The Dallas Cowboys held their fifth practice of training camp yesterday and it was a padded one. After nearly a week at training camp, it seems like each position group has had its moments in Oxnard, California. On Thursday, it was the defensive back group that stood out on a strong day for the defense as a whole.
Even without one of their starters in Byron Jones, the depth at corner that the Dallas Cowboys feature in Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Anthony Brown, and Michael Jackson brings a lot of talent and a lot of fight to the cornerback position. These guys are playmakers that bring an edge, which was on full display during Thursday's practice.
David Helman from Dallas Cowboys.com spent a considerable part of his practice notes talking about the play of the defensive back group yesterday.
"The defense held its own during the one-on-one portion of practice, as well. As is customary, the quarterbacks and receivers broke off to go against each other. The wide receivers had their share of wins, but it was easy to see the number of breakups on the day. Jourdan Lewis came away with three PBU’s on the day, while Anthony Brown also handled himself well. Having given up a touchdown to Jon’Vea Johnson, Mike Jackson rebounded nicely against Randall Cobb. Dak Prescott’s throw to Cobb on a comeback route was a bit late, and Jackson stepped in front of it for a pick-six."
David Helman - DallasCowboys.com
Michael Jackson with a pick-6 on a comeback intended for Randall Cobb #cowboyswire https://t.co/oJQ8DXPuvq
The Dallas Cowboys have had a lot of success finding defensive backs in the later rounds in recent years with their selections of Anthony Brown in 2016 and Xavier Woods in 2017. Fifth-round pick Michael Jackson may continue that trend as he has started to shine in training camp. On Thursday, several observers mentioned him as having a really nice day.
Quick practice notes, Michael Jackson had a great day, Dorance Armstrong continues to impress, Cobb probably doesn't need to be playing on the outside, Jourdan Lewis is the best CB4 in the NFL, Schultz looks a little bit bigger, Jon Vae and Guyton continue to make plays
Jackson is likely in line to be the team's fifth cornerback if he can continue this play. He's a player that could be an option for the Cowboys in the slot or on the outside. With the effort and production he's shown early in camp, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about his prospects for 2019 and beyond.
While Jackson may be depth for the Cowboys right now, Jourdan Lewis is going to be relied upon to be a starter in the slot or on the outside for as long as Byron Jones is out. If for some reason Jones is unable to start the season, Lewis will be on the field in nickel situations, at least, but could find his way playing more in the Cowboys base defense.
There are many who consider Jourdan Lewis one of the better cover players on the team but just isn't getting the opportunities because of the perceived lack of size. Lewis may not be tall, but he's got long enough arms, and plays big enough, to be a disruptive player for the Dallas Cowboys secondary.
Jourdan Lewis has a really nice day in 1v1s. I counted 3 PBUs l, and the one completion he gave up was on a route that took 6 seconds to develop. https://t.co/uvcivEmvgX
Jackson and Lewis weren't the only ones to make plays during the Cowboys practice yesterday. Anthony Brown and Xavier Woods put in some nice work as well during Thursday's session.
"Anthony Brown and Xavier Woods carried the defense in the Compete Period, too. Brown fought off Michael Gallup for a PBU on the first rep of the period, while Xavier Woods battled Jason Witten downfield and forced an incompletion. "
David Helman - DallasCowboys.com
Jason Witten is one of the better and more nuanced route runners on the Dallas Cowboys. Xavier Woods is pretty good in man coverage and is giving the Dallas Cowboys a lot of reason to be excited for 2019 and the future. Here he is in a one on one in the compete period of practice vs the future hall of famer.
Compete Period. Defense goes up 2-0. Xavier Woods ain't afraid of the Hall of Famer. #cowboyswire https://t.co/o2YHFJkdko
Woods is right with Witten the entire way and leaves a very small window for Dak Prescott to attempt to fit the ball in for the completion. Dak attempts to get the ball to Witten over Woods and it's overthrown. A pass any lower and Woods likely breaks it up or comes down with an interception.
Xavier Woods is the reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't pursue Earl Thomas or another free agent safety this offseason. He's also the reason that the Dallas Cowboys opted to select Trysten Hill with their pick in the second round instead of Juan Thornhill or Taylor Rapp. There are big things coming for Woods in 2019.
Jourdan Lewis might have had the best day among the cornerbacks, but Anthony Brown wasn't far behind. At this point in training camp, it looks as if Brown is starting in Byron Jones spot on the outside. Brown is an aggressive cover player and has consistently made plays on the football in his first three seasons in Dallas.
On Thursday, Brown continued to show that aggressiveness as he broke up a pass intended for Michael Gallup during practice yesterday.
Defense battles back in Compete today. AB with a nice PBU on Gallup. #cowboyswire https://t.co/DeSb7k3MVj
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With Kris Richard at the helm and a deep and improved pass rush, this should be a banner year for the Dallas Cowboys secondary. They've legitimately got four cornerbacks who could start for most NFL teams and a fifth one that is showing a lot of promise. If they can continue to make plays on the football like they've done in training camp this season, it's going to be really difficult for teams to score.
They're a complete unit on the back end and despite some issues at strong safety, they're going to hold their own in the passing game. 2019 will feature far more coverage sacks than we've seen in years past because these guys are going to keep opposing pass-catchers locked down.
Taco Charlton Isn’t Going Anywhere After Strong Preseason Week 3
Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Taco Charlton might be turning things around. The former first round draft pick didn't have a great couple of seasons to start his career off, which forced him to be in a battle to earn a spot on the Cowboys 53-man roster this offseason. Three weeks into the preseason, it looks like he's a lock to make the team. In a "Dress Rehearsal" game that went great for the Cowboys, Charlton's performance was among the best players.
