FRISCO, Texas – It's not quite training camp, but we'll take what we can get.
After all, this is the first time we've been able to see the Cowboys working through something resembling football since December. There's new coaches in places, there's new players in the fold. As we've discussed already, there's a lot of new looks about this team in 2018.
It's only one practice, but I tried to boil down a few of my biggest impressions from Wednesday afternoon:
- Really nice job by Byron Jones recovering on a deep ball to Deonte Thompson. Jones tried to force Thompson to the sideline but couldn't cut him off. With a little bit of separation Jones had to rally hard to close the gap. Dak Prescott put the ball in a spot where Thompson had a chance to bring it in, but just at the last moment Jones reached in with his off hand and knocked it away.
- I didn't realize how easily Jihad Ward moved in person. His tape while at Oakland didn't show that, but it's a different story when you're watching live. His initial quickness and lateral ability were impressive. I was surprised by how he was able to redirect without any wasted movement. He was difficult to handle for these guards due to his quickness and power.
- It might have had to do with the scheme, but I noticed plenty of running plays where Connor Williams was used as a puller. Williams was primarily working to his right. He had a couple of those pulls where his path appeared good and right where he needed to be at the contact point. Given his athletic ability, we might be getting a little taste what the coaching staff has planned for Williams by getting him in space.
- Cedrick Wilson sure is smooth running routes. I liked what I saw from him driving Anthony Brown off the ball, then turning outside as Brown continued up the field. Cooper Rush put the ball in a perfect spot for Wilson to secure the first down. He also had a nice block on Duke Thomas to Trey Williams on a long run. Sanjay Lal came over and slapped him on the back after he was able to finish that one.
- Jaylon Smith has some pass rush moves as a blitzer. He put a nice little side step move past Ezekiel Elliott in order to put some pressure on Dak Prescott. Elliott is one of the better pass blockers in the league and after the move, he had to scramble a bit just to get his hands on Smith.
- You have to give Jourdan Lewis some credit. Lewis drew the much bigger Dalton Schultz and fought him in the air to knock away a ball from Cooper Rush. Schultz had the position to make the play, but Lewis wasn't going to let him have the ball. If Lewis is going to play in the slot there are going to be some days where he is going to have to deal with a tight end playing the inside.
- Kam Kelly was able to hold Michael Gallup up just enough along the line in order for Jameill Showers to play over the top for an interception. It was another one of the situations where the ball should have never been thrown by Dalton Sturm but he did it anyway. Gallup wasn't open and Sturm put too much air under it, giving Showers the chance to come from the middle of the field in order to make the play.
- We've seen more of Deonte Thompson as a screen runner in practice than Tavon Austin so far. Austin was a staple of the Los Angeles Rams' attack when it came to running those wide receiver screens out of the slot and in bunch formations. I also didn't notice Austin lining up as a running back, which we heard that he might do.
- Nice poise by Mike White during blitz period handling a high snap, gathering the ball in and firing a strike to Michael Gallup on the slant. It would have been easy for White to panic in that situation, but he remained calm and executed a perfect throw in a difficult situation.
- Don't know if it was a poor route by Michael Gallup or a poor throw from Cooper Rush but Marquez White should have had an interception to end Wednesday's Compete drill. Gallup broke toward the sideline, expecting the ball there, but Rush instead put it to the inside. What made the situation even more difficult for Rush was Justin March-Lillard and Leighton Vander Esch coming on a blitz. March-Lillard followed Vander Esch through the gap and was able to create pressure.
- Just a note on how the defense lined up in first nickel: Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones on the outside and Anthony Brown in the slot. With Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods at safety. Jourdan Lewis played both on the outside and in the slot with the second group. I was worried that with the new secondary coach that maybe Lewis would not get enough opportunities, but I thought he was outstanding.