The Valley Ranch Review: Anthony Spencer Takes First Team Reps at OTAs

With Jerry Jones pretty much announcing that Greg Ellis won't be a Cowboy this year, the door is open for former first-rounder Anthony Spencer to take over the other outside linebacker spot, opposite Demarcus Ware. Head coach Wade Phillips, who will be spending alot more time in this season's defensive meetings, sounds sold on Spencer's ability to man the position.

"Anthony Spencer can play," Wade Phillips said. "All you have to do is watch the tape. When we go through film after the season, go through the tape after the season, we go through every play and most of our highlight stuff from that position was him. In some cases, you'd say, 'Hey, that's DeMarcus. No, it's not, that's Anthony.' I think he's going to be a really good player for us."

[snip]

Spencer has established himself as a force against the run. Phillips raved about Spencer's ability to beat run-blocking tight ends, saying Spencer was one of the best OLBs he's coached in that regard.

DC.com's Rob Phillips looks at rookie OLBs, Victor Butler and Brandon Williams, as reasons the Cowboys will be moving on from Ellis.

Having directed the 3-4 defense for decades, Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips knows an outside linebacker when he sees one, and he thinks Butler (6-2, 248) and Williams (6-2, 252) have the right combination of size and athleticism. Williams led the Big 12 with 13 sacks last year while Butler's 12 ranked second in the Pac-10.

Butler will return to practice once Oregon State holds its graduation ceremony in June. Once he's back, he's looking forward to learning and competing with Williams for playing time.

Depending on Ellis' future, both rookies might have more opportunity than originally thought.

"When you get two great competitors together you're going to push and push each other to work harder," Butler said. "And I think that's where DeMarcus and his counterpart come in because you've got two good guys out there working every day in practice. That's how you're able to put up 20 sacks because you've got a guy next to you that's going to make you work."

More VRR after the jump, including OTA highlights and an interview with Coach Joe DeCamillis.

The Cowboys are already fine-tuning their practice roster. The team released both S Tra Battle and DT Casey Tyler today.

Here are some highlights from Timmy Mac's observation of today's practice. Read his full account here.

- Tony Romo to Roy Williams was at first, cold; then hot.

- Bobby Carpenter worked on the first-team nickel D. Also, the line on these nickel and dime packages showcased Ware and Jay Ratliff at the ends with Stephen Bowen at the tackle.

- Courtney Brown is back at CB.

- MB3 threw a HB touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton.

- Sam Hurd did not practice (left quad). Coach Phillips said he will hold Hurd out of practice for the rest of the week.

And some quick hits from Josh Ellis.

- Orlando Scandrick split first-team reps with Mike Jenkins, at the spot opposite Terence Newman.

- Although hurt, Sam Hurd stayed after practice to hold for FGs.

- Several of Romo's passes were "wobbly".

- Joe DeCamillis was at practice again, and told Jerry Jones how impressed he was with a few unnamed rookies.

Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis told his harrowing story of the training facility collapse to Atlanta's 790 the Zone.

Guys started to get out the doors that they were close to - I happened to be close to the door on the east side... Which unfortunately, was not the great thing, 'cause what happened was the structure ended up falling on to us."

[snip]

"The scariest part was the tarp was on top of us.  So, you thought you were really gonna suffocate.  I knew my back was hurt, but you thought you were gonna suffocate when you were sitting there because there was like six inches of water on the ground, and there was a big ol' tarp that was on top of you.

[snip]

And, I'm sitting there with my back and I'm thinking, ‘Geez, you wuss, you gotta get up, man.'  So, somehow (laughs), I ended up walking inside to my office... And, I called Dana, my wife, and I said, ‘Are you all right?'  And, she said, ‘Yeah.  I'm all right.  It's bad weather but what's the matter?'  And, I said, ‘Well, you're gonna see something on the TV, the dome just fell on me but I'm okay (laughs)."

SI ranks Big D's running game at #3 in the league, just one behind the Giants (doh!).

Hat tip to aussie_cowboy for the FanShot.

Here are some photos of OTA Week One from DC.com's multimedia center. Go #4!

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