FRISCO, Texas – The temperature continues to rise on the practice fields at The Star, and the competition is escalating along with it.
Wednesday marked the second-to-last day of this Cowboys' minicamp, as things wrap up on Thursday morning. It's been fun to see the back-and-forth between offense and defense at these practices, and there was plenty of it this afternoon.
Here were some standout performances, as well as few other notes from Thursday's minicamp practice:
- It was a nice day for Anthony Brown in coverage. He had two opportunities where the ball went the direction of Dez Bryant and he was up to the challenge. During the two-minute drill, Dak Prescott tried to fit a slant inside to Bryant to get the offense in field goal range. As Bryant broke, Brown was right on top of him to contest the ball. On the next play, Bryant went vertical with Brown playing outside leverage with Jeff Heath helping from the inside. Prescott wanted to go that direction but he was forced to unload the ball wide.
- Rookie Noah Brown showed up in this practice. His reception on a post with Ryan Switzer running a clearing route and Dez Bryant crossing behind was a thing of beauty in 7-on-7. Brown came back later in the practice during the two-minute drill with a sideline comeback against Sammy Seamster that was also well executed. Seamster was right there and had a chance, but it was a perfect pass from Kellen Moore to the outside -- which Brown caught with extended hands.
- The one guy that is able to give Zack Martin trouble is Maliek Collins. It's rare that you see Martin get knocked off balance against power, but that's what Collins was able to do during the Team Period. When Collins can get his hands inside first, he's going to win because of his upper body power. Where Martin was able to counter Collins was with a powerful punch of his own, which forced him to have to restart his rush, limiting his ability to get to Prescott.
- Dak Prescott has worked hard in these practices to become a better pocket passer and today that work paid off. With Dez Bryant running another "in" cut, this time coming from the right to the left, Prescott hit Bryant with a pass between Anthony Hitchens and Orlando Scandrick. The ball was past Hitchens before he had a chance to react, and with Bryant's body position there was no way that Scandrick could have got through him to deflect the ball.
- Jonathan Cooper took the majority of snaps at left guard with the first offense. I didn't notice any major problems technique-wise, but it did appear that he made a mental mistake during Team Period when he went the wrong way on a counter. Ezekiel Elliott took the ball to the right as all the blockers went down inside to the left -- with the exception of Cooper, who went to his right.
- I've been impressed with the way Terrance Williams has been catching balls in these practices. Even when the ball has been a little high, he has not tried to contort his body in order to use it to make the catch. There have been more natural receptions with extended hands. I will be interested to see once we get to camp -- when the pressure is on him, will he revert back to his old body catching ways? But so far so good.
- Throw of the Day came from Kellen Moore during Team Period. Brice Butler, working against Jourdan Lewis out of the slot, executed a perfect slant in between him and linebacker John Lotulelei. Moore fired the ball inside to Butler, who snatched it on the move and was able to run past Kavon Frazier into the end zone.
- Nice job by defensive end Woody Baron with his screen recognition during Team Period. Alfred Morris tried to sneak out of the backfield to Baron's left as he was working against Kadeem Edwards. On the block, Edwards was trying to pin Baron inside -- but just couldn't hold him in place. Baron threw Edwards aside and sprinted back to the outside to grab Morris as the ball floated into his hands.
- If Taco Charlton hadn't jump offsides, Chidobe Awuzie would've had an interception that would have sealed the fate of Kellen Moore and second offense during the two-minute drill. Reading Moore all the way, Awuzie dropped to his outside to help Sammy Seamster with the coverage on Uzoma Nwachukwu. With Seamster deep and Awuzie underneath, Moore tried to get the ball to Nwachukwu, but if fluttered out of his hand and Awuzie was able to high point it before crashing to the ground. What has been impressive about Awuzie is his ability to play with such awareness in these practices. On a side note, he lined up at both left and right cornerback.
- Some really nice coordinated switch work on routes by Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown during this practice. These corners have had to deal with a lot of tight splits by the receivers, which means they've had to exchange coverage on the fly while playing man. They have been flawless.
- The coaches continue to show confidence in John Lotulelei as the weak side linebacker when Sean Lee doesn't practice. None of the other linebackers have shown up like he has.
- Tip of the cap to Duke Thomas for his coverage out of the slot on Ryan Switzer during 7-on-7. With Switzer exploding off the line inside, Thomas somehow managed to take his right arm and hook it around Switzer, pulling himself back in position to cover. With his momentum carrying him up the field, he was able to undercut the route and get his hands up to knock the ball away from Cooper Rush before it got to Switzer. What appeared initially to be an easy reception was a heck of a defensive play.