Yesterday here on Inside The Star, I took a look at the Cowboys first day of mini camp and shared some of my thoughts and analysis on what fans were able to view on the team website.
Click here to watch along while reading my thoughts on day two of Dallas Cowboys mini camp:
Cole Powered Chemistry
The entire offense for the Cowboys is designed around Tony Romo, who's return to the practice field has boosted the overall chemistry of the unit. Perhaps nobody has benefited more from his presence than Cole Beasley though.
After the first few plays of the practice put the ball in the hands of Ezekiel Elliott, Beasley was a common target for Romo, making plays in rhythm all across the field.
As a slot receiver, Beasley is going to get match ups that he can capitalize on all season long if a healthy Romo can stay on the field along with Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott.
Right on cue, UDFA WR Andy Jones had an absolute stellar practice performance. If you missed yesterday's article (which you can find right here), I talked about the performance of Vince Mayle as a physical target that could get looks in the red zone.
I mentioned Jones as a potential competitor to Mayle for this role, and sure enough he was able to snag practically everything thrown his way. Prior to greeting rookie CB Anthony Brown with a TD catch during red zone drills, Jones was able to work against Brandon Carr to haul in a perfect pass from Romo.
Working with the first team, Jones turned around Carr and found the ball already in flight for him. Romo delivered it perfectly for him to make the reception with Carr on his back.
On the reverse side of this play, it was frustrating to see Carr not be able to finish off a play that he was in decent position to make - something that has become the norm during his time as a Cowboy.
High on Heath
A defensive back that was able to make a big play was safety Jeff Heath, who read the eyes of Dak Prescott - working with the second team offense - to intercept his short pass and return it in the clear for a score.
I was talking to our Staff Writer RJ Ochoa recently about a potential defensive alignment for the Cowboys where three safeties find themselves onto the field. Byron Jones and any combination of Barry Church, JJ Wilcox, or even rookie Kavon Frazier would be able to play up in the box more while Heath lines up as a deep safety to completely change the look the opposing offense is getting.
Even if this is not the exact plan that Rod Marinelli has for Heath, he will find a way onto the field with this defense if he can continue to turn in impact plays like this one.
Plan for Prescott
Speaking of QB Dak Prescott, the fourth-round rookie was able to split some snaps on the second team offense with Kellen Moore, and really made the most of them outside of the interception to Heath.
Anyone that watched this team suffer through most of 2015 without Tony Romo knows that the offense had no true plan in place once their leader went down.
What stood out for me was the adjustments the entire offense made with Prescott on the field, while still operating at a high level. Dak was able to move the pocket and complete some short passes to Geoff Swaim and Lucky Whitehead.
Additionally, Alfred Morris served as the running back during Prescott's time on the field. An experienced zone runner, Morris' best performances came as a member of the Washington Redskins while running read option plays with Robert Griffin III.
Prescott can provide a similar element to the Cowboys running game, whether it is Morris or Elliott getting the carries.
The Cowboys are still a long way away from feeling anything close to comfortable without #9 on the field, but being able to continuously get advantages in the run game with the best offensive line in football is certainly a great start for any backup QB to find success.
Elliott in the End Zone
As mentioned, the team did move into red zone drills for a significant portion of this practice, and Ezekiel Elliott continued to be the focal point of the entire offense. Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan has already expressed how eager he is to utilize Elliott in as many different ways possible, but the first play of these drills was nothing more than a simple hand off to the team's fourth overall pick.
Travis Frederick and La'el Collins immediately took out defenders on the second level, allowing Elliott to walk into the end zone with some nice moves at the goal line.
Some fans were understandably concerned about Jason Witten's production slowing down while working with Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore in 2015 - considering the three signal callers' ability to complete short passes.
Momentarily proving those fans wrong, Witten lined up in the slot during red zone drills against Byron Jones. Jones, who was so good against opposing tight ends as a rookie, played pretty good coverage, but could not prevent Witten from making an incredibly athletic catch on a perfect throw from Romo to the end zone.
Wilcox was also breaking on the play late, but Witten displayed some athleticism that we have not seen from him in a long time.
Rod and Keith Smith continue to get work at fullback for the Dallas Cowboys, as they search for versatility at the position to further diversify the offense. On one red zone play, it was Rod Smith that was lined up in front of Alfred Morris.
Smith was faked the hand off up the middle as the ball was pitched to Morris on the outside. I appreciated the play design from the Cowboys, as I envisioned Ezekiel Elliott taking that pitch in stride.
