Pope meets with NFL delegation, urges 'culture of encounter'

June, 21, 2017
Jun 21

Jerry Jones, Pope FrancisL'Osservatore Romano/AP PhotoOwner Jerry Jones presented Pope Francis with an autographed Cowboys jersey on Wednesday.

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis met with a Pro Football Hall of Fame delegation that included Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Wednesday and urged them to translate values of teamwork and fair play from the football field to the broader community and help build a "culture of encounter."

Hall of Famers Curtis Martin, Chris Doleman, Franco Harris, Jim Taylor, Ronnie Lott and Floyd Little also were in attendance.

Speaking Wednesday during a special audience, Francis said such values help "combat the exaggerated individualism, indifference and injustice that hold us back from living as one human family."

The pope joked that he is an avid fan of football -- but the Argentine kind.

"As many of you know, I am an avid follower of football, but where I come from, the game is played very differently," he said.

Francis recorded a video message on the eve of this year's Super Bowl in which he repeated his call for sports to encourage a "culture of encounter."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(Read full post)


The First Take crew manages its shock when Stephen A. chooses Cowboys QB Dak Prescott to secure a title before Raiders QB Derek Carr.

Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman debate whether the Cowboys will land in a pitfall and if they can repeat another 13-win season.

The Dallas Cowboys ended their offseason program on June 15. Here’s a look at how they fared:

Offseason goals/grade: Coming off a 13-3 season, the Cowboys knew this would be an offseason marked by change on defense. They lost seven starters or key contributors to their defense in Barry Church, Brandon Carr, Terrell McClain, Morris Claiborne, J.J. Wilcox and Jack Crawford to free agency and did not make any major free-agent additions. The club’s reasoning was that it needed new blood for a defense that had been somewhat stagnant. They are hoping for improvement from Jaylon Smith (last year’s No. 2 pick who didn’t play as a rookie) and are banking on the growth of other young players. The Cowboys have altered their construction process in recent years, moving away from high-priced free agents and older players and focusing on developing players through the draft. With two division titles in three years, the plan seems to be working. Grade: B minus

Taco CharltonMatthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys hope first-round pick Taco Charlton can play a role in improving the pass rush.

Move I liked: Drafting Taco Charlton was a positive step in rebuilding the defensive line. They used first-round picks to rebuild the offensive line in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. They made second-round moves to address their pass rush in recent years through the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, but they have relied more on low-cost and late-round pickups to fill in gaps. Charlton’s sack totals increased every year while at Michigan. He play with more leverage and strength than speed and quickness, but still figures to be a big part of the pass-rush rotation. He might never be a DeMarcus Ware, but if he is another Greg Ellis, the Cowboys certainly would take that.

Move I didn’t like: While Jeff Heath has shown flashes of ability in limited playing time, replacing Church will be difficult. He had four straight seasons with at least 100 tackles. He was a defensive captain, played special teams and was around the ball. The Cowboys could have gone to him before last season with a new deal, or made a stronger pitch to keep him off the market as free agency approached -- but didn’t. Church, who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, wasn’t a high-end safety but he meant more to the Cowboys’ success than the coaches want to believe. He was not a progress-stopper.

Biggest question still to be answered in training camp: Since we know what the offense will look like, it has to be the pass rush. There was no way of truly knowing how improved it might be in offseason practices conducted without pads. The Cowboys do not have the alpha dog-type pass-rusher they had for years in Ware, but they believe they have enough to affect opposing quarterbacks more than they did a year ago. The addition of Charlton should help, as should a healthier Tyrone Crawford and Lawrence. A second year in the system should help Benson Mayowa, who led the Cowboys with six sacks in 2016. Maliek Collins had five sacks as a rookie, and a player’s biggest jump usually comes in his second year. David Irving is looking at a suspension, but he was their best defensive lineman down the stretch last season and should improve. The Cowboys have the pieces to mount a successful pass rush, but they lack a lineman who could truly scare an offense.

