Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett talks Day 1 of minicamp
Apparently, the middle of June is not too early for some mini fireworks at a highly-competitive Dallas Cowboys minicamp.
For it’s worth, don’t try quarterback Dak Prescott, who is not only playing better than ever but was as testy as ever during practice on Wednesday.
Consider a second-down play during the second series of the red zone 11-on-11 work, one series after a hot Prescott tossed a touchdown pass to receiver Randall Cobb to open and close the drill for the first team on one play.
It started off as a simple zone-read that was sniffed out by safety Jeff Heath. It turned into some trash talking and a little shove by Prescott before teammates and coaches got things under control and the practice resumed.
It was quite enthralling for a pad-less June minicamp, previously known in these parts as the underwear Olympics.
All was quickly squashed.
“It’s been competitive all camp long. All minicamp, all OTAs going back to that,” Prescott said. “When you are playing the same guys over and over again and you are getting better. They have good days. We have good days. They are getting the best of each other. Tensions raise up.
“He is one of my best friends. That was a heat of the moment deal. Just showing that I am not going to take anything. I know you can’t touch me and all of that. But don’t just try to bully me. But Heath is great. We have talked on it. We have laughed on it. That was just heat of the moment, being competitive. I wouldn’t want anything less.”
Heath downplayed the incident after practice.
“Dak is one of my best friends on the team,” he said. “That happens all the time. That happens once a practice, not between me and Dak but between the guys. He is a competitor. He has the same mentality as defenders have. I like that. I like that he reacted that way.”
Feisty cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who has been the center of most to the trash talking during practices, had a front-row seat for the festivities.
“Dak got testy for sure,” Lewis said. “I was like, ‘Dak, ooh.’ Coach says he wants us to play with a chip on our shoulder. That is what you saw.”
“I am vocal but Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods get after it and set the tone. I let the offense know they get after it. So you talk but you are not about to do nothing to Dak. That’s our team right there. But we understand he is competitive.”
Receiver Amari Cooper was taken aback by the whole situation.
“I don’t know what that was about,” Cooper said. “I was like, what’s going on. Yeah, I mean, I kinda thought he might have stiffed him or something at first. Then he said he didn’t do anything. When I saw the very end of it, I thought Dak might have stiffed him or something like that, but I’ve never seen Heath get that mad. I haven’t seen him get angry like that, so I thought initially Dak might have done something to him. I don’t really know what the case was.”
It was simply a case of coach Jason Garrett purposely putting highly competitive people in a combative environment in hopes of getting the best out of them.
“It’s spirited but at the same time you want to win,” Lewis said. “It’s good to see us not mailing it in because it’s minicamp. We are really going out there trying to get better and competing. It’s a good thing.
And fun for June?
“Oh, yeah,” said Lewis.
Other sights and observations from Day 2:
* Outside of his testiness, Prescott remained sharp. That touchdown to Cobb was a perfect example of him reading and anticipating. He found Cobb wide open with a perfect throw.
It was a continued example of Prescott’s improved confidence, knowledge, accuracy and decision-making that has been on display since the start of OTAs.
Tight end Jason Witten is back with the Cowboys after sitting out last season in retirement. He has certainly noticed a new and improved Prescott.
“He’s always been a great leader and how he’s gone about it, but he sets the tone for this football team and you can see the improvement,” Witten said. “I know I can, from being away for a year, with how much he’s improved with his game as a quarterback.
“I just think, from my perspective, the accuracy has been unbelievable with throwing to us. The velocity on the ball, the anticipation of the throws. We run certain routes and nobody notices it, but that ball is coming out – when you’re coming out of the cut, the ball is already on you.”
* Put receiver Amari Cooper down as a fan of the offense under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
“I think it gives my opportunities to display my skill set for the type of plays that we run,” Cooper said. He’s obviously a good coach. Young guy. Feel like we can kind of relate to him, be able to come up to him and talk to him about certain things.
“I love how it’s been going so far. I love the play calls, and I think it gives us an opportunity to really showcase our skill set. With me in particular, just the ability to get open. That’s pretty much it.”
“It’s not a whole lot different, but it’s small variations, but we’re disguising them,” Cooper said. “We’re running it out of different formations, different shifts and motions to confuse the defense. That allows me to do my best because obviously when you motion and shift, it kind of confuses the defense and gets them off-balance. The more you can confuse that defense, obviously the better it is for the offense. And so the better it is for me.”
* Backup quarterback Cooper Rush rebounded from an awful day on Tuesday, when he threw three interceptions, with a nice effort on Wednesday. His best performance was a two-minute effort that included three passes to tight end Dalton Schultz to spark a drive that ended with a scramble touchdown to Lance Lenoir on fourth down.
* Third quarterback Mike White tossed an interception to cornerback Donovan Olumba on a pass intended for rookie free agent receiver Jon’vea Johnson during red zone work. But he ended practice on a high note with a touchdown pass to receiver Devin Smith on the final play of practice. Smith beat safety George Iloka. Interestingly enough, running back coach Gary Brown yelled ‘run by somebody Devin,’ before the start of the drive. And right on cue, he did.
* It was another strong practice for cornerback Donovan Olumba, who had a pass deflection as well as the interception. He returned an interception for a touchdown on Tuesday. Rookie cornerback Mike Jackson continued to flash with a pass deflection on a pass intended for Jon’vea Johnson. Not to be outdone, rookie cornerback Chris Westry had a pass deflection on a pass for Johnson in 1-on-1s. Both rookie cornerbacks are tall and long as is Olumba.
* Defensive ends Kerry Hyder and Dorance Amstrong had sacks in practice. But Robert Quinn remains the one to watch when training camp comes because of the expected battles with Pro Bowl left Tyron Smith in practice and pass-rush drills.
It is sure to be must-see television.
“We get to be more physical in camp than OTAs,” Quinn said. “So it allows you to do a little more than [with] no pads on. We are going to practice what we do, if you enjoy the show then you are welcome.”