Remember when one of the knocks on Dak Prescott was his inability to throw the deep ball?
Well, people may be retracting those statements in 2019.
There are two key factors to this: One, Prescott has worked hard on improving his deep ball accuracy. Secondly, the increased speed at receiver has made the deep ball more readily able to be completed.
This may be the fastest receiving crew for the Cowboys since Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn, and Raghib “Rocket” Ismail.
Prescott showed off that deep ball accuracy by connecting on two of them in Wednesday’s practice, one to Amari Cooper and then to Reggie Davis.
“He’s simply gotten better because we’ve repped it more and he’s repped it more, most importantly, in the off-season,” offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said. “You get some more speed guys that have been repping it and I think we’re heading in the right direction with that.”
The Cowboys have a lot of speed to burn with Davis, Cooper, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson and rookies Jon’vea Johnson and Jaylon Guyton. And that’s not even including Tavon Austin who is out until late July’s training camp with an injury.
“The whole premise of this offense is vertical speed,” receiver coach Sanjay Lal said. “If you can’t hit a go route, the comeback game isn’t real, your slant game, you nine-stop game isn’t real. Being able to hit those deep balls in the game is going to change everything. We are doing it out here. That is good to see. The quarterbacks are doing a good job throwing.”
Lal is teaching the receivers how to run and catch the deep ball.
“You got to dig for 25 yards before looking,” Lal said. “You never look back, you look up because that is where the ball is going to be. So we are learning all these skills. So it’s a lot better.”
It’s much better than in training camp last year when the lack of the touchdowns in practice was a major narrative that proved true during the regular season, at least until Cooper was acquired in a trade from the Oakland Raiders.
Other notes from practice:
* Adam Redman was the all-time center for much of practice with Joe Looney and Connor McGovern sitting out and Travis Frederick limited.
* WR Reggie Davis was the player of the day. He caught two TDs, including a go route from Prescott in the 2-minute drill. The former Georgia alum is a blazer. He said he clocked a 4.29 on laser while training for the draft in 2017. He weighs only 170 though at 5-11.
“He is our most improved guy on the team,” receivers coach Sanjay Lal said. “He made a big jump this week. He has learned how to use his speed. He has always been fast but [has learned] how to truly use it, how to stop better, how to set up DBs. He is doing a great job and is finishing plays with catches.”
Davis initially signed with Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2017 before being cut. He spent time on Browns roster before stints on the Falcons and Eagles’ practice squad. He joined the Cowboys practice squad last November.
* Tight end Jason Witten, 37, took all the snaps with the first team in practice on Wednesday. If the Cowboys plan to have him split snaps with Blake Jarwin they are having a funny way in showing it. There is no question Witten is the best and most experienced tight end on the roster. He may not be limited to 25 snaps as sources initially said when they re-signed him out of retirement. But it would be smart to reduce his exposure to keep him fresher longer, especially at 37 and coming off an idle season. Who is man enough on the Cowboys staff to tell Witten to take take a seat? You play how you practice. And if you can’t sub him out during an OTA in June, how are going to be able to do it September, November or December?
* Linebacker Sean Lee practiced on Wednesday in front of the media for the first time during OTAs and he looked fast and quick alongside middle linebacker Jaylon Smith. There was one play where Lee and Smith both closed on a crossing route that had them both smiling and hollering afterward. Lee will be the best strong side linebacker in team history if he can stay healthy.
* Prescott continued his impressive off-season. He was accurate and decisive. Consider the two-minute drill that started with a pass to Cooper and another to Randall Cobb. He completed the next one to Cooper. Two plays later Prescott hit Davis down the right sideline for a touchdown against tight coverage from Donovan Olumba.
* Prescott was equally sharp on red zone work. He opened with touchdowns to Cooper and Lance Lenoir on back to back plays. The one to Cooper was after coach Jason Garrett called 9-routes across the board and Prescott found Cooper in the back of the end zone after lining up on the slot.
* One of the most exciting sequences came when Lenoir ran a go-route against cornerback Jourdan Lewis. It was tight coverage with both pushing and grabbing. Lewis was called for pass interference, drawing catcalls from the entire defense. Lee, understanding the new rules, asked them to review the call. The offense followed with the same play except it was to Cooper in place of Lenoir. Lewis had great coverage. But Prescott dropped a teardrop in the bucket over Cooper’s outside shoulder. Lewis hung his head. Cooper raced to the end zone.
* The day featured some hell raising from secondary coach Kris Richard and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Richard went into a mini rage on his secondary following a touchdown pass from Mike White to Johnson, who has continued to thrive throughout OTAs. And then during wind sprints after practice, Marinelli dropped a curse bomb on defensive end Robert Quinn for loafing and allowing Daniel Wise and assistant coach Andre Gurode to beat him. Quinn didn’t come in last again. Marinelli smiled and offered a fist bump when asked about his coaching wind sprints after practice.
* Running back Tony Pollard looked good and quick. Coach Gary Brown is confident the rookie fourth-round pick is going to surprise as a change-of-pace back as a backup to Ezekiel Elliott.
“I think Pollard gets a bad rap that, when he was at Memphis he wasn’t the guy and he wasn’t that downhill banger,” Brown said. “But he has a lot of skill sets that a lot of backs don’t have, as far as his receiving skills and his ability to run routes. And he can run the ball inside. He’s a little bit bigger than people thought he was.”
The only disappointing thing about Pollard is that the Memphis native said that he has yet to try some Texas barbecue.
* Let’s give Aggie rookie safety Donovan Wilson some props. The sixth-round pick is known as a hard hitter. The Cowboys are hoping he can make an impact on special teams and work his way into being a sure-tackling strong safety. He made a nice play in practice on Wednesday when he punched the ball out of Johnson’s hands after a catch. Wilson knocked the ball out and also fell on it for a turnover.