Salary cap space: $16,950,774 (source: Overthcap.com)

2017 draft picks: 1. DE Taco Charlton; 2. CB Chidobe Awuzie; 3. CB Jourdan Lewis; 4. WR Ryan Switzer; 6. S Xavier Woods; 6. CB Marquez White; 7. DT Joey Ivie; 7. WR Noah Brown; 7 DT Jordan Carrell

Undrafted rookie free agents: QB Cooper Rush; RB Jahad Thomas; WR Brian Brown; WR Lance Lenoir; TE Blake Jarwin; OT Dan Skipper; OG Nate Theaker; DT Lewis Neal; DE Woody Baron; LB Darnell Leslie; LB Joseph Jones, LB Lucas Wacha; LB Keenan Gilchrist

Unrestricted free agents signed: CB Nolan Carroll II; S Robert Blanton; DT Stephen Paea; DE Damontre Moore; OL Byron Bell

Restricted free agents signed: None

Players acquired via trade: None


Stacy Elliott and Odell Beckham Sr. share how their lives have changed after their sons became famous athletes, as well as the advice both parents offer to their children now.

FRISCO, Texas -- Dez Bryant started a thing -- and it only can be called a thing -- when he tweeted to Darrelle Revis that he would like to see the future Hall of Famer with the Dallas Cowboys in 2017.

The Cowboys' receiver said Thursday he hadn't heard back from Revis on Twitter or elsewhere, but he's not giving up hope.

"It would be a great look," Bryant said. "Why not? We wanna win. It's still a hope. It's still a chance."

There's a chance, sure, because Revis is unsigned. It's better than the chances the Cowboys will sign me, but that's not saying much either.

In this week's Twitter mailbag, Gus wants to know how the Cowboys will fill the potential roster vacancy should cornerback Nolan Carroll be suspended because of his offseason DUI arrest. From talking to multiple people around The Star, Revis is not one of those options, despite Bryant's wishes.

Revis was a great player. He will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the best corner of his generation. But he turns 32 in July and his best days are behind him. The only way I see the Cowboys signing him would be if they are hit by injuries at the position this summer.

He's not a fit for how the Cowboys want to play. He doesn't have the scheme versatility anymore. ESPN's Bill Polian said this week Revis is "uniquely unqualified," for the Cowboys' scheme. He wasn't very good last year. And for those who want to see if he could or would play safety, he's never showed that type of ability before. Players who can pull that kind of switch-off are rare, like Charles Woodson rare.

So what would the Cowboys do if Carroll is suspended?

They will look to their own roster first. Let's go with the notion that Carroll will miss the first two games. The Cowboys will have Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis as their top four corners. The fifth corner could be any one of the following: Leon McFadden, Marquez White or Duke Thomas.

Not exactly household names, but we're talking about a fifth cornerback for two games.

If the Cowboys added Revis or a veteran corner of any note, that player's base salary is on the books for the full season if he is on the roster in Week 1. That's another reason why Revis isn't an option. It's a reason why a vested vet wouldn't be an option either. The Cowboys have the cap room, but why make a 16-week decision for two games? They wouldn't.

Then there's this: The Cowboys have made a conscious decision to move away from signing older players. They could have kept Brandon Carr, who was better than Revis, and did not make a big play to keep him.

Bryant can keep wishing for Revis, but the chances of it happening are slimmer than slim.video


Darren Woodson credits Dak Prescott for a successful rookie season, but says it's too premature to list him as a top-10 quarterback in the NFL.

Dez BryantPhoto by Andrew Dieb/Icon SportswireDez Bryant looked sharp at the Cowboys' minicamp and seems ready to get back to being one of the top receivers in the NFL.

FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys offseason is over. To paraphrase Bill Belichick, we’re on to training camp.

In five weeks the Cowboys will head to Oxnard, California, for camp to get themselves ready for a season they hope ends at Super Bowl LII. But before dreams of that happening can enter your mind, let’s offer up a quick review of the offseason program, awards style.

There are no bonuses that come with these awards. And you won’t see any linemen in the mix either because it’s almost impossible to judge their skill set without pads.

