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Scout's Notebook: Carroll's Improvements, Taco's Edge Power; More

OXNARD, Calif. – Here are my notes from Tuesday evening's practice here at the Cowboys' training camp:

  • Nobody has stepped up to take Nolan Carroll's job. The Cowboys drafted a lot of competition, but Carroll should be their starter opening day against the Giants. He has not been perfect, but he's been good enough for the coaches to stick with. All they're asking him to do is be better than Brandon Carr, and -- at least through these practices -- he has shown the ability to be just that.
  • I still don't believe that Jonathan Cooper is better a better player than Chaz Green overall, but as a guard, he might be. Cooper has practiced better at the position in the ongoing struggle to find a starter for the spot. Green looks more comfortable at tackle, where it appears he has a better feel for how to play on the edge. As Nate Newton would say, Green is better in space. We need to get ready to see Joe Looney getting some work there as well here in the near future.
  • Good to see Taco Charlton with some edge power against La'el Collins during the blitz period. Charlton beat Collins to the punch and was able to get his hands inside. The push caused Collins to have to try and recover with his feet -- but he was unable to. Charlton was able to drive him back toward Dak Prescott to close down the pocket. Later in the practice, he beat Collins off the edge for a sack as Collins missed with his right hand.
  • I didn't like what I saw from Darren McFadden picking up blitzers on Tuesday. McFadden whiffed on back-to-back plays blocking Robert Blanton and John Lotulelei where his technique wasn't up to par. In the past, he has shown the ability to step up square, take his man on and keep him from the quarterback. These attempts were nothing that resembled that.
  • I noticed where Scott Linehan dusted off his old "Crack Toss" call during practice. The biggest difference this year is that instead of Terrance Williams or Lucky Whitehead blocking that defensive end on the edge, he had the bigger Noah Brown on the job. Brown wasn't shy about it, as he fired down inside and delivered a nice blow to DeMarcus Lawrence to get Zack Martin and La'el Collins around the corner.
  • Speaking of Terrance Williams, it has been a quiet camp for him. It's not that Williams hasn't been working hard, but he just hasn't had the opportunities the other receivers have had. He was excellent in the Compete Period, winning off the line and scoring on a fade from Dak Prescott. Then later in 7-on-7, he made an adjusting catch on a ball that was badly thrown behind him where he had to adjust. In previous years we might not have seen him make that play but this time he was able to pull it off. 
  • A hush fell over the field as the trainers were working on Rico Gathers after his collision with Kavon Frazier. Both Gathers and Frazier were attempting to track a pass from Cooper Rush that was dying down the field. Gathers had to extend his arms low, which forced his head and upper body to have to go down, as well. Frazier, driving on the ball as well, had to get low, forcing his right shoulder pad into Gathers' jaw. After a few minutes, Gathers was able to leave the field under his own power. It was a scary moment but a better outcome. 
  • Geoff Swaim continues to find ways to get open during these practices. Kellen Moore found him working against Jeff Heath in the red zone for a score. Swaim was able to lose Heath on a double -move by driving hard to the outside and then quickly breaking on the in to gain the separation. Moore's throw was a little behind him, but that didn't matter as Swaim was able to adjust and secure the catch.
  • Good head-up win by Maliek Collins on Travis Frederick to force Dak Prescott to have to flush to his left and out of the pocket during blitz period. Collins normally lines up in the gap or the outside shoulder of the guard, but on this particular play, he was on Frederick's nose -- beating him with a quick arm-over move, which left him off balance. It was a new little wrinkle by Rod Marinelli that we need to keep an eye on in the future.
  • Joey Ivie and Lewis Neal continue to battle for that roster spot at defensive tackle. Ivie showed up during team period, getting around Emmett Cleary on the edge and quickly forcing Kellen Moore to have to avoid him in the pocket. This is not the first time that his has happened. It's been back and forth between the two, which leads me to believe it's going to be a difficult decision for the front office and coaching staff. It's likely going to come down to these three preseason games in order to make that call because in my opinion it's been very close.
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