Here my 10 thoughts from Wednesday’s Cowboys practice, the first day in pads:
1. All eyes were on linebacker Jaylon Smith. The good news was that he was in pads and on the field for the first time in 572 days dating back to his last game at Notre Dame when he suffered a devastating knee injury. He participated in eight plays on team drills and was around he ball on a couple of them. He was blocked very successfully at least four times. Again, getting on the field was the biggest step.
2. Quarterback Dak Prescott practiced without resting Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. He looked at ease and comfortable, making plays down the field to Terrance Williams and Brice Butler. Williams had a drop that he punted on to the next field.
3. Holes weren’t always plentiful for running back Ezekiel Elliott and he expressed his frustration at times. He was a big part of the passing game and Prescott will find ways to get him the ball.
4. There is a chance Prescott could be bigger part of the running game in 2017. With so much focus on Elliott, Prescott keeping on the zone read might be a regular feature in the offense. He ran it to perfection in practice and reeled off the biggest run of the day.
5. First-round pick Taco Charlton got rudely welcomed to the NFL when he was pancaked by right tackle La’el Collins in pass rush drills. He then got into a tiff with fellow rookie guard/tackle Dan Skipper, who got the best of Charlton in team drills. The two hard words and nearly got into a scuffle.
6. Rookie cornerback Chidobe Awuzie flashed some of his playmaking skills in one-one-one passing drills when he smothered receiver Brice Butler, forcing a tipped ball and an interception.
7. With Orlando Scandrick sidelined with a veterans day off, the best looking cornerbacak on the field was second-year man Anthony Brown. He stayed with the shifty Cole Beasley a couple of times in the slot. He had a better day than veteran Nolan Carroll.
8. Tackle Tyron Smith, guard Zack Martin and center Travis Frederick don’t seemingly break a sweat during pass rush drills. Smith rarely gets challenged while smothering defensive end Benson Mayowa. Frederick had the play of the day when he held off defensive tackle Cedric Thornton with one hand on one play and then layed on top off after knocking him to the ground on the next.
9. The Cowboys offense had too many fumbles during drills with receiver Terrance Williams, fullback Keith Smith and tight end Blake Jarwin putting the ball on the ground. There were also a couple of bad snaps to the quarterback.
10. There has been a lot of talking surrounding Jaylon Smith and with good reason. But don’t forget about his brother Rod Smith, who has a good shot to make the roster as the fourth running back if not No. 3. Smith runs well. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and is a good special teams performer.