard from him, even before he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders. He talked about the endorsement Nick Saban gave him.
The team is looking to better utilize Jamize Olawale
A question was asked about Kellen Moore using Olawale more. Garrett admitted that the Cowboys are rare in the value they place on the fullback position, but went on to explain that they see Olawale as having much more to offer than the traditional fullback role. He has the ability to be a weapon as a receiver as well, and it sounds like the plan is to capitalize on that and further stress defenses.
Red zone concerns
In response to a question about the problems the team had in the red zone last year, Garrett said that they got a little better as the season went along last year (his words). He did say it was definitely an emphasis for the team now, and included both offense and defense. The objective is obviously to score touchdowns rather than settle for field goals when the Cowboys have the ball. They are also looking to have more balance, and his comments sounded like that means using the pass more effectively down close rather than just relying on the run game.
The contributions of Jason Witten
As you would expect, he had nothing but glowing things to say about the return of the veteran tight end. One thing that was interesting was Garrett’s description of how Witten was also a player who could be moved around to manipulate the defense, which fits right in with what Moore is doing. One thing he sees as unique about Witten is how he can still be making calls and communicating with the rest of the offense while he is moving, a testament to his superior knowledge and experience.
He said some nice things about Taco Charlton
Although reporters are painting a different picture, Garrett said that Charlton is off to a good start in camp, despite still working his way back from injury.
The inspirational example of Antwaun Woods
A reporter asked if Woods was held up as an example to the down-roster players fighting for a spot on the 53, and Garrett endorsed that idea. He cited him as proof that everyone has at least a chance, and sometimes can become very successful despite not being highly regarded coming in.
Dak Prescott is also handling the contract situation the right way
Garrett compared him to Cooper, and praised how the quarterback is also completely focused on becoming the best player and leader he can be.
Coaches’ day off
Someone asked what the coaches do on days off, and Garrett said they work during the day, then get together to relax and have some fun in the evening. He said they were rested, refreshed, and ready to go. He also mentioned that the players also used the off day to recharge those batteries.
Families in Oxnard
The final question was about many of the players having their families with them, and Garrett was all in favor of it. He said having their children and wives also helped the players get recharged and refreshed.