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Impressions from the Dallas Cowboys’ training camp practice #8 in Oxnard

Another report from the cheap seats.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Minicamp
If it seems like he’s always involved in highlight plays, well, he kinda is.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It was my second day of sitting in the stands of 2021 training camp for the Dallas Cowboys. Along with my new best friends from yesterday, I also had @McCoolBCB join me. While direct observation is the basis for my reports, the discussions we have ongoing throughout the practice, particularly the compete sessions later on, are extremely valuable in trying to sort out just what it all really means. Here is what I came away with on a beautiful Sunday.

  • Can we maybe just give CeeDee Lamb rest days at least until Dak Prescott is throwing again? What does he possibly have to prove? Every day, his catches are highlights. Usually more than one per practice. He is the best player on the team so far, at least offensively, and arguably overall.

How will he be viewed this season within the league’s wide receivers? Top 20? Top 10? Top 3? I am trying not to be too homeristic, but watching him over and over does inspire some of that. Of all the players we are high on, he seems to give the most solid reasons to do so.

And he is not automatically the best receiver on the team. Get Prescott, Amari Cooper, and the rest of the offensive roster ready to go at once, and this should be a real fireworks show.

  • Randy Gregory is the closest equivalent to Lamb on the defense, but it is a bit hard to get the same kinds of highlight videos for a player who is basically operating under strict instructions not to break the guys in the red or white jerseys. He is frequently deep into the backfield before the play can develop. It makes it hard to really judge the success of an offensive effort when Gregory and several other players are pulling up before they get to the QB or ballcarrier.
  • Gregory is not the only defensive lineman who is giving us highlights, and that is most assuredly a good thing. Tarell Basham had anther good day, as did Dorance Armstrong. Carlos Watkins joined Gregory in getting his hands on a pass at the line, and that seems to be a real trend for the defense. Those big players are getting those long arms up and disrupting things a lot. I really hope this carries on to the regular season.
  • After noting the 11-on-9 work yesterday, I spotted another thing that I found interesting from a coaching standpoint. The team engaged in a series of “scramble drills” near the goal line. It was 7-on-7 work, so no pass rush, but the QBs were instructed to simulate evading oncoming rushers and then trying to find a receiver. It forced improvisation and extending the play, as well as putting additional stress on the defenders to try and keep coverage tight for several seconds. The D came out of this with more “wins” today, but we must remain aware that QB1 was still off working to the side.
  • It was a far less crowded day in the stands. It was much easier to get in and find a place to observe, and that led to noticing one thing. The first player on the field was Terence Steele, who came out and got right into stretching and loosening up. The coaches have been praising his work ethic, and that was on clear display today.
  • The practice left me feeling a bit better about Ben DiNucci. I’m not saying I’d be perfectly happy with him starting a regular season game, but he seemed more comfortable and accurate. We must remember that he may have been hampered the most by the lack of an offseason last year. I would still rate the practice squad as the best outcome for him, but a year there may lead to important growth.
  • They ran a wildcat play. It failed miserably. Let’s not do that again for a while.
  • It feels very weird, after previous camps, to see no field goal work. There have been two attempts all camp, both by Hunter Niswander in relief of Greg Zuerlein.

And I am perfectly fine with that. Let them work on getting six, not three. Zuerlein really has nothing to prove himself, and hardly needs to be in situational work when he is ready to start swinging his leg. It may feel odd, but it really doesn’t hurt, now, does it?

  • They may be very long shots to make the roster, but RB JaQuan Hardy and WR Osirus Mitchell both had very good days. Hardy showed both speed and an ability to run through traffic, while Mitchell caught balls on four consecutive plays as Cooper Rush (I believe) found some momentary chemistry with him. Like DiNucci, they may have the practice squad as their best option. But we still have a lot of camp and all four preseason games to get through, which could well create some unexpected openings.
  • With a much more realistic chance of getting onto the 53-man roster, Maurice Canady came up with another interception. He just keeps catching your eye out there. I’m not sure who is his most direct competition, but the last couple of cornerback spots promise to be very interesting.
  • Ezekiel Elliott and Leighton Vander Esch have no worries about their jobs, of course. But that did not result in any reduction in effort from them. Elliott just looks faster, both in hitting the hole and in getting up the field. As Tony Thompson mentioned to me, Zeke looks a lot more similar to Tony Pollard carrying the ball, in a totally good way. Meanwhile, LVE just looked good and enthusiastic.
  • Optical illusion of the day. Just from looking at Neville Gallimore and Quentin Bohanna, you would not think the latter was the one who weighed in at 330 pounds. That in no way implies that Gallimore looks fat or slow. It is just a comment on how big Gallimore really is, and how well Bohanna carries his weight. It’s one of those little things that makes being at practice worth it.

The team is taking Monday off, which leaves one more for me to attend on Tuesday before heading out. Kinda hate for it to be done so soon.

As we have been doing all throughout camp we recapped Sunday’s practice (with highlights included) over on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel. Make sure to subscribe to our channel (which you can do right here) so you don’t miss any of the videos that we are putting out. We will be having a livestream on Tuesday evening to recap practice and discuss what we saw!

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