OXNARD, Calif. – Cowboys defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson doesn't have any hair – which is probably for the best, given the stress of coaching his newest cornerback, Terrance Mitchell.
"It's a good thing that I don't have hair with Mitchell. Oh, gosh," Henderson said. "Never a dull moment, though. I love his passion for the game."
The subject came up Monday morning, following Henderson's latest bout with Mitchell. Following the Cowboys morning walkthrough, Henderson stopped Mitchell for a five minute coaching session about cleaning up the rookie's technique.
More specifically, Henderson asked Mitchell "are you ever going to stop holding people?"
"He's on me consistently, making sure I do everything I have to do right," Mitchell said.
The only thing more entertaining than the coaching staff's attempts to corral Mitchell has been the rookie's play. While not always sound from a technical standpoint, the seventh-round draft pick manages to show up somehow in seemingly every practice.
"He's one of those guys, he's going to try to jump the line to get back in there. You like that about him," Henderson said. "We've just got to get him to play more within our system and to be more disciplined as a player."
That much has shined through in the early goings of training camp. Mitchell has made several standout plays, but his scrappy style has caused a stir itself. The rookie drew the ire of team veterans last week when he brought down Dwayne Harris in a no-tackling drill, causing a small injury.
That's something Mitchell said he's noticed he needs to work on, as NFL-caliber receivers are far too experienced to get beaten by physicality.
"Being overly aggressive at the line – trying to maul them," he said. "This is the NFL, guys are talented, so I've got to play smarter and put myself in good positions."
As Henderson noted, he's also garnered attention for cutting lines for extra work during position drills.
"Those are the kind of guys you want. You don't want to be having to prod guys all the time to get them going. You want the guys that you have to tap down a little bit. He's one of those guys," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "He's growing. He's getting better. I think like a lot of young players it ain't just about going out there and balling. You have to understand your technique, what the scheme is and all of that."
Mitchell is getting plenty of opportunities to work, as the cornerbacks are shorthanded. Injuries are limiting Morris Claiborne and Dashaun Phillips for the time being, and Brandon Carr is absent due to the death of his mother. The result is more reps for the remaining youngsters. [embedded_ad]
"It's been a lot of help, getting my feet wet, just getting ready," Mitchell said. "I'm right there, but I've got keep working, though."
The word that Garrett often goes back to is consistency – making sure the young players maintain a high level of play, rather than fluctuating wildly. To this point in camp, he said Mitchell had done "OK" with that.
"Technically he has become much more consistent. I think emotionally he needs to become more consistent," Garrett said. "But you like the fight, you like the spirit, and he's certainly gotten better over the last couple of weeks."
From talking to him, Mitchell sounds as though he's been listening to his coaches, if that's any consolation. As he touched on how best to improve his game, Mitchell used several of Garrett's own key words.
"I've just got to keep doing it. Coach talks about players that flash, and consistency – I don't want to be a flash player, I want to be consistent," he said. "So I've just got to keep racking them up every day and keep building."
Cowboys fans should get their first real look at Mitchell on Thursday night when the Cowboys travel to play San Diego. Preseason openers are a traditional showcase for rookies and newcomers, giving Mitchell plenty of opportunity to showcase what he's learned.
"I'm looking forward to it a lot," he said. "That's what I'm here for – to play in the NFL. I'm excited."