But here goes:

Best offensive player: Dez Bryant. He caught everything that came his way. He made the difficult catches. He made the easy catches. He looks ready to get back to the status he had after the 2014 season as one of the top receivers in the NFL. Injuries the last two seasons have robbed Bryant of playing time and effectiveness. A full offseason of work has put him in the right frame of mind going into the summer.

Best defensive player: Anthony Hitchens. There might not be a Cowboy who gets more undeserved grief than Hitchens. He had more than 100 tackles last year and many just assume Jaylon Smith will take the starting spot over. Smith might if he proves healthy but Hitchens was everywhere, especially during minicamp. He is a smart, instinctive player. A close second was another linebacker, Damien Wilson.

Best offensive rookie: The easy answer is Ryan Switzer. He made a favorable first impression but there needs to be a tapping of the brakes over what he will do in the regular season. The Cowboys will have packages for him, but to think he will transform their offense is going too far. But he showed a good feel for the game with Cole Beasley out with hamstring soreness. Another rookie worth noting is undrafted receiver Brian Brown.

Best defensive rookie: Third-round pick Jourdan Lewis got the narrowest of edges on second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie. Lewis looks smooth in the slot, which is a challenging position. He was OK on the outside too. Awuzie had a nice pick on Wednesday and he did nothing wrong, but Lewis caught my eye a little more.

Best unknown offensive player: It’s hard to call Rod Smith unknown since he was on the active roster for seven games last season, but he is pushing hard for a roster spot this year. He saw more time in minicamp than Alfred Morris. He is smooth as a pass catcher. He has decent vision as a runner. He can play fullback. He can play all the special-teams’ units. Running-backs coach Gary Brown was heard often yelling, “That’s it, Rod. That’s it.”

Best unknown defensive player: Damontre Moore received a $100,000 signing bonus on a two-year deal from the Cowboys early in free agency. By the end of the offseason, he was working with the first-team defense. Some of that was due to injury, but he earned the extra work with his ability to get to the quarterback. Interesting to note: He was being used as a stand-up outside rusher on occasion. The New York Giants, who drafted Moore in the third round in 2012, might be surprised at this, but he could be a big part of the pass-rush rotation if he can continue to show up when the pads come on.

Wanted more from, offense: Rico Gathers has gained exalted status despite having just one preseason catch to his credit. He missed more than a week with pink eye and then a virus that caused him to drop weight. And on Thursday he had a mental error that would have resulted in a sack and led to the coaches pulling him from practice.

Wanted more from, defense: I was tempted to say Taco Charlton, the first-round pick, but then I remembered the "no pads" rule. After seeing Xavier Woods highlights from Louisiana Tech, I wanted to see him go get the ball in these practices. It never happened but that’s partly because he didn’t get as much work as I expected. I still believe he will make plays when camp starts.

Best play (tie): Darren McFadden was able to come down with a tipped Dak Prescott screen pass by flipping the ball forward to himself for a big gain in team drills on the first day of minicamp. It was a great adjustment by McFadden after Tyrone Crawford got his hand on the pass. Jeff Heath's interception on a deflected ball also deserved recognition. Prescott’s pass to Jason Witten was a little high and the tight end tipped the ball, giving Heath the chance to make a one-handed grab for the takeaway.

Looking forward to the most, offense: How will the offense shake out? La'el Collins appears to have the inside track on the right-tackle spot. I would give Jonathan Cooper the edge right now at left guard. If Chaz Green can show early on he can stay healthy, then he could get into the mix at tackle or guard.

Looking forward to the most, defense: Jaylon Smith. Jaylon Smith. And Jaylon Smith. How could it be anything else? The Cowboys have been deliberate with his recovery. He practiced every other day in the offseason and might be on a similar schedule early on in camp. If he can come close to what he was at Notre Dame, the Cowboys will have a playmaker.

FRISCO, Texas -- Not three plays into team drills, Jason Witten and Byron Jones showed everybody that the final day of the Dallas Cowboys' minicamp was not going to be an end-of-school breeze.