On this particular carry for Morris, defensive end Mike McAdoo was able to set the edge and prevent the play from scoring.
The Cowboys have just one practice left before traveling to Oxnard, California later this summer for training camp! That will take place later today, with live video available once again on the site.
For now, comment below to share your thoughts on this day two review, and look for the final installment of this series on Friday right here at Inside The Star!
Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson
The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.
Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.
The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.
Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.
Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.
For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.
Dallas Cowboys: How “Position-Flex” Has Handcuffed The 2015 Draft Class
Over the last few years the Dallas Cowboys have placed a high level of importance on "position flex." They've drafted Swiss-Army knife players which could be moved around to different positions on the field.
By drafting players like Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods last year, as well as Byron Jones in 2015, the Cowboys have tried to find these versatile players who can be used in multiple ways.
While this seems great on paper, this strategy has handcuffed the majority of their 2015 Draft Class, and is a key reason why the Cowboys seem to be in such a tough spot.
The Cowboys' first round pick in 2015, Byron Jones, quickly became a favorite of mine during his rookie season. Incredibly athletic, long, and skilled in coverage, Jones was able to be both a fantastic cover cornerback and a solid middle-of-the-field safety due to his range.
Due to both injuries to his teammates, and Jones' own versatility, the Cowboys coaching staff couldn't keep Jones in just one spot. Once they discovered how great he was in man coverage against tight ends, they became enamored with trying to play him in the box.
Once in the box, Jones' struggles as a run defender were highlighted, and both the organization and the fans soured on him quickly.
Now it is rumored that Byron Jones will be moving back to cornerback full time. And while I do hope this is the case, the fact that he is in year four, and the Cowboys haven't been able to find their first round pick a permanent home is a huge indictment on their ability to evaluate and develop talent.
Okay, hear me out.
The former third round pick of the 2015 Draft was brought in to be the swing tackle for the Cowboys his rookie year. Mainly due to injuries, Green did not see the field for much of his first two seasons. When he did fill in for Tyron Smith at left tackle in 2016, however, Green was very effective.
Of course, Chaz Green's last appearance with the Cowboys was ugly, giving up a plethora of sacks against the Atlanta Falcons. But Dallas might've made their own bed with Green during the beginning of the 2017 season, when they attempted to move him to left guard full time.
Instead of getting the increased work at tackle, and continuing to work as the swing tackle for the team in case of injury, Dallas started Green at left guard early on in the year. He struggled trying to move positions, and looked even worse when trying to move back to tackle.
Once again, the position flex bit the Cowboys right in the backside.
It's 2018 and we are still talking about what position to play La'el Collins on the offensive line. And that is solely on the coaching staff and front office, not Collins.
Collins was brought in as an undrafted free agent in 2015, but was widely regarded as a first round pick heading into that draft. Though he started at left tackle at LSU, Dallas shifted Collins inside to left guard in 2015. After taking over for Ronald Leary as the starter, Collins produced highlight blocks week after week.
Injuries shortened his 2016 campaign, but heading into 2017 the Cowboys decided to shift him back out to right tackle. Despite some early struggles, Collins progressed nicely throughout the year and became a solid starting right tackle. Plus, he has the upside to become one of the top right tackles in the league.
Instead, it is now being rumored the Cowboys might move him back to guard for 2018. And with that news, I continue to pull my hair out over the position-flex decisions this coaching staff and front office like to make.
If the Cowboys want to get the most out of each draft class, and effectively develop their talent, they need to let those players actually develop, rather than move them around each season. Hopefully they now understand this, and allow both Byron Jones and La'el Collins to reach their full potential.
Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal
At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.
The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.
Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.
Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.
A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.
Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.
Want to help make Inside The Star better?
We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.
Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).
Star Blog1 day ago
Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?
Star Blog2 days ago
Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Dallas Cowboys Have Missing Piece at Offensive Line
NFL Draft2 weeks ago
Mauricio’s 2018 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Cowboys Steal Defensive Talent
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Cowboys 2018 Free Agency: What’s Left Before Market Opens?
Star Blog1 week ago
3 Former Penn State Alumni Cowboys Could Target in Free Agency
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Cowboys Defense: Bigger Need at Safety or Defensive End?
NFL Draft1 week ago
Final Cowboys Mock Drafts Before Free Agency Address Defensive Interior, Receiver