FRISCO, Texas – Even without pads, there's so much we can dissect from just one open practice out here at The Star.
The Cowboys were in action in front of the media for the first time this year on Wednesday, and we got to see a lot of interesting developments – from intriguing one-on-one battles to position alignments.
Here's a handful of notes a took from the practice field on Wednesday morning:
- With no Cole Beasley (sore hamstrings) and Lucky Whitehead coming off the field early in the practice, that left Ryan Switzer as the primary slot receiver. Switzer made the play of the day on a throw from Dak Prescott during a team period. Switzer, lined up in the slot, broke hard to the inside then out against zone coverage. Orlando Scandrick passed him off to Jeff Heath, who was late to break in coverage toward the sideline. Prescott threw the ball behind Switzer, who had to adjust to catch the ball one-handed with the left side of his body instead of with both hands out front. Switzer was also able to get both feet in bounds before tumbling off the field.
- I heard Jason Garrett praise Rico Gathers for his route running during practice, which has come a long way since last season. Gathers has a much better feel for how to get off the line, plant his foot and get settled to work up the field. Gathers also had a nice drive block on Taco Charlton where he was able to get under him and push him wide. Darren McFadden read the block clearly and ducked right the inside of Gathers for a solid pickup. Gathers and Connor Hamlett received the majority of the snaps while Jason Witten took a veteran day off.
- Emmett Cleary saw the majority of snaps at left guard with the first offense while normal left guard, Jonathan Cooper ran with the second unit at center. Cleary normally lines up at tackle so it was a different experience for him. There were a couple snaps where the power of Maliek Collins was just too much for him.
- Damontre Moore continues to get work both on the left and right side at defensive end with favorable results. I like from what I've seen so far from Moore and he works extremely hard not to stay blocked. One of his better pass rushes of the day came against Tyron Smith on an inside swim move that left him lunging and off balance. I also like how Moore has bought into chasing the ball. There were several snaps where he was well down the field ripping at the ball out of the runner's hands.
- Nice technique play by Chidobe Awuzie on Ryan Switzer covering him out of the slot. Switzer crossed the formation with Awuzie in tow. Switzer broke hard to the inside, then out -- but he didn't lose Awuzie. Prescott tried to put the ball to the outside to give Swizter a chance, but Awuzie knocked it away to the ground with his off hand to prevent the completion.
- Defensive coaches took a look at Taco Charlton both inside and out in this practice. Charlton had nice power battles with Tyron Smith on several snaps. Charlton was able to get his hand inside knocking Smith back, but the next play he wasn't so lucky. Smith punched him with his left hand, which shocked Charlton, knocking him to the ground. When he was moved inside, Charlton's best move was the spin, which caught the guards by surprise freeing him up on the rush and allowing him to get home.
- Byron Jones made a nice range play on a deep ball thrown down the sideline by Dak Prescott. Andy Jones was one-on-one with Leon McFadden and had a step on him. Jones read the play the whole way and with McFadden scrambling to get back in position, he was able to get over and go vertically with Andy Jones to contest the ball. Byron Jones was in perfect position and was able to knock it away before Andy had a chance to adjust.
- After fumbling two straight snaps with Jonathan Cooper, Austin Appleby was replaced by Cooper Rush -- who was able to secure it and successfully run the play. I was told that this wasn't the first time this has happened to Appleby, who wore a glove on his left hand in college while at Florida and wore one in this practice.
- Undrafted rookie free agent Brian Brown had a really nice catch of a deep ball thrown by Cooper Rush -- who hung it up there for him to grab. Brown showed outstanding concentration and adjustment to bring it down with Jameill Showers playing over the top, attempting to knock it away. For his effort, Brown got some praise from Dez Bryant, which had to make him feel good.
- Scary moment for Kellen Moore during practice. Damontre Moore drove Byron Bell straight back into Moore's feet as he was delivering the ball to the outside right. If Moore didn't feel what was happening and adjusted his feet there was a really good chance that he was going to get stepped on again -- which ended his season last year.
- Rookies playing backup positions on the punt team: Taco Charlton, right guard, Noah Brown, right wing and Ryan Switzer, personal protector.
- Jaylon Smith and Chaz Green did not practice on Wednesday, but I was told they did see action on Tuesday. With three practices a week, the plan appears to give these guys at least one practice off a week until we get further along into OTAs or even into training camp.