FRISCO, Texas – In the thick of a crowded, talented young wide receiver group, here’s another name to watch as the offseason moves toward training camp:
Reggie Davis, the first-year pro out of Georgia.
Davis, who spent part of last season on the Cowboys’ practice squad, repeatedly got behind the defense during Wednesday’s OTA practice.
The speedy wideout hauled in multiple catches in team drills, including a beautiful back-shoulder touchdown throw from quarterback Dak Prescott during two-minute work.
The Cowboys are Davis’ fourth NFL team since he went undrafted in 2017. He’s been to camp with the Falcons. He spent a few days on the Browns’ roster. He’s been on the Eagles’ practice squad.
Now he’s got a new opportunity in Dallas.
“He was probably our most improved (receiver),” said Sanjay Lal, Davis’ position coach. “If we go back to when we got him last October/November, he’s probably the most improved guy on the team. He made a big jump this week.”
The Cowboys’ 90-man roster features several young receivers with a similar best trait: speed. Undrafted rookies Jon’Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton have shown the ability to separate from defenders.
Lal says the 5-11, 170-pound Davis is learning to harness his speed to help him finish plays. Time on the practice squad last year and experience with the Cowboys’ system has allowed him to play faster.
“It’s everything – being able to set up DBs, learning how to get in and out of breaks on certain routes, knowing how to tempo routes, change of pace,” Davis said. “Sometimes you’ve got to slow things down in order to play faster.”
He’ll try to keep the pedal down into July and August.
He hasn’t been seen on the field, but DeMarcus Lawrence is making himself heard, to hear it from Rod Marinelli. The Cowboys’ defensive coordinator said Lawrence has been a steady presence during the offseason program while he rehabs his surgically-repaired shoulder.
“He’s in our meetings and all those things. We spend every morning together,” Marinelli said. “He’s doing good, his mindset is good. He’s got to be locked in, he’s got to be ready to go, and he is locked in. I can’t wait to get him back.”
Lawrence underwent surgery on his shoulder immediately after signing his contract extension back in April. But Marinelli said the Cowboys haven’t missed his leadership qualities in the defensive line room, even if Lawrence isn’t able to practice.
“He’s a little surly with them and ornery and outspoken,” Marinelli said. “But he’s set a bar. He’s got a bar set, and he’s just got to get everybody to reach his bar.”
Vander Esch Improving; Gallup Exits
For the first time in three OTA practices open to the media this spring, Leighton Vander Esch took part in some early drills.
Vander Esch did not participate in team drills, but the Pro Bowl linebacker’s on-field activity is a sign of progress after he sat out previous OTAs with a pelvic issue.
Elsewhere on the roster, second-year receiver Michael Gallup did not finish practice as a precaution due to some hamstring tightness.
With veterans like Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford sitting out, there has been plenty of opportunity for other defensive linemen on the depth chart. One of the obvious beneficiaries of the added practice time is Dorance Armstrong, who has been working as the defense’s starting left end this month.
Marinelli said he has seen a noticeable improvement from Armstrong from Year 1 to Year 2.
“He’s climbing right now. You’ve probably seen him a little bit, but his speed is coming,” he said. “I just think once you’re in the second year in that system, it really starts kicking in. He’s got a really good long arm, working that as a pass rush move. He’s really showing up in this camp.”
As always, it’s worth pointing out that it’s hard to do a true evaluation until the pads go on during training camp. But it sounds like the start of an encouraging second year for Armstrong.
Rookie running back Tony Pollard has drawn plenty of attention for his speed during these OTAs – but he’s got more to his game than that. Running backs coach Gary Brown was asked about the newcomer on Wednesday, and he said Pollard has a little more to his skillset than people might realize.
“I think Pollard gets a bad rap that, when he was at Memphis he wasn’t the guy and he wasn’t that downhill banger,” Brown said. “But he has a lot of skillsets that a lot of backs don’t have, as far as his receiving skills and his ability to run routes. And he can run the ball inside. He’s a little bit bigger than people thought he was.”