OXNARD, Calif. – Just a few days into the start of training camp, the Cowboys' three coordinators spent some time with the media Friday to give some perspective and updates on all three phases of the game.
Here are some of the highlights from Kellen Moore, Dan Quinn and John Fassel as they met with reporters.
Kellen Moore, offensive coordinator
- It sounds like Moore has big plans for CeeDee Lamb in Year 2. The Cowboys' offensive coordinator noted that Lamb was confined largely to the slot during his rookie season, largely because the COVID-shortened offseason didn't give him a great opportunity to branch out. It doesn't sound like that's going to be the case in 2021. "CeeDee is one of those guys, he's going to play all over the field," Moore said. "He's going to line up everywhere and we're going to have fun doing it."
- None of the Cowboys' coaches want Dak Prescott to take too much contact during the leadup to the regular season, but Moore did acknowledge that there's some value in getting back into the mix as Prescott works his way back from injury. "It's a weird thing about quarterbacks – it's a great feeling the first time you get hit. There's just something about it," he said. "You got hit, you got back up and now let's go play real football again. Obviously, we've done a lot of stuff up to this point that's close to real football, but we've got to continue to build to that."
- · On a related note, Moore was also asked about Prescott's ability as a runner, and whether the Cowboys need to be cautious with that following such a serious injury. Moore acknowledged the need for good judgment, but he said Prescott's mobility is a key aspect of who he is as a quarterback. "I think, at the end of the day, that's what's made Dak a really good football player," Moore said. Obviously, there's an element of being smart and understanding situational football. But I think it's kind of foolish of us to take that away from him. He can still make plays with his legs, he's got a runner's mentality at times – running someone over and trying to stiff-arm people. That's still a part of him. We've just got to find where our situations are right and play really good football. That's who he's always been, and he needs to embrace that."
Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator
- As Quinn continues to install a new scheme, communication is critical. That's why he held a note-taking exercise with the defensive players at the start of camp, in which he played Run DMC's "Sucker MCs" and asked them to write down every word they heard. "Learning is a superpower but note-taking is a big part of that, and you can't write every word that I say," he said. "The winner had like two lines right. And my point was that I know the system inside and out and I'm going to talk really fast. So if you think you're going to sit here and write every word that I'm going to say and you're going get it, you're mistaken." As rookie linebacker Micah Parsons said, "You've got to take in the key message of what (Quinn) is trying to say."
- Quinn was asked how he plans to rotate a deep linebacker group that includes Parsons, free agent and returning veterans Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. "We're fortunate that we do have a number of good players," Quinn said. "One thing I do is I want to make sure is we have enough roles for guys and they can do their thing really well. If you look at the linebacker spot, there's a number of guys that are going to have roles. They won't all be in the same packages together, but that doesn't mean there's not going to be significant roles for their team and how we're going to win."
- Parsons' talent is obvious, and so is his versatility as a linebacker and pass rusher. Quinn is balancing how much to put on Parsons' plate early. "I think the real line would be from the physical and the conditioning standpoint, because the mental part of it he's done a nice job," Quinn said. "So we've got to make sure that we find that groove like all ball players – what's the right amount from practice time to reps in the game. And we'll measure that and learn more as we go. One day in, we're still learning that process. But we'll find it, because the guy works and he's got a good role for it."
John Fassel, special teams coordinator
- His press conference opened on a more somber note, getting asked to reflect on his father, John Fassel, who passed away this summer. The former New York Giants coach "was everything" to his son and John clearly showed his emotions and he discussed the impact his dad had on his life and his career. He also said his father was planning on coming out to Oxnard at some point during this camp.
- Another tough question Fassel fielded was the decision to replace long-time veteran L.P. Ladouceur with Jake McQuaide, a veteran he had coached with the Rams. Fassel explained the ins and outs of the deep snapper position and how it goes much further than just "throwing the ball back."
- Fassel said he's hoping Greg Zuerlein, who is currently on PUP with a back injury, will be able to return in time to kick in a few preseason games. In the meantime, Hunter Niswander will get the kicking reps. That could make it difficult to compete with Bryan Anger for the punting job but as Fassel pointed out, Niswander will need "a fresh leg" throughout camp.
- While it's not a secret that CeeDee Lamb is expected to be the primary punt returner, Fassel said the team will practice punt returns for the first time in camp on Saturday. He said there will be more dynamic returns involving Lamb as they try to utilize his strengths more in the return game.