FRISCO, Texas – It's always hard to evaluate unpadded practices, but that won't stop me from trying.
Wednesday's OTA practice was open to the media, which means I was able to take notes on all the reps we watched from Ford Center here at The Star. Every time we're able to watch practice, I'll be sure to pass on what I learn.
Here are some of my biggest takeaways from OTA 2, as the Cowboys settle in to their first week of offseason practices:
- Maybe it was the way their schedule fell, but I was a little surprised the coaching staff worked Connor Williams at left tackle while practice was open to the media. I had a feeling we wouldn't see Williams practice at tackle until we got to training camp, but there he was in the lineup for Tyron Smith. Williams didn't draw an easy matchup with Robert Quinn, who forced him into a holding call on the first snap of blitz period. Then later in the practice, Quinn was able to capture the edge when Williams was unable to kick far enough outside and get his hands in position to slow Quinn down. Williams did a much better job as a run blocker where he was able to get in on Quinn and move him off the ball.
- It might not have been the longest pass of Dak Prescott's, day but his tight slant throw to Michael Gallup was one of his best. Gallup did a superb job of winning off the line against Anthony Brown with a quick swim move to avoid Brown's hands. Once clear, Prescott hit him with a low-angled dart that was right underneath a leaping Robert Quinn. Once the ball hit Gallup's hands, it took every bit of Brown's talent to chase him down. Pretty pass and an even better finish.
- One of the traits that Rod Marinelli was excited for with Trysten Hill was his ability to come off the ball and be disruptive. There were plenty examples of him at UCF where he was able to quickly come off the ball and get into the backfield to snuff out the play. Hill did a nice job of reading the guard going away from him and then staying in his back pocket to trail the play. Hill was able to overpower Brandon Knight, who tried to cut him off but just couldn't get his head in front to keep him from Darius Jackson.
- Rookie receiver Jon'Vea Johnson has some serious juice. Johnson lined up tight right to the formation, and at the snap took off on a dead sprint, coming to his left on the reverse. After a good play fake by Mike White, he flipped the ball to Johnson -- who was around the corner. There were a couple of nice blocks by Mitch Hyatt and Dalton Schultz that allowed him to get even further down the field.
- I liked what I saw from Kyle Queiro playing as the Mike linebacker. There were several snaps where Queiro had to use his hands to play off blocks, but what was even more impressive was how quickly he reacted to fill in the hole. The offensive line had a hard time getting blockers to him on the second level just for this reason. As a former safety in college, the season on the practice squad playing linebacker appears to be paying off when it comes to his instincts.
- It's never easy to have to deal with Randall Cobb out of the slot, but give Jourdan Lewis a lot of credit for denying him the ball on a dig route. Cobb did his best to attempt to shake loose from Lewis, but he never allowed him to get away. Lewis was physical off the line. As the route went up the field and when Cobb made his break, Lewis was right there to knock the ball away from him without interfering. I'm just thinking that we all might need to be careful throwing dirt on Jourdan Lewis – the guy is a heck of a player.
- I have to be careful with my love for veteran defensive linemen, but Kerry Hyder looks like a different man playing at end instead of head-up tackle. The coaching change in Detroit did him no favors last season. Having to play in a spot where he had to fight blocks all day to now working on the edge in space is a good thing for him. It appears that Hyder has his quickness back, but he also has some pass rush moves in his tool belt. I thought maybe they were going to use him as an under-tackle, but putting him back at end might be his best shot at making the roster.
- One of the big questions coming out of the draft was how well Tony Pollard was going to be able to pass protect. I know they don't have pads on, but Pollard had a really nice pickup when Treston Decoud was flying out of the slot. Pollard knew right where he needed to be on the fit and met Decoud on the edge and was able to drive him past Cooper Rush. One of the biggest issues for rookie blockers is executing their assignments, and on this particular play Pollard was up to the task.