The Cowboys finished their first week with a key and unwanted addition to the injured list, as Dez Bryant injured an ankle on the second to last play of the final 11-on-11 drill. Bryant dove to catch a low pass and had trailing CB Orlando Scandrick roll up his right leg. Bryant knelt on the turf for a few seconds, flexing the ankle before he hopped to his feet and tried walking off the problem. He dropped to the turf in pain and was assisted off the field by two trainers, who kept Bryant's full weight off the injured joint. Results of the obligatory MRI have not yet been released.
The injury overshadowed another speedy, spirited practice in full pads. Dallas went through the week one routing of special teams, positional drills, 9-on-9 running running drills, 1-on-1 passing drills, simultaneous 6-on-7 passing drills and 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 pass blocking drills capped by an 11-on-11 scrimmage.
The internal theme was special situations. Joe DeCamillis' guys worked extensively on on-side kickoffs, showing a novel two kicker formation in one variant. Both Mat McBrian and David Buehler took the field and made the receiving team guess where the ball was going. D's guys showed a creative mix of onside kicks, from the double-kicker set and from the standard kickoff formations.
Dallas then worked on kickoff returns. Of note was the shortened returner roster: today Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree split the practice returns. DeCamillis drilled his wedge blockers and sealing the edges of coverage. Last year, teams broke up many Cowboys returns by out-flanking the central blockers. The coaches want to seal these outside lanes this year.
Before the 9-on-9 the running backs and linebackers ran a one-on-one receiving drill. Felix Jones was the star, beating every linebacker who tried to cover him short and deep. Jones raced past Jason Williams on one dash up the hash and finished the drill by forcing Keith Brooking to hold him -- repeatedly.
And Now Let Us Praise Aquaman
I'm the guy who suggested shopping Martellus Bennett for OL depth, so it's on me to point out his strong first practice. Bennett took his place with the first offense and put on a blocking clinic in the 9-on-9 drill. He shoved Marcus Spears on his first down, creating a huge running lane off right tackle. Bennett then sealed off all the linebackers he faced on subsequent plays. He ended his downs by flopping on top of Spears after putting the end on the turf. Aquaman's understudy John Phillips had his trouble with Anthony Spencer, who spun him around on one of their matchups.
The first lines showed more mobility today. Leonard Davis pulled left and kicked out an OLB on the drill's first play. Kyle Kosier and Andre Gurode rolled Junior Siavii on an inside run. Backup Travis Bright looked shaky in his drills, while 3rd teamer Mike Tepper made a standout block in his units sequence, putting Jason Williams on his backside with a strong punchout.
The 1-on-1 pass rush drill offered more reinforcement of early impressions. Doug Free handed his reps with Demarcus Ware (don't over-react folks, he got TWO of them). Leonard Davis handled two Jay Ratliff charges, one of them a spin move which Bigg rolled with ease. Igor Olshansky showed better hand usage than last year, where he bull rushed almost exclusively. I can't say this will put a lot of sacks on Igor's resume this year, but this development bears watching in the pre-season games.
The final 11-on-11 also told us more of what we already knew, or suspected. Some quick notes from that:
-- The first team offense tried a naked rocket pitch left to Felix Jones. Demarcus Ware was not fooled and dragged Jones down in the backfield.
-- Orlando Scandrick dropped an easy pick after jumping an out route off a Tony Romo semi-rollout.
-- The 2nd nickel receiving set of Hurd, Crayton and Bryant worked several times with Tony Romo and the first offensive line.
-- The old guys Crayton and Hurd made big grabs and back-to-back downs, with Crayton catching a diagonal over the middle beyond newbie Teddy Williams. Hurd made a diving snag over the middle to match up.
-- Robert Brewster continues to look stout at RT, and was moved to LT for a few plays. That may be a short-lived experiment, as Victor Butler blew past him and knocked the ball out of Jon Kitna's hand.
-- The third team OTs couldn't pass block Peter Griffin.
-- Because We Care: A scalawag in a Washington Redskins t-shirt made repeated trips up and down the near stands, drawing boos, which he appeared to crave.
-- Injury updates: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah ran with a lot more zip on the sidelines today and appears much closer to action. John Brent also ran with a small blue splint on his right hand. He was accompanied by Jason Hatcher, who had a brace on his left elbow. Both also seem close to returning.
-- Trickeration city: Jason Garrett unveiled a package which put all three running backs in the backfield together. At some point in the season you'll see what he wants them to do.