OXNARD, Calif. – The pads aren’t on yet, but that was never going to stop me.
The Cowboys went through a morning walkthrough and a no-contact, unpadded practice on Saturday. By training camp standards, it was pretty light work. Still, there are always things we can learn from the players taking the field, and here are my first impressions from the first day.
- I don’t know if Kellen Moore was having fun with the media today, but he opened practice with a heavy formation, with Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin on the right side. As soon as Dak Prescott got under center, they shifted Witten and Jarwin to the left side and then brought Amari Cooper down inside, tight to the formation. This wasn’t the only time Moore was moving his personnel around during practice. For those of you that were looking for Moore to show some pre-snap motion and movement, he delivered for you.
- It was nice to see Travis Frederick back in the lineup and starting at center. As much as I appreciate what Joe Looney did last season, Frederick just brings a different dimension to the line -- not only with the identification of the defensive front, but with his ability to handle movement up front without any problems. It was as if Frederick and Zack Martin had never missed each other. Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods tried to break down the two veteran offensive linemen, but they weren’t able to gain any ground on the movement.
- What a nice little battle between Taco Charlton and La’el Collins during the morning practice. Charlton lined up at both left and right end during the practice and showed some upfield quickness to grab Collins’ shoulder before he had a chance to react. When Collins was able to get his hands on Charlton, it was a little more difficult for him to bend the edge. Collins is at his best when he’s able to punch his man, and there were snaps where Charlton put him in a bad spot to do that.
- There were several snaps where Dak Prescott completely turned his back to the defense off a play action fake and then was asked to relocate how the routes were developing all while reading along the way. To show you how far Prescott has come in his development, there was a time where they would not have asked him to play this way fearing it would confuse his read. But there is now a trust that he can consistently execute that without any issues.
- Here’s my first day kneejerk reaction, but keep an eye on Blake Jarwin in this camp. As we have seen in the past, he has the ability to catch the ball. Where I believe Jarwin has improved his game is his ability to get down the field. His movements are not stiff or robotic. There is a flow to his game, and a lot of that improvement likely stems from his work in the weight room and on the field throwing sessions with Dak Prescott prior to training camp. He is playing naturally and that’s a good sign for the position.
- Just a couple things I noticed about the lineup on the defensive side of the ball. Anthony Brown lined up at the right corner for Byron Jones, which meant that Jourdan Lewis played in the slot. As mentioned before, Taco Charlton was playing for DeMarcus Lawrence while Robert Quinn played for Tyrone Crawford on the right side. Xavier Woods was missing from the lineup for the birth of his child, so that allowed Darian Thompson to fill in at his spot.
- I liked what I saw from Trysten Hill playing as the under tackle. I have to be honest, there were practices during the OTAs and minicamp where I didn’t feel that was the case. His quickness and knee bend were clearly better than what I had previously observed. There were far too many snaps where he was tall and easily moved out of the play. He was able to stand in there better, even going against Zack Martin. There is a long way to go here but Hill played more like the guy I saw at Central Florida with that movement. He did leave practice early with some cramps, but hopefully that’s not too serious.
- We saw a couple of nifty cuts from rookie Mike Weber in the morning practice. Weber took a handoff going front side left. Seeing no hole there, he bounced two holes to his right before finding a block from Rico Gathers, which allowed him some space to finish his run. Weber was running behind Darius Jackson and Tony Pollard in the rotation, but I have a feeling that those three will be trading reps with the first and second units each practice.