IRVING, Texas – We won't be allowed out to watch the third and final day of practices at the Cowboys' rookie minicamp, but I do have some notes from Saturday:
- Much better day for Randy Gregory on a couple of different fronts. Even though he appeared to be a little tired during the final portion of practice on Saturday, he was able to fight through it and finish, where on Friday that just wasn't the case. He handled the heat and the pace well thus the coaches and scouts had a better chance to evaluate his work, which was solid. You can see the pass rush skills in the one-on-one drills but he is far from a finished product. That will be up to Rod Marinelli, Leon Lett and Ben Bloom to bring that out of him. I suggest that you take a look at the Mini Camp Live clips from Saturday to get a better idea of what I am speaking of. He is going to need work on the way that he attacks blockers – it might work at Nebraska running straight up the field, but he is going to need to come up with more counter moves if he is going to have success in this league. But it was nice to see him finish.
- I continue to be impressed with what I have seen from Byron Jones lining up on that left side. What I have noticed about Jones is that in college there were snaps where he struggled to play in balance and that affected his play. Despite playing on a soft field the majority of the weekend, he has done a nice job of playing on his feet. It was interesting to hear him say that he needs to continue to work on his positioning in routes. That is an area that is vital to cornerback play in regard to denying the ball and closing down those windows the quarterbacks have to throw to. My early thought is that Byron Jones gets it and the fact that he is ultra-competitive only adds to his value.
- Keep an eye on Jason Wilson the cornerback out of Central Michigan this summer. He might not have had to cover the most elite talent in college football, but so far in the pros he has covered everyone they have asked him to. Wilson has lined up outside and in the slot as well, which shows me that these coaches have a vision for where he might fit in this scheme. At 6-0, 185, he looks much bigger on the field and he plays bigger as well. He is physical in the press and when he gets his hands on the receiver, he keeps them along the line. Like Byron Jones in coverage, he fights every step of the way and technique-wise is much further along than others in the camp.
- Nice bounce back day for Antwan Goodley and his quest to impress the coaches. Watching Goodley play, he is not like your typical receiver in that he is physically heavier but there is separation there up the field. If he has to push off to buy space he is not afraid to do so. I still believe that he will have to work on the consistency of his hands and his technique when it comes to catching the ball.
- Thought it was a better day for Laurence Gibson at offensive tackle, but the guy that stood out for me in regard to how well he was able to pass protect was Reshod Fortenberry out of Texas Tech. Fortenberry is an invited workout guy that is trying to fight his way onto the training camp roster and he is making a nice case for himself. It has not mattered who he has had to face, whether it was Randy Gregory or Ryan Russell – he has managed to hold his own. He is the one offensive tackle that, technique and power-wise, has been able to keep his man away from the quarterback consistently as the others have struggled. He has looked very comfortable in this camp.
- I have studied over 225 college players this spring, but I have to admit that Grand Valley State's Isiah Dunning wasn't one of them. Dunning has lined up as a defensive tackle and I have noticed him far more in these practices than others that, coming into the camp that I thought were better players. Dunning has just been flat hard to block for the offensive line. He physically is impressive with his size along with being very quick. He has a knack for avoiding blocks, then going to the ball -- no matter if it's run or pass. Dunning has done an outstanding job of putting himself in position to make plays and the way he has practiced surely has caught the attention of the scouts and coaches.
- There is a big difference in seeing a player live with your own eyes and studying him on tape. I am happy that I have now had the chance to do both with Ryan Russell. I didn't give Russell enough credit for his movement skills off his game tape. I thought he was stiff and not as athletic as others that I studied at the position, but that's not the case at all. There is some athletic bend and change of direction in his game. He is not just a player that lines up at left end and stands at the point to play the run. Russell does have some slippery play to his game and when he works down inside he can get through the gap to get to the ball. He wasn't tall, which allowed tackles to block him. There is knee bend there and with his length can control blockers but also get up the field.