FRISCO, Texas – A handful of notes I made while watching the Cowboys' rookies go through minicamp this weekend at The Star.
- Though most of these drills are against air, it is clear that Ryan Switzer has a feel for how to execute a route. His quickness off the snap once he gets moving is impressive. His burst is noticeable. I also came away impressed with how easily he catches the ball. For a guy that doesn't have much length, his ability to adjust back for the ball made me think of a much taller player. For him to be at full speed and reach back is a rare trait. It was interesting to see him being not only used on the inside but outside as well.
- I love the size of Noah Brown. It's impressive the way he comes off the ball with a lot of moving parts – but Cowboys wide receiver coach Derek Dooley will tighten his routes up. He was able to do the same thing with Dez Bryant at that size. Brown had a couple of double catches but should not be an issue because on the other chances he was able to snatch it cleanly.
- Andy Jones looks like he's in good shape. The biggest problem I thought he had last season was his lack of quickness, and it appears that he has improved in that area. I could see it in the way he ran his routes that the quickness was in his game.
- I don't know if the front office will sign this kid, but tryout guy MJ McFarland, a tight end out of Texas-El Paso, caught my eye. At 6-5, 253 pounds, he moved with ease. I also liked his ability to adjust to the ball on the move, whether he was going across the middle or into the flat. It felt like he had a better feel in the scheme than Blake Jarwin, who they signed after the draft.
- It's a struggle for Arkansas tackle Dan Skipper to bend his knees and really get low because of his height. The linemen have a special device that they go though in individual drills that keeps them flat coming off the ball, and you can see the problems he has. He's going to need some strength training as well to help with his punch. I will say this though – when Skipper is moving in space he does look athletic and not clumsy at all.
- North Dakota center Michael Coe primarily worked at center while Wayne State guard Nate Theaker was at guard -- but Theaker did take some snaps at center, as well. What was interesting about that was that Theaker snaps left handed. Coe looks smaller in person than he does on tape, but I now understand how he is able to play with such great leverage.
- I didn't know much about Nevada defensive end Lenny Jones, but I will need to do some further research on him. Jones bounced around in 2016 with the 49ers, Raiders and Rams before signing with the Cowboys toward the end of last season. He was able to work out with the rookies this weekend, and I will have to say that he stood out with the way that he came off the ball. There is an explosive first step to his game. The drill where I really noticed him was when the coaches put down two towels and had the rusher work side-to-side, then look for a weakness to attack the blocker. Jones and LSU defensive lineman Lewis Neal were by far the quickest and most successful in beating the blocker.
- Wyoming linebacker Lucas Wacha was super active on tape this past season. I would keep an eye on him as a possible weakside nickel linebacker in this scheme. His coverage skill and awareness give him a shot to play a couple of different roles, which might help him make this team undrafted.
- Watching Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis go through drills, it was surprising to see that Awuzie looked a little quicker and more confident initially. I would have thought that it might have been the other way around, but that wasn't the case. Awuzie has some noticeable pop in his hands as well when working on the blocking sled. He also did a nice job of jamming then turning to get into his drop when he was working in zone coverage. Where Lewis is better now is with his lateral movement, getting himself in position to play the route. Keep an eye on Texas cornerback Duke Thomas, as well. Thomas was signed by the Texans last season but couldn't stick. He has the flexibility to play a couple of different spots outside and in the slot.
- Primary returners during practice: Andy Jones, Ryan Switzer, Jourdan Lewis, Jahad Thomas and tryout running back Kade Harrington. Jones and Switzer looked the most comfortable while Lewis didn't. In an interesting drill – the returners had to catch three straight balls one after another, which made for some unique tracking issues.
- Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush appeared to be more accurate than Florida quarterback Austin Appleby during the practices. It takes Rush longer to get the ball out of his hand than Appleby, but he puts it where he needs to. There is a real difference in the pace there. Where Appleby had his issues was throwing the slant. Things to the outside and to the middle were fine but he just didn't hit that route as well. I feel like the more quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson works with him that he will be more consistent with his arm angle and launch point.
- My favorite Rod Marinelli drill is when he puts on the arm pads and battles one-on-one with the defensive linemen. The pads are like those a dog trainer would work with training attack dogs. Marinelli will go through all kinds of combinations while the linemen fights him off his hands. I love it when Marinelli points to the ground like the man's shoe is untied, and when they move their eyes downward, he taps them in the face mask -- likely saying 'I can't believe you fell for that.' I could watch Marinelli put his linemen through drills all day. There are some really creative things he does to teach them escape techniques.