FRISCO, Texas – All of a sudden, we're already halfway through these OTA sessions. There are four more practices, then a minicamp – then we wait for training camp.
Even with such a limited number of practices, it's remarkable to see the amount of progress we're seeing from the Cowboys. It's something you expect to see from rookies and young players, but we're seeing it plenty from veterans during these practices, as well.
Here's a dozen notes that jumped out to me while I watched the Cowboys' Wednesday OTA:
- One of Dak Prescott's best throws of the day was the strike he delivered to Rico Gathers during Blitz Period. Prescott, standing in the middle of the pocket, managed to fit the ball between Byron Jones and a driving Robert Blanton. Gathers did a great job of working Jones up the field to the outside, then broke hard inside to buy the space. Prescott knew exactly where he was going with the ball and he let it fly right at chin level for Gathers to haul in. If the pass had been a tick late or off the mark, Blanton would've knocked it down.
- Really nice twist stunt by Cedric Thornton and Taco Charlton to get home on a rush against Tyron Smith and Emmett Cleary during the 9-on-9 portion of practice. Thornton attacked Smith on the pick, which allowed Charlton to spin to the inside, catching Cleary off balance. If it was a game situation, Charlton would have had a free run at Prescott to finish the play.
- Good to see Jourdan Lewis show up in 1-on-1 coverage against Terrance Williams. Before the ball was snapped, I noticed Dez Bryant out of the corner of my eye with both arms raised, signaling touchdown. He saw that Lewis has no safety help over the top and was all by himself. Williams was able to get off the line well, but Lewis rallied back into position. Kellen Moore laid the ball down the field to give Williams a chance to go get it, but Lewis playing underneath took his left hand and knocked it away.
- Anthony Brown came up with a big play when he was able to knock the ball out of Dez Bryant's hands on a curl route. Bryant was able to settle down to the left of Dak Prescott and for just a split second was open. Prescott fired the ball in his direction, but just as the ball arrived – Brown managed to work his hand inside of Bryant's and raked the ball out of his grasp.
- During the Blitz Period, Nolan Carroll was able to deny inside access to Terrance Williams, who was trying to work past the sticks. Carroll was able to lean on Williams enough to force him to catch the ball just short of the first down. When the catch was made, I was certain Williams had enough -- but when he came down that wasn't the case.
- An underrated trait for Keith Smith is his ability to catch the football. There were two times during the practice where he checked out of the backfield while working in the flat to make receptions. His ability to adjust in space and then get up the field is impressive. Most fullbacks don't have the same athletic ability he brings to the game, so there is only one thing you can do with them. Smith is a legitimate weapon with the ball in his hands.
- Speaking of adjusting catches, Noah Brown had one out of the slot against Chidobe Awuzie that was a thing of beauty. Brown managed to get initially clear of Awuzie and with the ball over his inside shoulder, he extended his hands and the ball rested right in there. Brown had an up-and-down practice with his overall consistency so he needs to work on that.
- I love the battles between La'el Collins and David Irving in these practices. Both are giving their best shots technique-wise to stop the other. There are snaps where Collins gets Irving, then a couple of plays later, Irving gets Collins off balance and makes his way to the passer. With no Chaz Green at practice, Byron Bell and Dan Skipper split reps behind Collins.
- I noticed some good work from Charles Tapper in this practice. Tapper has been working at both left and right end. He had a really nice rush against Skipper where he attacked his corner before he had a chance to react. I said it this morning on "Cowboys Break" and I'll repeat it: I am keeping a close eye on who is most consistent with their practices – Tapper or Taco Charlton. Would be outstanding to see them develop in a way to help in the rotation.
- We saw a pretty, one-handed catch by Dez Bryant against Orlando Scandrick during the 2-on-2 period. Bryant was able to beat Scandrick inside on the slant and when the ball left Dak Prescott's hand I thought there was no way that Bryant was going to be able to grab it. The ball was more up the field than at Bryant, but he managed to stick his right hand up and tip it back to himself for the reception.
- I know it's early, but Damien Wilson is moving around like a guy that's not going to give up his job anytime soon. Wilson was all over the field even getting some work in the nickel at linebacker. Paired with Anthony Hitchens, he appeared comfortable and confident. Of all the linebackers, his ability to close on the ball might be the most impressive on the squad. There were several snaps where he was up the field, then like a flash turned and sprinted to chase running past his teammates. Keep an eye on him as we get closer to training camp.
- Eddie Gossage and Mike Zizzo of The Texas Motor Speedway arranged for our recent Indianapolis 500 winner, Takuma Sato to pay a visit to The Star on Wednesday. Sato was in town as part of his media tour for winning the 500 and to promote the upcoming Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at the Speedway. Sato met with Jason Garrett, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Dak Prescott and other players as they came off the field. In a neat gesture, Sato signed empty milk bottles and presented them to the players as gifts. Of all the players that received those bottles, the one that I believe appreciated it the most was Zack Martin. For a guy growing up in Indianapolis, Martin knows what that race means to the city and the state of Indiana. I couldn't help noticing the smile on his face as he stared down at that bottle. You could have sworn that he just got the game ball after a big win.