OXNARD, Calif. – Five things that caught my eye while I watched the Cowboys work through their Friday afternoon practice.
- Tony Romo has always done a nice job of moving the ball around to his receivers, but I just get the feeling he is making more of an effort to get Dez Bryant going in these practices -- regardless of how strong the coverage has been. Romo and Bryant were able to get things going early in practice during 1-on-1. Bryant was able to swat Morris Claiborne aside with his left hand, then run an uncontested slant. Bryant later came up with a ball that only he could have caught. A leaping one-handed catch over the top of Brandon Carr, who had absolutely no chance to defend the play. Bryant finished the drill with a corner route where Carr was in nice position to defend, but he held Bryant as he tried to make his break to the outside -- it was an easy call for the NFL official to make.
- Can't tell you how many times I've seen Jason Witten run an "out and up" in the red zone and clear himself for a touchdown. It almost happened again during practice, but Tony Romo was a little too high with his pass. As the play developed, I thought that Romo would have hit Dez Bryant in the middle of the field with the sure throw, but instead he tried to fit the ball in over the top with J.J. Wilcox in coverage. To Witten's credit there was a little separation there and if the ball had been just a bit lower there is no question that Witten would have been able to haul it in.
- I have been waiting for Dak Prescott to take a shot down the field to see if he could beat some coverage and he finally did. Geoff Swaim ran a beautiful deep crossing route through the zone and Prescott saw him all the way. Swaim was able to get just beyond the linebackers and was able to find the open space. Prescott hit him with a strike on the move. As pretty as the pass was, it was really all for naught. Prescott would have been sacked by Michael McAdoo, who had beaten Cameron Bradfield around the edge and had a clear run at the quarterback.
- During this first week of practice, we had been seeing Cole Beasley work more out of the slot than we had on the outside. On two separate occasions, Beasley was able to get up the field working from the outside with one of those snaps coming against Orlando Scandrick. Beasley was able to win off the line with just a straight burst, which put Scandrick in a position where he had to chase. Romo had to make the throw up the field and away from a closing J.J. Wilcox. If Beasley is 6 feet tall, he likely makes that catch because he laid out to attempt the make it -- but it was just a little too far for him to grab.
- Byron Jones continues to look more and more comfortable in his role as the full-time safety on this defense. During the 7-on-7 period in the red zone, Jones lined up in a two-deep look on the left side. At the snap of the ball, he settled on the hash, reading his keys. Gavin Escobar came into his area from his right and stopped in front of him. It appeared that Romo wanted to go to Dez Bryant behind them, but J.J. Wilcox and Morris Claiborne cut that option off. Romo then decided to make a snap throw to Escobar, but Jones drove over Escobar's right shoulder and with his right hand ripped the ball out before Escobar could secure it. Romo put the ball in a perfect spot for Escobar to grab, but Jones was just better in his ability to deny the catch.