Unless you’ve been living under a rock, don’t have social media, or don’t follow professional sports, you should probably know that football is back. That is so refreshing to say.
From a soul crushing loss to Green Bay in the playoffs to hitting a home run in the NFL Draft, and all the drama that has surrounded the team in the past few months, we have finally arrived at Oxnard, California for your 2017 Dallas Cowboys training camp.
Here are my first 10 thoughts after the first padded practice of training camp.
- Initially, I thought that Jaylon Smith wasn’t going to do much of anything to start camp, but boy was I wrong. Jaylon Smith looked very fluid and explosive doing drills in his first real practice with the Cowboys. In his first time playing real football in 572 days, Smith blew me away on the field. With no real limitations that I could see, the arrow is only pointing up for Jaylon.
- The Cowboys have had bad luck in the past with injuries happening early in camp. That wasn’t the case yesterday. Charles Tapper and Maliek Collins gave us all quite the scare when both ended up in the trainer’s tent before the end of practice. It was later noted that Collins was dealing with a hip flexor and Tapper was just dealing with cramps. So far so good, from an injury standpoint.
- Brice Butler is not going to give his job away to anyone from what I’ve seen so far. Butler looks like a different player from what we saw last season. You can tell he is focused more on route running and snatching the ball with his hands. A lot of people had Butler not making the final roster, but I assure you he’ll be on it come September 10th.
- Chidobe Awuzie made a great play against Brice Butler in one-on-ones. Awuzie was right on Butler’s hip on a quick slant route across the middle and broke up the pass, tipped it up in the air and intercepted it for what would have been a touchdown. The rookie corner is already making plays and we’re only a day into camp.
- Just two days after getting a two-year contract extension, La’el Collins looked very solid at right tackle. Collins had little to no trouble blocking first round pick Taco Charlton in one-on-ones and in team work. Collins plays so violently, almost to a fault, but man does he look good doing it.
- I really hope Mark Nzeocha can find a way to stay healthy. Nzeocha has the ideal size, speed, and length to be able to cover the ground game, shed blockers, and even does a decent job in coverage for his size. His ability to play all three linebacker spots makes him extra intriguing going into game days.
- It’s unfortunate that Damien Wilson got himself into the situation he found himself in on July 4th weekend. Wilson looked explosive in practice yesterday when shooting gaps and doing all the drills. Wilson would be a starting linebacker for the team this year and an important part of the Cowboys defense. Let’s hope some new information comes out involving his July 4th incident.
- It looked like Chaz Green struggled a bit at left guard early on in practice. Maliek Collins was giving him fits with his first step and power off the ball. Green’s last resort was to give Collins the desperation one arm choke hold on multiple occasions to keep Maliek Collins from getting to the quarterback.
- The old theory is rookie defensive ends struggle early on, that rings true for Taco Charlton. Charlton didn’t have his best day yesterday against either La’el Collins and Tyron Smith. Charlton’s frustration came out when he ended his last rep of practice in a scuffle with UDFA Dan Skipper. Charlton has to learn to use his long arms to keep the tackle’s hands off of him, because right now he isn’t strong enough or quick enough to shake them once they do.
- Last but not least we have Dak Prescott. Prescott looked very good in his first practice of his sophomore campaign. We heard a lot last year how Prescott wasn’t a very strong practice player. A lot of people called him a gamer, but that wasn’t the case for Dak yesterday. Prescott made multiple tight window throws across the middle to his left and his right. Prescott even showed off his legs running the read-option a few times really fooling the defense. A great start to the season for a guy many are hoping will fail.
These are just my thoughts on a few players after the first padded practice and I’m sure I’ll have a lot more for you the deeper we get into camp. For now the young players in the secondary are really looking good, and they could make or break this defense while trying to repeat as NFC East Champions and make a run at the Super Bowl.