OXNARD, Calif. – The next time I write one of these notebooks, it will be from the comfort of my own office in Frisco, Texas.
It’s hard to believe, but the Cowboys are wrapping up the California portion of this camp. After 27 days, the team is holding its final West Coast practices on Thursday and they’ll depart for Dallas on Friday.
I’m heading out a little bit before that. But before I do, here’s my notebook from Wednesday evening’s practice.
- I’m starting to see more signs of Terrance Williams extending his hands more to make receptions. His touchdown catch, followed by the two-point play were great examples of how hard he has worked to use his hands more and body less. In those previous pressure situations we would have seen him contort his body in order to make those plays. He is catching the ball with more confidence and it shows.
- Dak Prescott has made a number of beautiful throws during these practices. There was none prettier than the pass he threw to Ezekiel Elliott during compete period for a touchdown. There was absolutely no margin for error with Damien Wilson all over Elliott working in the corner of the end zone. Prescott's pass was just far enough from Wilson but at the same time allowed Elliott the opportunity to track it into his hands. To Elliott's credit he also had the presence of mind to somehow get both of his feet down.
- Stephen Paea continues to be a problem for the interior of the Cowboys offensive line. His power and quickness have been impressive as he deals with Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. During the “play it out period,” Ezekiel Elliott took a handoff coming to his left and was met in the backfield by Paea before he had a chance to even think about making a cut. Paea had beaten Frederick so quickly off the line, Elliott just stepped in his tracks.
- I haven't written much about veteran Robert Blanton and his play at safety in this camp, but he came up with a nice interception in 7-on-7. Blanton was in a zone drop reading the eyes of Kellen Moore. His primary focus was on Blake Jarwin, but then came off him when Geoff Swaim broke inside behind him. Moore, thinking he had a shot to fit the ball to Swaim, didn't see Blanton driving. Blanton arrived at the spot just as the ball did to make the play.
- Tough call for pass interference on Jeff Heath in coverage on Ezekiel Elliott during team compete period. On first glance, I thought Heath was in perfect shape as he played over the shoulder of Elliott to knock the ball away with his off hand. It was one of those bang-bang plays that happened quickly, but the official observed Heath's left arm on the back of Elliott -- thus making the call. At a second look, it was the correct one but nevertheless an aggressive play by Heath dealing with a tough receiver in space.
- It's come to the point that when I see Mark Nzeocha in coverage, I know there is a good chance that he's going to overrun the play. To his credit, he is such an aggressive player and so anxious to make the stop -- but his body position is bad. Nzeocha can do everything correctly with the exception of finishing. Until he learns how to play with better body control and balance it is going to be difficult for him to be consistent enough as a player. His talent is off the charts but they can't have him overrunning plays.
- Nice to see Marquez White back on the practice field after dealing with hamstring soreness. White showed up in a big way with an interception in the red zone off Cooper Rush. White was running with Uzoma Nwachukwu along the back line when Rush tried to fit them ball inside. White was in beautiful position to drive underneath of Nwachukwu and arrived just in front of him to secure the ball. The play had a chance for a brief moment until White was there to finish.
- Talk about quarterbacks and receivers being on the same page. Dak Prescott made a throw to Cole Beasley that had me in disbelief. Beasley was working against Duke Thomas along the back line of the end zone. Thomas had cut Beasley off from getting to the corner to extend the route. Instead of trying to throw the ball over the top, which would likely have been incomplete, Prescott put the ball low and behind. Beasley tracked it all the way and positioned himself in order to adjust back. Thomas had no chance as Beasley fell backwards to make the reception for the touchdown.
- I learned who Dejaun Butler was in practice on Wednesday. I had never scouted Butler before while he was attended Hawaii, so this was my first exposure to him. Practicing for the first time, he was able to defend a pass intended for Andy Jones during the 7-on-7 period. Kellen Moore was attempting to hit Jones inside, but Butler was able to read it and with nice reactions, drive on the ball to knock it away. Butler is wearing No. 37 in this camp and you will likely see him play a great deal in the second half of the game this weekend against the Colts.
- Speaking of the Indianapolis Colts. Keep an eye on the Cowboys pass rush in this game. In studying their game tape from the Detroit Lions game last week, their pass protection was awful on all levels. The Lions knocked them around the entire game and were able to hold the Colts in check. This might be a great opportunity to build some confidence for some guys like Taco Charlton and Charles Tapper, who could use some success.