Scout’s Notebook: Cooper Rush Bounces Back

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FRISCO, Texas – Just like that, we’re wrapping up.

The Cowboys concluded minicamp on Thursday, going through one final practice before they take some time off. Here are my notes from Ford Center here at The Star, where we got our last look at this Cowboys team before we head off to training camp.

  • I’ve been super critical of the backup quarterback play during these practices, but I have to give credit when things turn around. Cooper Rush couldn’t have thrown a better pass than the one he let fly to Jon’Vea Johnson along the right sideline for 52 yards. C.J. Goodwin tried to put his right hand up to defend, but there was no chance. The ball was beyond his reach and right into the waiting hands of Johnson, who never broke stride on the reception.
  • Really nice job by Jeff Heath of staying off Jason Witten in the corner of the end zone on a pass from Dak Prescott. Heath could have very easily become tangled up with Witten, resulting in both crashing to the ground. Prescott put the ball in a perfect spot to allow Witten to extend. Heath went up to defend, but he knew the space for Witten was limited and he was likely not going to come down in bounds -- and he was right.
  • There appeared to be some miscommunication between George Iloka and Darian Thompson to allow Blake Jarwin to be as wide open as he was for the touchdown from Cooper Rush. Jarwin was flexed and enjoyed a free release up the field. With Iloka working wide and Thompson breaking late from the middle of the field, all Rush had to do was make sure he didn’t overthrow Jarwin in order to finish the play.
  • I am going to be honest about Donovan Olumba: I was worried about his lack of ability to finish plays. There were some snaps where receivers were getting the best of him. But the last two practices, he has done a much better job of putting himself in position and also finishing. The ball he defended to Jalen Guyton was outstanding. His patience in playing the route and the burst he used to finish was textbook. Mike White was fortunate that Guyton went into defensive mode to knock the ball away from Olumba or it would have been an interception.
  • I continue to believe that this staff won’t carry four tight ends -- but right as I say that, Rico Gathers makes an amazing spinning, adjusting catch. Gathers has come light years in his game and every once in a while he’ll make a play to remind you why they’ve worked with him these past few seasons. It wasn’t like Gathers was covering ground quickly, but he was just far enough up the field that when Cooper Rush’s pass went over the top of Joe Thomas, he was in the right spot to grab it.
  • I had to laugh at Gary Brown today, as the Cowboys’ running backs coach put his arms up in a touchdown signal before Cooper Rush even handed the ball inside to Darius Jackson on the goal line. Brown must have seen the defensive alignment and known Jackson was going to get a trap block from Dalton Schultz and a seal from Adam Redmond. It appeared that Brown was going be correct -- until Daniel Wise beat the block of Cody Wichmann and stopped Jackson just inches from the end zone. For a snap with no pads it was an impressive stop by Wise.
  • Another young guy that I haven’t written much about is rookie linebacker Andrew Dowell, but he showed up on Thursday. Dowell made a nice play in the team period, knocking the ball away from Devin Smith. Dowell, who played like a strong safety at Michigan State, dropped perfectly in zone coverage. Mike White attempted to float the ball just over the top of him, but Dowell was able to extend and get his hand on the ball just before landing on his back. If he doesn’t make that play, Smith was likely going to walk into the end zone.
  • After practice I happened to be talking with Brad Sham and he mentioned that he thought rookie defensive end Joe Jackson had a pretty good day rushing the passer. I really hadn’t given him much of a thought until I looked at my notes and the number of times I had his jersey written down. Jackson is different from the other ends on the squad. He doesn’t have the first step explosion of a right end, but coming off the left side is a better fit for him. Where he is going to make you take notice is how much power he shows. There were several snaps where that power gave Cam Fleming, Mitch Hyatt and Brandon Knight some trouble where they couldn’t handle him.

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