The Dallas Cowboys took the field yesterday for the first day of mini camp, with familiar faces on both sides of the ball like Tony Romo, Tyrone Crawford, Morris Claiborne, and Ezekiel Elliott – who have all been at every team practice this summer.
Unfamiliar faces like Rolando McClain and Ronald Leary also arrived to Valley Ranch, where the practices are now mandatory.
Head Coach Jason Garrett took to the podium and started off a day that would mostly be negative for the Cowboys though, as he announced the injuries to RB Darren McFadden and DE Benson Mayowa. Click here for more on the current status of both players.
The not-so-great day continued for the Cowboys when the helmets went on for practice. This article is going to focus on some of my takeaways and thoughts from the overall lackluster practice, which I was able to check out some footage from thanks to the official team site’s “Minicamp LIVE” video with Bryan Broaddus and Nick Eatman. The videos are well worth your time, as there will be practice footage posted from today’s practice as well as tomorrow’s final day – both of which I will review here.
Watch along during day one with this article, and share your thoughts at the end!
Offensive Line Sharp as Always…Mostly
I’ve already hinted at the fact that this practice lacked crispness, which we will touch on more later, but the one unit that always shows up for the Dallas Cowboys is the offensive line.
While this unit did contribute to the sloppiness with their fair share of procedural penalties, La’el Collins was consistently making the right blocks and springing Zeke Elliott to the second level.
Without Benson Mayowa, the defensive front was even more depleted, but the interior of the line did a fantastic job on Tyrone Crawford. A healthy Crawford seems to always find his way into the backfield causing havoc at some point, but not against the likes of Zack Martin and Travis Frederick yesterday.
Cowboys Nation’s favorite practice squad WR Vince Mayle was making the most of his opportunities, hauling in passes from Romo and Kellen Moore with his big build and strong hands.
The competition is going to be stiff across the board at wide receiver for the Cowboys this summer, and Mayle certainly still faces an uphill battle. However, based on the little I saw from him yesterday, he absolutely deserves a chance to prove himself as a red zone target.
The 2015 Cowboys struggled mightily in the red zone without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. While we expect those two players, along with Elliott, to immediately provide a boost in this regard, you can never have enough capable offensive players with the ability to find the end zone on your roster.
As a big scoring target, Mayle may see competition from UDFA Andy Jones. Keep an eye on both of these players.
Cowboys signed UDFA WR Andy Jones. Settle down, ladies.
The Cowboys current situation at linebacker is full of unanswered questions, but the position certainly does not lack depth for Rod Marinelli to work with. Likely the deepest unit on this defense, I’ve written before about some possibilities for each player to find a role with Dallas.
One guy that has seemingly and surprisingly gone under-the-radar from the linebackers’ unit is veteran Kyle Wilber. Wilber has specialized as a run defender, coming off the field in nickel packages as the Cowboys typically do with their rotation of SAM linebackers.
While it was only one play, Wilber caught my eye when he stayed in at the strong-side spot on a drop back for Tony Romo. After going through his reads, Romo was forced to try to dump the ball late to Elliott breaking out of the backfield. Wilber came all the way across the field to make things difficult for Ezekiel, who already had to adjust for the ball thrown behind him.
The result of the play was an incomplete pass, although it wasn’t officially broken up by Wilber, but the play had to make Marinelli along with Matt Eberflus smile as the veteran showed some nice versatility and hustle.
Deji Olatoye Ola-toying with Wideouts
Ever since CB Deji Olatoye took the field for the Cowboys as a starter for the final two games of the 2015 season, I’ve kept my eye on him as a physical and lengthy guy that fits the mold for a Dallas defensive back while bringing coverage and tackling skills.
All of these things were again on display yesterday, as Deji consistently looked like a guy that is not only going to seize control of the fourth corner spot, but potentially move even further up the depth chart when its all said and done.
Terrance Williams made a sliding catch in front of Deji, but the play spoke a lot more about Terrance than it did the defender. Olatoye was able to drive downhill on the ball and put himself in a great position to make a play.
Later on, working against Vince Mayle, he rode him out of the play by pressing him into the sideline.
Should Morris Claiborne be forced to miss time, or if Brandon Carr is struggling across from him, the Cowboys could feel very comfortable going to Olatoye if he continues to impress.
Byron Jones is going to have plenty of time to focus on his skills as a now full-time free safety, but the learning curve is certainly there for the second-year player.
In what turned out to be a pretty solid showing from Terrance Williams, he snagged a slant pass on the run from Romo and turned it up the field in a hurry. Jones, who is used to being able to come straight down towards his target, completely misjudged the speed of Williams – failing to move laterally enough to keep Terrance from taking it all the way across the field and up the far sideline for a huge gain.
Obviously, the vast expectation is that Jones will be a very reliable safety for this Cowboys’ defense when the regular season rolls along, and plays like this will only further etch into his head what it will take to do that.
These are my thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys’ first day of mini camp practices. What do YOU have to say? Comment below with your thoughts to start the conversation, email email@example.com, or tweet me @ShoreSportsNJ!
Be sure to also check out a new edition of “MiniCamp LIVE” today on DallasCowboys.com, and look for my review on Thursday right here on Inside The Star!