IRVING, Texas – Evaluating football players in live action can be difficult enough. But seeing how they perform in shorts, jerseys and helmets in their first professional practice is something left up to the coaching staff.
The Cowboys opened the rookie minicamp Friday at Valley Ranch, featuring about 45 players from rookie draft picks, undrafted free agents and selected veterans who were eligible to participate.
Here’s a few quick quotes from the coaches regarding their first impressions.
Bill Callahan talks about the first practice of mini camp, and his early impressions of first round pick Travis Frederick.
Offensive coordinator/line coach Bill Callahan on first round pick Travis Frederick:
“Just like we thought coming out of the draft, he’s real smart and intelligent. He can vocalize all the calls and communications and sequences. So that was a real positive note. As I watched him in all the team drills today – how he ID’s the Mike, how he finds the Mike linebacker. He makes the point, he makes all the calls, he puts everybody on the same page. So I’m impressed from that standpoint – day one, just to get out and start talking in front of all these new people and players, with all the coaches and pressure on you. I thought he did pretty good.”
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin on returning to the practice field for the first time in three years:
“It’s exciting to be out here again. We’ve got some work to do. But I love the attitude of these young men. They’re here to work and they did a good job. We’ve got something to work with.”
Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson on third-round pick J.J. Wilcox having one year of experience at safety:
“You see the athleticism. For a big guy, he can really run. He has really good ball skills, and that probably comes from playing with the ball in his hands a lot those other three years in college. You see he’s a physical man, that he likes the physical part of the game. A lot of times when you see offensive guys make the jump, it takes them a little while to figure that part out. That came natural for him. When you watch him play, you’re like, ‘Oh God, he’s going to kill somebody,’ and that’s what I like about the young man.”
Henderson on much far Wilcox has to improve:
“Light years. You have that, coupled with the fact that the league he played in, jumping to this league…one year at the job. Just the adjustment that all rookies have, he’s got a lot to adjust to.”
Tight ends coach Wes Phillips on seeing second-rounder Gavin Escobar for the first time:
“He had some good things that stood out, but there’s a lot of things we need to clean up. Obviously I’m very encouraged by the things I know he can do, and some of those things he showed out there. He can catch the ball well. That’s the one thing you notice about him.”
Henderson on being comfortable with safety position:
“Absolutely. We’ve got a really good group. It’s going to be a really competitive camp, I think, with the guys we got back there. I think the exciting thing is there’s an opportunity for somebody to emerge. One of those guys I know is going to go grab that spot and make it his, and again, which guy that is at this point is anybody’s guess. That’s the exciting part about it. The thing I do like, again, is we’ve got some quality guys back there competing. Adding Wilcox to the mix makes it exciting.”
Callahan on the quick turnaround of practices Friday:
“It’s fun for a lot of these guys that come from good college programs. They understand the tempos that you want. They’ve really done an excellent job of banding together, learning all this terminology in one day and then trying to produce some type od execution within 24 hours. So my hat goes off to all these guys.”
Henderson on his early thoughts about fourth-round corner B.W. Webb:
“He’s so competitive. You see that on tape. He won’t back down from anybody. He’s got great ball skills and great knack for being around the ball and playing the ball and going to get the ball. Then when you meet the young man, you see his poise, his confidence, the way he carries himself, and you think this kid’s got a shot. He’s from a smaller school, but you get the sense from him that, ‘This isn’t too big for me. I belong here.”
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media before taking the field for the second practice of rookie mini camps at Valley Ranch.