The Cowboys appear ready to start hitting other clubs. Day twelve saw them back in full pads, but pushing themselves through a ragged practice that saw dependable veterans making uncharacteristic mistakes.
The offense forcused today on 3rd down plays, which saw it mainly in the shotgun, with three receivers in the game. The starters were effective at gettng people open aganst the first team defense, but could not get into sync and develop any consistency.
In one of the key drills of the day the offense and defense squared off near mid-field, with the situation always being 3rd down. On one play it was 3rd and 4, on the next 3rd and 7, on the next 3rd and 10 and so on and so on.
The first four plays tell the story: Both offensive tackles jumped offsides on the first play; Patrick Crayton dropped a Romo pass for a first down on the next; Roy Williams got open but Romo threw behind him on the third and Crayton finally converted on the 4th when he gathered in a deep in well past the 3rd-and-10 marker.
The offense had another set but continued its off and on play. The coaches then began rotating different units into the game,so I'm going to report on individual players rather than on the contour of the day. I doubt the team will linger on this tape.
-- Isaiah Stanback had a strong session, making two difficult catches, one a leaping snag on a deep comeback and the second a hook from the slot where a defender was draped on his back. Stanback was working with the first team in both cases.
As I noted yesterday, Stanback has looked better than Mike Jefferson and Kevin Ogletree but none of the three had shown an ability to "close the sale." All could run good routes and get open, but none had been making the key grab or grabs to set them apart. The game performances will ultimately tell, but Stanback helped himself today.
-- The refs were not present today and wonder if their disappearance contributed to the ragged play?
-- Rookie TE John Phillips got a lot of reps on the line and motioning into the backfield as a lead blocker. He showed some pop, locking up Demarcus Ware on a draw play. He's far, far ahead of Rodney Hannah for the 3rd TE spot. Nevertheless, it's good to see him blocking well from the backfield, since he's better known for his blocking than his down the field skills. He'll get more playing time if he continues to clean up on linebackers.
-- Which Cincinnati Kid? Dallas has two U of Cincinnati Kids on the roster, but to my eyes only one of them gets to play Steve McQueen in this season's movie. My early tally has Dallas keeping four corners, five at the most. Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman, Orlando Scandrick and Courtney Brown have the first four slots and backup FS Alan Ball played well onthe edge last year and has looked pretty good in the slot the last two days, with Jenkins and Newman out rehabbing injures. It's possible both of these guys could be cut and I can't really tell which one is leading should Dallas keep five dedicated corners.
-- My math says Dallas possibly keeping 10 linebackers: Four OLBs in Ware, Spencer and the rookies Victor Butler and Brandon Williams. I'm surprised, but feel it is possible six ILBs make the cut. Bradie James, Keith Brooking and Bobby Carpenter looks let. Top draftee Jason Williams will make the team and Stephen Hodge could join him if he performs on special teams.
The surprise is Matt Stewart. He's running ahead of the rookies on the 2nd team and his ability to cover kicks and snap adds value. (How many teams have depth at snapper?) The preseason games will tell.
What I can say is that long time special teams core players Justin Rogers and Pat Watkins appear to be on thin ice. Rogers is playng OLB but is a lesser rusher than the four guys ahead of him. Watkins looks better this year but the Hamlins, Gerald Sensabaugh and Alan Ball are ahead of him at safety. Watkins may hang on if the team keeps five safeties. As with the others, the games will tell.