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Mick Shots: Fast Times Growing In Cowboys Land


FRISCO, Texas – A little more than a year ago during the Cowboys' joint practices with the Los Angeles Chargers out in Costa Mesa, Calif., asked newcomer KaVontae Turpin, all of 5-7, how a guy my size was going to be capable of playing in the National Football League.

Big smile, Turpin says, "Speed kills."

Lesson reminded.

His speed not only enabled the smallish by NFL standards receiver/kick returner to earn a spot on the Cowboys' 53-man roster, but also perform at a Pro Bowl level his rookie season.

Well, here Turpin is in Year Two, but this time around the speedster from Monroe, La., has company. Plenty of company, maybe creating one of the fastest offenses in Cowboys recent memory.

So we can start with Turpin. The guy has one of those beep-beep speeds. Add CeeDee Lamb to this potential 4x100 relay team, his 24 receptions of 20-plus-yards in 2022 ranking third in the NFL behind just Justin Jefferson (28) and Tyreek Hill (25).

Now the Cowboys add 10th year veteran receiver Brandin Cooks, and even though he turns 30 at the end of this month, you'd be hard-pressed to find a lost step from his 4.3-second 40-time coming out of college at the NFL Scouting Combine.

That's three, all receivers, and frankly Michael Gallup and Jalen Tolbert aren't no slouches, either.

Says Turpin, "Feels like if you throw speed out there, it's a major problem for everybody."

But there is more.

Take now lead running back Tony Pollard. There is no need for any sort of analytical anecdote to support his speed. We've seen it, and now we're going to see even more of that speed, figuring his average touches per game will increase by at least a dozen more than last year's near 14 a game.

Plus, there is going to be the video game speed of rookie Deuce Vaughn, one of those now you see him, now you don't running backs with "Cool Papa" Bell quickness, the former Negro League baseball player they say was quick enough to turn off the light switch and be under the covers in bed before the lights went out.

While Cooks is wise enough not to get into comparables, this being his fifth NFL team, he is willing to point out about this speed, "Know we have something special."

Defenses beware. And maybe the Cowboys, without hard-charging Ezekiel Elliott anymore, have other ways to pick up those tough yards, the Cowboys employing speed to the outside to compensate for potential lack of inside grit.

"You look at the paper, the paper tells you they are fast," says safety Jayron Kearse. "But then you get out there, you can see that they are fast. … It's just a lot of speed out there."

And Kearse knows as a defender, when facing that kind of speed, "You've got to take your proper angles."

Otherwise, you got no shot.

· Weather Proofing: If watching the U.S. Open on TV in Flushing Meadow, probably got a great idea of what kind of nasty weather the Cowboys likely will be facing Sunday night just across the Hudson in East Rutherford, N.J., against the Giants. Why, while at 4:40 p.m. out here on Wednesday the temperature was 102, in New York it was 92, but felt like 101 thanks to 53 percent humidity. Not only were the tennis players during the night matches this week having to regularly change their shirts and shorts, but also having to change their sweat-soaked soggy socks and shoes, with many cramping up. That is why the Cowboys held Wednesday's non-padded practice at noon, but also will put the pads on Thursday and starting the two-hour outdoors practice at 9 a.m. when the temp will climb by 11 to a projected 89 and the feel-like to 96. That will give them a taste of what's to come, so better start hydrating right now, and the docs stocking up on IVs.

· Tyler Not Tyron: There was a Smith on the season's first official injury report for the Cowboys, but probably not who you might have expected. Not Tyron Smith, starting his 13th season with the Cowboys, but last year's first-round pick Tyler Smith, the probable starting left guard. Has a tight hamstring, and while he did not practice Wednesday after walking off Monday during individual drills, seemed to be moving well working with Cowboys rehab specialist Britt Brown. For sure the Cowboys will take this decision, if needed, up to 90 minutes before kickoff. If Tyler can't go, the candidates are many, including veteran tackle/guard Chuma Edoga, rookies Asim Richards and T.J. Bass and even practice squad center/guards Brock Hoffman or Sean Harlow, one of the two likely to be one of the two practice squad activations anyway as the backup center.

· Just Kick It: Mentioned last week when rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey missed that 59-yard field goal attempt in the preseason game against the Raiders that he tried to swing his leg with a little extra oomph and that on the second try from 59 said to myself, just use your natural swing, knowing his leg is powerful enough to get it there from that distance. Bingo, because while chatting with the former soccer player who started dabbling in kicking a football in 2018, Aubrey said he over-kicked the first one since he had never attempted a field in a game from that distance. But then reminded himself on the second try that was good by at least five to 10 yards to simply take his normal swing. Lesson learned. And if you noticed, Aubrey kicks a straight ball, none of this hooking or fading business. Said started kicking a straight ball back in the day when he was aiming at a mere light pole. Hey, we all start some way.

· Opening Bites: Guarantee you restricted free agent Terence Steele's newly signed five-year contract worth $50 million in guarantees will be a, uh, steal three years from now because the way he's played in his first three seasons, this undrafted rookie free agent from 2020 has future Pro Bowl tackle written all over him … These are not your 5-year-old's Giants, the ones the Cowboys have beaten 11 of the last 12 times, including both times last season (the first with Cooper Rush at quarterback), the only loss being the final game of the COVID-laced 2020 season during this streak … In those two games last season the Cowboys sacked much-improved quarterback Daniel Jones eight times, though the Giants insist their offensive line is improved … Micah Parsons might be the judge of that, having recorded three of those Cowboys' eight sacks against the Giants, who finished tied for fifth with 49 sacks allowed … The Giants also worked on improving their defensive front, having finished 27th against the run, giving up 144.2 yards a game … And this one might surprise those Dak Detractors since Dak Prescott is just 58 passing yards short of joining Aaron Rodgers as the only two NFL players to amass 25,000 career passing yards and 1,500 yards rushing in their first 100 career games, Dak with 24,943 passing yards in 97 games.

How about going with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday for this week's last word, giving one last memory of Gil Brandt, who passed away last week at the age of 91.

"My very last visit with him was from training camp, and you'd love this," Jerry said. "I was on the phone with him, he was so clear with his articulation as he always is, and rather than have a general get-better conversation, it was about a running back, and I couldn't get him to talk about anything else. (It was about) what we needed to do in regard to our running back situation. He was a true scout, true football guy for me the last time I talked to him.

"Easily, easily the most intelligent person with knowledge of pro football players and also had quite a background of how to get them in the pros. He was amazing in how he knew high school football players and absolutely still had a network of the high school coaches and high school football players. Not just in North Texas but all over the country. And then, of course, carried that up through the college level and just made your teeth drop.

"My most endearing time with him, we were sitting there with him watching my grandson play, and he would do evaluations not only on my grandson but other kids out on the field."

Knowing Gil all these years, could picture every bit of that.

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