Monday was the first padded practice of training camp for the Dallas Cowboys. It had lots of highlights, and not a bunch of bad moments for anyone. Here are some thoughts.
During the practice, it was the first real opportunity for the coaches to see the lines in action. There were some sacks, some nice running plays, and at least one TFL, but most important was the pop of the pads. While the Cowboys are still without Zack Martin, they have some very good talent out there. And every practice, they line up against one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.
That has to yield dividends down the road. From the looks of the practice on Monday, it was not lopsided either way. That is what you like to see. It is a situation where everyone can work on getting better. And having to go with some backups is good for their development as well. There’s not much concern about the Martin situation, he hardly needs a lot of work. We shouldn’t expect to see much of any of the starters in the preseason games, so we have to wait for stuff to get real. But that looks like it could be a ton of fun.
Holy cow, is this wide receiver group looking good! The starting trio of CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, and Michael Gallup had some great looking catches, with Cooks really standing out.
That is not only what we hoped for, it was what we sort of expected. What is really exciting is what was going on with the other WRs.
Jalen Tolbert continues to have an outstanding camp. He is doing an excellent job of putting his desultory rookie season behind him. Many had him as the logical candidate for WR4 coming in, and he’s doing a good job of living up to that.
This is looking like a massive leap for him, and that is very welcome news.
Simi Fehoko got off to a bad start on the first day of practices, letting a ball go off his hands for an easy interception. But since then, he has been almost all fire.
Simi Fehoko: great adjustment on deep ball from Cooper Rush after getting behind the coverage. Looked like an OFer tracking ball to the wall.— Patrik [No C] Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) July 31, 2023
Never lost the ball in the air despite twisting and turning after locating.
Over the shoulder into his hands.
He’s clearly in the fight to climb the depth chart. But the most exciting development of the day in the WR group was the work KaVontae Turpin put in, giving us multiple highlight plays, like this.
This is excellent news, since Turpin will likely be the return man again this year. Having him able to contribute as part of the offense makes that a more efficient use of the roster spot.
But wait. There’s more! The last pick of the draft for the Cowboys was Jalen Brooks, and he is looking like someone who is going to make some noise.
That is seven wide receivers who could be contributors this year. It’s a good thing. And we didn’t even hear from the third Jalen, Moreno-Cropper, who was the UDFA darling of the first couple of practices.
It is one of the foundational laws of the universe that you can never have too many quality wide receivers. Let’s hope this keeps up.
The Mike McCarthy offense is going to be under intense scrutiny this year. So far, the indications are good.
First, there is the report that Dak Prescott is going to have more of a hand in running things on the field, based on remarks by Lamb. It should let him use his read of what is going on in a game to move to more effective plays, and that should be a good thing. Meanwhile, if this play is a hint of what McCarthy and Brian Schottenheimer are cooking up, I’m ready for it.
“Brandin Cooks is only a deep threat.”— Patrik [No C] Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) July 31, 2023
- random foolish mortal
I’m no coach, but that looks like a nearly impossible play to defend. The ball is out super quick and the design gets Cooks open with some space to work with. It’s not only a quick way to get some yards, it could draw the defense in tighter, and as we already saw, Cooks is a legitimate home run threat if you let him get open and the QB has time.
Is it too soon to start putting the starters in bubble wrap? Micah Parsons in particular looks to be in midseason form. They are already trying to limit reps for Tony Pollard and Terence Steele, both coming off injuries. Donovan Wilson is already hurt and will hopefully be back before the start of the season.
It is a tough call, but you have to consider just how much value is gained from having your best players out there taking hits. Let the less experienced players get those reps, and keep the big names mostly limited to the safer non-contact parts of practice.
Do we have a candidate for being cut already? News broke right after practice about Ronald Jones being suspended for the first two games of the season over PED abuse. While the team may chose to keep him around to see how things shake out at running back, there are a lot of other places that roster spot could be used, like keeping an extra wide receiver. This is unfortunate, but putting a roster together can be a cold, hard business. We shall see how it goes.
Maybe the kicker situation is OK. The two candidates, Tristan Vizcaino and Brandon Aubrey, basically tied. Each missed two kicks early in practice, but when McCarthy called one of his Mojo Moments during practice, both went three for three. This just feels more comfortable already than the search last preseason for someone to handle the kicking duties.
The practice saw an excellent example of how you need to look at the entire picture on plays. Dak Prescott threw another interception, which will no doubt be trumpeted far and wide by his detractors, but a close examination shows that this was more an outstanding play by Nahshon Wright, who kept Cooks from getting to the ball, giving Malik Hooker an easy interception. Wright has been very impressive in camp, and deserves credit. And many will overlook how well Prescott was dealing the rest of the time.
Nothing going downfield for Dak Prescott with Cowboys CB Nahshon Wright in coverage on WR Brandon Cooks, and it’s an easy interception for S Malik Hooker. pic.twitter.com/ZNP3nWAIy4— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) July 31, 2023
Outside of Sam Williams departing practice, this was a very satisfactory practice for the Cowboys. Now to stack some good days on top of one another. I don’t know why that particular thought popped into my head while I was taking a quick look around the league. Weird.
That’s former Cowboys coach and NBC analyst Jason Garrett chatting with Alexander Mattison. pic.twitter.com/Rb9JHe5iHD— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) July 31, 2023