Scout's Notebook: Early Thoughts On Left Guard, Gathers' Opportunity; More

OXNARD, Calif. – Well, that was about as eventful a first day as you could possibly ask for.

After just a couple of practices – neither of them in pads – we've already had one player released, not to mention several other developments from the practice fields here at the Residence Inn.

Here are some notes from Day 1:

  • There's been a lot of talk during the offseason about getting Ezekiel Elliott more involved in the passing game as a receiver. As much as I like that idea, I could also see where the coaches want to find some balance there and I will explain why. Watching Elliott sort blitzes correctly and step up to execute his assignment made me stop and reflect how important he is to scheme in that area of the passing game. To quote Col. Nathan Jessup in the movie "A Few Good Men" -- "You want me on that wall. You need me on that wall". This is the way I feel about Elliott. You need him in pass protection because he is just as much of a weapon in that area as he is as a receiver. We all have to be careful what we wish for.
  • I didn't see anything that was a cause for concern assignment-wise from Chaz Green working with the first unit at left guard. His pickups were clean, assignments sound and technique was where it needed to be. He and Tyron Smith appeared to work well together sorting out a moving defensive front with a blitz from the secondary consisting of Jeff Heath and Orlando Scandrick. Green has a shot to win this job over Jonathan Cooper if he can just maintain his health this training camp. That's really the only question mark.
  • There were a couple of really nice adjusting catches by Brice Butler and Ryan Switzer during practice. Butler used every bit of his 6-3 frame to high-point a ball in front of Anthony Brown, while Switzer was able to dig a ball of the turf on a slant, off motion from Kellen Moore. Switzer was able to get both hands under the ball and bring it to his chest.
  • Rico Gathers got some work with Jason Witten and the first unit in "12" personnel package – that is, one running back and two tight ends. James Hanna and Geoff Swaim worked in the morning walkthrough while Gathers had his shot in the evening. Gathers showed some nice recognition in picking up a blitzer from the slot that allowed Ezekiel Elliott the ability to make a nice cut behind him.
  • With the release of Lucky Whitehead before practice, l would expect that we'd see Ryan Switzer take some of those responsibilities of the weekly game plan packages. Where Switzer will be able to expand on those looks is as a legitimate receiver. As explosive as Whitehead was with the ball in his hands, the coaches had to be creative in the way they got it to him due to his lack of skill as a receiver. With Switzer, there will not be that problem.
  • It's early, but I thought we might see Joe Looney get a shot at the left guard opening -- but so far he has only lined up as the backup center to Travis Frederick. A guy that has lined up at guard but on the right side has been Byron Bell. What I have noticed about Bell's technique is when he is bad, his weight tends to get over the tops of his feet and it puts him off balance and poor blocking position.
  • Rod Smith has been splitting time with Alfred Morris at running back behind Darren McFadden. It was interesting to watch both players during the blitz period come dangerously close to the quarterbacks crossing underneath them in the pocket. Each time I thought for sure that the quarterbacks were going to bang their thumbs on Smith or Morris as they followed through delivering the ball.
  • We were all trying to come up with a headline for the release of Lucky Whitehead from the team. Everyone was using a play on words dealing with his first name. I took a different approach and offered: "SWEPT AWAY" – a reference to his famous jet sweeps. Whitehead would have been in a fight to make this roster regardless, but he put the front office and coaches in a bad situation and given today's climate around the team something had to be done.

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