A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how the Cowboys' younger defensive ends could force the team to move on from Taco. From Dorance Armstrong to Jalen Jelks, there's a handful of promising players that were participating in a positional battle that one way or another, included Taco Charlton.
However, the Michigan product showed up to play versus the Los Angeles Rams with two passes batted down. Despite making such plays, we still hadn't seen much from him in the pass rush department.
That changed against the Houston Texans last Saturday when he managed to get two sacks (one strip-sack), two forced fumbles and a recovery. This was undoubtedly Taco's best game in his career. He still has a lot to prove, but it was definitely good to see him have a "breakout" preseason game.
With such performance, it doesn't seem like he'll be going anywhere in 2019. Charlton won't be a starter for this team, but he could become a very important rotational piece for Rod Marinelli's defense. He has a great opportunity to find playing time during the first two weeks of the season before Robert Quinn returns from suspension.
One unfortunate note was that in his best game yet, Taco went out injured twice (ankle). The first time he went back to the field to get some more but had to walk off the field for a second time. Hopefully, he's able to play next Thursday but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't after having a breakout game versus the Texans.
Taco Charlton still has a very long way to justify being a first-round pick, but his play against Houston was a start. It will be very interesting to see how he plays in the 2019 regular season. He'll have to fight for playing time and he'll have to make every snap count to turn his career around.
Cowboys’ Taryn Christion Gets Time at QB; More Coming?
Last night was the first time we've seen Taryn Christion, the Dallas Cowboys' fourth quarterback on the current depth chart, actually playing the position in preseason. Could we see more of Christion at QB in this Thursday's finale, and at what point should Mike White be worried?
Signed just a few days before training camp began, Christion has been tried at running back, receiver, and various special teams units while the Cowboys were in Oxnard. But last week he started getting more time at quarterback, and last night's win over the Houston Texans saw him playing a few drives at QB to close the game out.
Sure, Taryn came in fourth behind White in the rotation. But that Dallas thought to give him reps in that game, the critical dress rehearsal game, is telling.
Jason Garrett doesn't get cute with rotations and playing time. He's old school, and there's meaning in every decision he makes about when and how guys get time in preseason.
Ironically, the decision came following Mike White's best preseason game this year. He went 6-of-9 for 56 yards and a touchdown, plus avoided any sacks or turnovers.
Rather than let White keep building on that, though, Dallas pulled him for Taryn Christion in the 4th quarter. It seemed as if the Cowboys were determined to get him some time at QB.
An even better showcase will come this Thursday night. The Cowboys host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final preseason game; we know Dak Prescott won't be playing, and the team may even protect Cooper Rush with limited time on the field.
Dallas likely intends to give Christion some significant playing time on Thursday. And to help make that easier, they played him last night to get some of those butterflies out of his system.
No, Taryn Christion probably isn't going to make the 53-man roster. Neither is Mike White, for that matter. It feels like the battle for the number-three QB is more about the practice squad now.
But whatever the case, the battle seems to be heating up. Dallas appears more invested in Christion now as a quarterback than at any other point since he arrived; some added intrigue for Thursday's final preseason game.
HOU 0, DAL 34: Defense Dominates in Dress Rehearsal Game
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't have scripted a better result in tonight's dress rehearsal game against the Houston Texans. All three phases of the game made big plays as they dominated 34 to 0.
The night belonged to the defense as they terrorized Houston's starters and reserves along the offensive line with 8 sacks. Taco Charlton, a former first-round pick turned outcast was the star of the night with 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. In my opinion, if there were any doubts about him making the roster he put them to bed tonight.
Kerry Hyder showed once again why he's one of the smartest free-agent signings of 2019. After being a lost man in the 3-4 defensive scheme with his former team the Lions, he's done a really good job applying pressure even though he hadn't recorded any sacks in the first two preseason games. However, tonight he recorded 2 sacks and reminded everyone of the player who had 8 sacks in 2016.
The young guys weren't to be left out in this defensive clinic. Dorance Armstrong, Trysten Hill, Daniel Wise, and Joe Jackson all had half sacks. Rookie Safety Donovan Wilson had one of the plays of the night with a beautiful interception as he tapped both feet before heading out of bounds. Cornerback C.J. Goodwin, who will probably make the roster on his special teams ability, got in on the interception party himself high pointing a contested pass.
Dak Prescott was only 2 for 5 (11 for 14 in the preseason) but managed to escape what looked like a sure sack and roll to his left and threw a rope to Michael Gallup for a touchdown. The two have shown a lot of growth and chemistry during training camp, something that was missing at times in 2018.
Wide Receiver Devin Smith had 6 receptions for 79 yards while Cedrick Wilson snagged 3 passes on 4 targets. Both receivers are fighting for the final roster spots in the receiver group which they'll have to continue to do next week against the Buccaneers.
Tight End Marcus Lucas had a very solid game with 4 catches for 50 yards. He will definitely be a player to watch in the final preseason game before final cuts are made. Cooper Rush went 15 for 25 and further solidified his position as the primary backup to Prescott. Mike White was also solid going 6 for 9 and tossing a touchdown.
Special teams got in on the action themselves when Linebacker Joe Thomas recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Now the Cowboys have only one more preseason game before the 2019 season begins. All that's left now is figuring out the last few roster spots and staying as healthy as possible. September 8th is right around the corner.
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