Witten, the 10-time Pro Bowler, and Jones, the starting free safety, got into a brief shoving match that did not rise above anything resembling a fight but showed the spirit Jason Garrett likes to see in practice.

"Just having a little fun, competitive, you know," Witten said. "It's been chippy all offseason between the offense and defense. Just making each other better. He's turning into this player and I'm constantly challenging Byron that I think he can play at that level. I think he can be one of those guys. It's good to have those competitions and get him fired up a little bit. Great stage to do it."

Jones had his best day of the offseason. He broke up a slant to Brice Butler to end the first 11-on-11 period. Later he broke up a Dak Prescott throw to Witten down the middle of the field and a deep ball to Butler down the sideline.

But the Witten head-to-head garnered the most attention after practice.

"We were just having fun. Just a little fun out there," Jones said. "One more day to compete so why not make it good."

With free-agent losses in the secondary and a young defense overall, Jones is being asked to do more on the field and as a leader. Standing up to Witten, even if the brouhaha meant little, was a sign.

"Yeah, he’s taking a nice swing at it,” Witten joked.

The dust-up made Garrett happy.

"Guys love to compete and that's what they do," Garrett said. "That's why those two guys are really good football players. It matters to them. Everything matters to them. They scratch and claw and fight for every inch. That's a really healthy thing for your football team."

Taco CharltonTim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsRookie defensive end Taco Charlton is getting a crash course in the NFL going up against All-Pro tackle Tyron Smith in offseason practices.

FRISCO, Texas -- Defensive end Taco Charlton was blessed to be a first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in April. It’s also something of a curse because of who he lines up regularly against in practice.

When Charlton takes first-team snaps, he goes against All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, who might be the best player in the NFL at his position -- and if he isn’t, then he is the second best.

"He's a Pro Bowler for a reason, one of the best left tackles for a reason," Charlton said. "We get after it -- he's making me improve and study my game. I'm watching a lot of tape to see what I can do better, different things to beat him consistently. I'm still a competitive guy, so no matter who I'm losing to, I hate losing, period. Even if I'm losing to him, I'm still not liking it. I take my wins when I can get them. I just keep trying to improve and get better."

When Charlton has those victories, which might be minor or might not result in a play that affects the quarterback, he can take solace in knowing he does not have to face left tackles like Smith on a weekly basis.

DeMarcus Lawrence, a second-round pick in 2014, went through the same thing. Randy Gregory, a second-round pick in 2015, went through the same thing.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has been pleased with Charlton’s work but takes caution with everything at this time of year because players are not in pads. Head coach Jason Garrett has seen improvement.

“I think like a lot of young guys, they grow quickly,” Garrett said. “He’s certainly a very good athlete. He’s a smart guy and he’s willing to work. I think when you put them in an environment like this, they get better. He comes to work, I think he recognizes the challenges. He goes against really good offensive linemen day after day. He’s in a really good environment as a defensive lineman with Coach Marinelli and with [assistant coach] Leon Lett. I think he’s grown from that, and also by the examples of the other guys. I think he’s a different player now than he was when we drafted him, and he’s certainly getting better and better every day.”

Lett has been particularly helpful because he had a similar body type to Charlton during his playing days. Lett was 6-foot-6, 290 pounds when he played for the Cowboys, so he had more bulk to his frame than the 6-6, 271-pound Charlton, but they both get it done with long arms more than pure speed. Charlton grew up a Cowboys fan, but Lett's career was a little before his time.

"Big Cat, he's a great player," Charlton said. "My dad actually told me about him because obviously he watched him more than I did when I was a kid. He's a great player, long leverage, kind of like me: big, tall guy. He knows how to use his length, so he can teach me first-hand."

So can Smith.

FRISCO, Texas -- A funny thing happens when you mention that Dak Prescott wasn’t as accurate as normal in a Tuesday minicamp practice. For many, it sets off alarms of sophomore slumps.

That’s what happened the other day when it was pointed out Prescott completed 15 of 23 passes in team and seven-on-seven drills. He was intercepted twice. Even some of his completions came on throws that were a little off the mark.

On Wednesday, Prescott was 11-of-19 in team and seven-on-seven drills.

