OXNARD, Calif. – Two of the CBA allocated 10 training camp practices in pads down this week, with a mock game on Wednesday – a fancier way of saying the Cowboys had a walk-through practice out here.
Pads are back on come Thursday, with a mock game on Friday and another padded practice on Saturday, reaching the halfway point of training camp out here at the River Ridge Sports Complex.
So far, we have shots galore, and without further ado, let's go.
- Perfect Pointers: That is two-pointers, as in after-touchdown conversions. The Mojo Moment in Tuesday's practice became five consecutive two-point conversion attempts, and the Cowboys offense was impressively perfect, going five-for-five from the 2-yard line. First, it was Dak Prescott to likely starting tight end Jake Ferguson. Next, Dak rolls out to nail CeeDee Lamb on a crossing route. To continue with the versatility, Dak connects with KaVontae Turpin, the wideout going in motion from left to right on a sprint-out executed to perfection. Then it was Dak to Ferguson again, the QB looking right to move the defense and throwing back left to his wide-open tight end. And on the fifth attempt, Dak connects with Brandin Cooks. Hey, who needs to kick extra points.
- Turpin Time: The talk in the offseason was to integrate Turpin, the noted return guy, more into the offense. Well now the Cowboys are walking that talk, and the second-year wideout who was the 2022 USFL Offensive Player of the Year is making a huge impression. Not only is Turpin getting open as a wide receiver, but he is catching every ball thrown in his area code. "Right now, you know, just trying to do what I can do. Just let the coaches know they can trust me in the offense. When they put me in position, to show them they can depend on me," Turpin says. So his goal this year is to become the fourth receiver and prove he is more than just a return guy with speed. "I'm just trying to be patient, and whenever those guys need a blow," Turpin says, referring to Lamb, Cooks and Michael Gallup, "then I can go in there for them."
- Tackle Evaluation: Sure is tough to evaluate the play of these offensive tackles in pass protection, and that includes Tyron Smith, Terence Steele, Chuma Edoga and Matt Waletzko, when going up against Micah Parsons. Like, Parsons is an electric pass rusher, and we know how good he is no matter who he is going up against across the league, leading the team with 13.5 sacks last season. So, it's like, are the tackles struggling or is this just because of having to go up against one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Error on the side of the latter at this point.
- Stoned: On one particular pass play, Parsons, lining up at left defense end, tried to loop to his right all the way up the middle inside. Well, Micah, meet No. 63, Pro Bowl center Tyler Biadasz. Parsons might as well have run into a brick wall with Biadasz holding his ground. Micah never saw what was coming.
- Coaching Aficionado: Tyron Smith is entering his 13th NFL season and knows a thing or two about offensive line coaches, by my count now on his seventh during his career: Hudson Houck, Bill Callahan, Frank Pollack, Paul Alexander, Marc Colombo, Joe Philbin and now Mike Solari. Pretty much a revolving door, the Cowboys striking out with Alexander, who only lasted a half season before Colombo took over in 2018. So, when Tyron speaks up on Solari, now in his 34th NFL coaching season, we listen. "He brings a lot of energy to our room," the eight-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer says, "and he bring that old coaching style that we need. … And he'll tell it like it is every day."
- Same Page: Even though Lamb had a Pro Bowl season in 2022, catching 107 passes for 1,359 yards and nine touchdowns, there were several times he was not on the same page with Prescott. Well, not only is this dynamic duo on the same page so far this training camp, the two are on the same book. Lamb has made several spectacular catches. There was one instance when the offense needed to score a touchdown on the final play of a series and we could hear the chatter in the defensive backfield going something like, "We know where they are going, know where they are going," and certainly meaning in this clutch situation Dak is going to CeeDee. Well, the defenders were right, Dak did, and there was nothing the defense would do to stop the completion to Lamb.
- Camp Takeaways: Good to see Tony Pollard and Terence Steele, both returning from surgeries, already taking part in the padded practices, including the 11-on-11 portions after head coach Mike McCarthy saying they would be "limited," meaning limited reps but not in participating in these practice sessions … One of McCarthy's top priorities while now leading this offense is pass protection, and has mentioned several times Pass Pro changing up some, meaning not only putting a higher emphasis on protecting Dak, but also changing up some of the techniques and setups along the way … And when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked by KTVT-Ch.11's Bill Jones about the possibility of the Cowboys re-signing Ezekiel Elliot for backup running back depth, Jerry said, "I've never closed the door on a possibility (of Zeke returning). We have all the respect in the world in him as a teammate." … Finally, even though Deuce Vaughn is but 5-5, 180 on this roster card, he sure did pop a run between guard and tackle the other day, showing that burst and elusiveness from his Kansas State days.
And for today's last word, it goes to me, wanting to pay tribute to longtime Cowboys employee and friend Phil Whitfield, who passed away this past week, a few days short of his 63rd birthday. Phil and I became good friends back in the Texas Stadium days when he was working security. Phil would be the last security guard on duty game days and too many times I was the last one to leave the press box.
Well, Phil made sure I didn't get locked into the stadium, no matter how late it was. After checking on my status, and always saying, "No rush, no rush," Phil would either be waiting for me at the locked gate to let me out or he'd let me know to walk down to the office where he'd let me out that door. Hope I caused him to earn some overtime.
There is not a soul in this organization that would say a bad word about the big guy with the friendly smile, going from security guard to leading the art tours at AT&T Stadium. And Phil was a mainstay at the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader tryouts over the years at AT&T Stadium.
There are certain people who just have this knack for touching your soul, causing you to enjoy talking ball with and asking for their opinions on the Cowboys.
Phil was one of those great guys.