OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — Dallas safety Byron Jones caught bouncing tennis balls and tracked baseballs from the outfield of minor league batting practice during the offseason.
The goal: Improve on the one interception he has produced in two seasons since the Cowboys drafted him late in the first round in 2015 from UConn.
The immediate result: Flashy grabs on consecutive days at training camp, one that counted as an interception and one that didn’t, although it essentially left the same impression despite Jones only getting one foot inbounds.
The former cornerback is intent on catching balls in the secondary, not merely batting them down after Jones tied for the team lead with 10 pass breakups last season.
“I think a lot of those times that he’s broken up the pass, if he just had a more aggressive mentality, just put two hands out there and try to catch it, I think he would have had more plays,” said Jeff Heath, Dallas’ other starting safety with the departure of free agents Barry Church (Jacksonville) and J.J. Wilcox (Tampa Bay).
“That’s something we’ve talked about and he knows that. Through the first few practices this training camp, you’ve seen that come alive.”
Two of the biggest attention-getters of the Cowboys’ California camp so far involved Jones — both leaping grabs on the run in the end zone. The second was the one where he got both feet in, and even better for Jones, 2014 All-Pro Dez Bryant was Dak Prescott’s intended target.
“He’s really been working on his catching ability,” Bryant said. “Every day when I came in in the offseason, I’ve seen Byron working, working, working. Just with the tennis balls, throwing them off the wall, turning around and catching them, just little stuff like that.”
Jones wasn’t interested in discussing the details of his offseason work. About the best he could offer was an explanation of why he spent time with the Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers in Frisco, where the baseball stadium is less than a mile from the Cowboys’ training facility.
“If you can track a baseball down, should be…