AP Photo/Tony GutierrezDak Prescott was accurate with his passes on Wednesday, and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan liked seeing the resilience after Tuesday's struggles.

“I want to make every throw, that’s the confidence and belief that I can make every throw,” Prescott said. “Every time I drop back, I think completion, completion. When it’s not that, it’s a little aggravating, but I know I’ve got to move on because another play is coming in five seconds. It’s a whole lot easier in a game than practice. In practice I’m trying to think about getting better and getting better, where in the game it’s just the next play. But that’s why it’s practice. Just always believe I can make the throw.”

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan believes Prescott’s best trait is to quickly put a bad play behind him. That’s not usually the case for younger quarterbacks, but Prescott showed last year he is not the usual young quarterback.

He completed 67.8 percent of his passes and was intercepted just four times in 2016. He had 23 touchdown passes. He ran for six scores as well.

Early on in his time last offseason and into training camp, Prescott was deliberate with his decision-making because it was new to him. Some of his passes were off the mark. But in his first preseason game, against the Los Angeles Rams, he completed 10 of 12 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. His two incompletions were on drops.

What matters most is how he performs when the lights come on.

“The practice [Tuesday] wasn’t smooth from an offensive point, but that’s great,” Prescott said. “Those are sometimes the better practices. As you said, it was a grind-it-out practice, but you go through it, fix it up in the film room and get out there [Wednesday] and had a better day.”

The Cowboys finish their offseason today with their final minicamp practice. Next stop is training camp in Oxnard, California, for the first practice on July 24. Prescott’s eyes are on being ready for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener.

He’ll take some time off over the next five weeks before camp, but he will be “keeping my feet firing, keep my arm going throughout this break,” he said.

“I’m excited about where I’m going,” Prescott said. "I’m happy with the position I’m in now, this team, the offense. There’s going to be tough practices. We want to get over them now so we can have great games.”

FRISCO, Texas -- Ezekiel Elliott can’t really be inconspicuous.

It’s not in his nature. He’s outgoing, having fun with friends and strangers alike. Attention finds him, either from defenders or from cameras. It can be good and bad.

He has been a member of the Dallas Cowboys for only 14 months, but he has one of the best-selling jerseys in the NFL. He is the reigning rushing champion. He is seen as the best young running back in the league, with the highest expectations.

But he also has dealt with off-field issues. The league continues its investigation into a domestic-violence claim by a former girlfriend from July. In August, he made headlines for going to a marijuana dispensary in Seattle prior to a preseason game. In March, he drew social-media attention after cameras caught him pulling down a woman’s top at a St. Patrick’s Day party.

Ezekiel ElliottAndrew Dieb/Icon SportswireEzekiel Elliott goes through drills Wednesday under the watchful eye of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.

He admits the glare of playing for the Cowboys is stronger than he imagined.

What’s he learned?

“Just kind of stay out of the way,” Elliott said. “Whatever you do is going to be seen.”

Even when he does nothing wrong, it becomes news. He missed the first three organized team activities last month when the car he was riding in was hit as he was coming home from a charity event. The 21-year-old was held out because of neck and body soreness only as a precaution.

During the six OTAs and first two days of the mandatory minicamp since, Elliott has looked like a runner intent on improving upon a stellar rookie season in which he ran for 1,631 yards. He has spoken about becoming a better second-level runner. He wants to be more involved in Dallas' passing game as well.

He is studying defensive fronts more to gain a better understanding of where the holes might open on certain plays. He is studying coverages more to gain an understanding of where he can find creases in the passing game.

“I’ve seen him be more into his craft,” running backs coach Gary Brown said. “And that’s a great thing.”


“In his classroom work,” Brown said. “The questions he asks. His approach out on the practice field. It’s all going in the right direction.”

The expectations that surround quarterback Dak Prescott in his second season also surround Elliott. The expectations for the Cowboys in 2017 rest largely on Prescott’s arm and Elliott’s legs.

