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!