“I know his focus is the same as mine: just being better,” Prescott said. “He goes out every day and we make mistakes and we make mistakes together, but I’ve seen in his eyes, see it in his demeanor, his hunger to fix that. So he’s just worrying about getting better in every way. He wants to be the best pass-blocker. He wants to be the best running back, the best receiving running back that he can. And he goes out every day and puts in the work. I don’t think he’s worried about the expectations of others. It’s about his expectations that he has for himself.”

Whatever those individual expectations are, Elliott doesn’t say them aloud. All he says is he wants to win as many games as possible.

Elliott knows he plays a position that does not lend itself to longevity. He said he is learning how to take care of his body better, especially with the Cowboys pledging to give him more work than the 322 carries and 32 receptions he had as a rookie.

“This game we play is brutal,” Elliott said. “Especially at my position. You got guys like [Jason Witten] who can play forever. Guys like [Darren McFadden] can play forever. But you never know when your time is going to be up. You’ve got to take advantage of what you have. We’re in a great situation to do great things. I’ve got to do everything I can to maximize these moments.”

Elliott has had plenty of moments in his 14 months with the Cowboys. From his 83-yard touchdown catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers to his touchdown celebration inside a giant Salvation Army red kettle.

He has had other moments that have not been as good, but just as memorable.

“You just learn from your mistakes,” Elliott said. “If you don’t it can be brutal. So it’s part of life. You’ve got to learn from your mistakes.”

As Elliott spoke Tuesday, he had a Stetson atop his head. The hat was a gift every player received.

“Feel like a real cowboy,” Elliott said. “Do I look the part?”

FRISCO, Texas -- Starting last November, Dallas Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley started to feel pain in his hamstring. He still feels it seven months later.

Beasley said he has been dealing with what has been called “hamstring tendinitis,” and he has not taken part in the organized team activities or minicamp. The hope is that he will be ready for the first training camp practice on July 24.

“If I had to play today I could,” Beasley said. “It’s just something that’s been nagging me since probably like Week 10 of last season and I played through. I was doing everything [in the offseason program] and then it wasn’t improving or going away, so we just decided to change it up a little bit and see if we can get this thing right before training camp.”

Beasley said he feels tightness in his leg if he overextends himself for a pass. He did not miss a game last season when he led the Cowboys in receptions with 75 for 833 yards and five touchdowns. Beasley has not missed a game because of injury in his career.

The injury will put a crimp in his offseason plans because he will remain around the team’s facility for treatment before camp begins.

“They said they’ve had guys with injuries like this before and it’s nagging for a long time and then it just went away,” Beasley said. “It’s kind of like a waiting game and come in and do what I can to get better in the weight room and conditioning-wise and hope it goes away. If not, I can play through it.”

Beasley and quarterback Dak Prescott made an instant connection on the field, but he does not believe his prolonged absence this spring will affect the pairing going into the season.

“You can always improve no matter how far along you are in the process,” Beasley said. “There’s never a time where you’ve just fulfilled all of your potential and can’t get better. You can always get better at something. Last year was only our first year together, so I’d like to think we’ve grown a lot since then. It hurts a little bit not to be out there right now … but I think we’ll only improve as we go.”

AP Photo/Tony GutierrezDak Prescott wants to "get ahead of it and stay in sync" with his receivers during the Cowboys' downtime.

FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' offseason program comes to an end Thursday, but Dak Prescott and the receivers are planning some work of their own before the team flies to Oxnard, California, for the start of training camp on July 22.

The specifics of where and when still need to be worked out, but they plan to hold their own kind of quarterback camp on the side, either at The Star in Frisco, Texas, or elsewhere.

"I'm sure when we're all in town or a couple of us are in town or even one receiver is in town, when I'm here we'll get some work in," Prescott said. "I don't care if it's we're both out in [Los Angeles] and we accidentally run into each other, we'll probably get some work in that next day or something. It's just communicating and knowing where we're at and to get a time together where we're all there."

Other quarterbacks have organized workouts with their skill players before the official start of the offseason program. That Prescott and the receivers will use their final down time before the training camp grind beings is telling.

"Mostly just running routes and throwing with him and him getting comfortable with throwing me the ball," Cole Beasley said. "Work on the things maybe we didn't do very good last year and still work on the stuff that we do good at and continuing to get better."

Beasley has not been able to take part in the organized team activities and minicamp because of a hamstring strain. Lucky Whitehead has been out since the first OTA with a hamstring strain. Prescott has gotten a lot of work with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Brice Butler and Ryan Switzer.

"I'll be here anyway working with [associate athletic trainer Britt Brown] and the trainers and stuff, so we'll get some work in in here, but the other wideouts will be involved too," Beasley said. "Just got to get ahead of it and stay in sync."

Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire"He sees," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of Kellen Moore (17). "He anticipates and sees guys open. He's extremely accurate."

FRISCO, Texas -- Kellen Moore has three options as he rolls to his left. His first is to Connor Hamlett about 10 yards down the field. His second is to Blake Jarwin, crossing a little deeper. His third is to just keep running and sliding to kill more seconds off the clock.

From behind the line of scrimmage, running the ball looks to be the safest option with all of the traffic between Moore and Jarwin.

But Moore makes the perfect throw for a first down and the offense ends the drill in victory.

"I just kind of know my progressions," Moore said. "I see him a step ahead of the linebacker. He knows where he's going. The linebacker doesn't know where he's going."

Moore doesn't yell or scream. He doesn't put his arms in the air. He simply puts his head down and goes back to the sideline, as if it were something he has done thousands of times.

"He sees," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "He anticipates and sees guys open. He's extremely accurate. Lots of guys get it done different ways but guys don't last long if they can't hit a moving target on the run. That's what he does best."

Moore finds himself in the same position this year as he did a year ago during the Dallas Cowboys' minicamp, as the team's No. 2 quarterback. Last year he was Tony Romo's backup. This year it's as Dak Prescott's backup.

But if not for a fluke play in the first week of training camp last summer, the Cowboys would have turned to Moore, not Dak Prescott, when Tony Romo suffered a compression fracture in his back during a preseason game. Moore suffered the injury when guard Jared Smith was pushed back in the pocket. As Smith looked to brace himself against a bullrush, he stepped on Moore's right ankle.

Moore's season was over a week into training camp. The chance he had waited for since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2012 was gone.

"At the end of the day everybody wants to play," Moore said. "When you're injured it's frustrating, but things turn out for a reason. We figured out Dak is a pretty darn good player. It's been a great situation and he's played well. And I feel comfortable that I'm ready to go again."

The Cowboys could have signed Josh McCown for considerably less than what he got from the New York Jets in early March, but owner and general manager Jerry Jones wasn't sold on spending even $2 million. Instead the Cowboys re-signed Moore to a one-year deal worth $775,000. And they haven't looked at any serious contender to push for Moore's spot.

"He's really one of those guys that can function without a lot of reps because he's a great feel player," Linehan said. "That's a key thing in this league. With backups, they get reps this time of year but it gets less and less. He works so hard mentally and he has such a good feel for the game physically that he doesn't really need to have a huge amount of reps to get comfortable playing the position or execute the plays we have in. He can visually see them."

Yet Moore's on-field experience is a total of three games in the forgettable 4-12 2015 season. He completed just 58.7 percent of his passes for 779 yards with four touchdown passes and six interceptions. But in his final start he threw for 435 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions, in the season-ending loss to the Washington Redskins.

"He was doing great the first three days of camp and it was exactly what we're looking for," Linehan said. "Go back to 2015 when he played at the end and he had no background with our players. Yeah, he had some bad plays, but a lot of guys coming in in that situation might've had that. By the time he got to that last game he played in, to see him operate in our system was big."

And seeing him make a throw, like the bootleg to Jarwin, was just as big for the Cowboys and for Moore.

"The biggest thing for me is just getting people around me," Moore said. "The first couple of days, having offensive linemen kind of fall near you and do all that stuff and let it happen again and feel comfortable with that. Throwing the ball, I feel comfortable, but it's when you get people around you just because that's the way you got hurt."