The Dallas Cowboys practiced in shoulder pads again this afternoon. Practice followed its familiar routine, starting out with a special teams session concentrating on punt coverage. In pre-practice punts, Bryan McCann, AOA, Jamar Wall, Cletis Gordon and Kevin Ogletree were on the receiving end, and even Dez Bryant jumped in to catch the last one although he wasn't practicing. But once the live punts started in the real session, Patrick Crayton and Terence Newman were the return men. Mat McBriar was trying to directional punt, but the wind was creating havoc and some of them were wide of the mark. After team stretches, David Buehler tried 6 short FGs and was successful on 5, with one of them missing badly.
The team broke up into their position groups, although the offense stayed together briefly to run some plays against no defense, many of which were trick plays built around the Razorback formation. They included a double reverse out of the formation with Tashard Choice handing off to Felix Jones who then gave it to Miles Austin. They also ran a fake Razorback where Tony Romo lined up wide but motioned back in under center, and they ran another reverse out of a normal formation with Romo giving to Marion Barber who gave it to Miles Austin. They ran some more standard Razorback plays with Choice running the ball.
After a brief session of position drills, they came together for some 7-on-7 at one end with OL/DL blocking drills at the other. In the OL/DL session, Jay Ratliff was giving Leonard Davis fits with quick moves to the inside. Ratliff was lined up in his spot on a 4-man line instead of his traditional NT spot in the 3-4. Both Andre Gurode and Kyle Kosier had a couple of good rounds apiece taking on Junior Siavii (Gurode) and Igor Olshansky (Kosier). DeMarcus Ware gave Doug Free problems, first going wide with a speed move, then bull-rushing him backwards toward the QB. Sam Young split the decision with Steve Octavien in their two battles, Young pushed him wide but Octavien came back the next time to get around the edge. Jason Hatcher blew up Pat McQuistan, but McQ gave him a good battle on the second go around. Phil Costa had no problems with Josh Brent and Travis Bright more than held his own in battles with Stephen Bowen. The surprising thing is how well the backups performed individually considering how much they seem to struggle as a unit. Staying with that theme, Robert Brewster had two good rounds with Curtis Johnson.
The team closed out the practice with a long session of 11-on-11. Tony Romo had some sharp stretches but also had times when he wasn't his best. Among his good moments was a roll-out under pressure where he hit Roy Williams, and he connected with Roy again along the sideline beating Teddy Williams. Romo hooked up with Austin on deep pass over Cletis Gordon and connected with Crayton over the middle who had lost Jamar Wall on the pattern. Later he hit Martellus Bennett (yes, he was back at practice) who beat Leon Williams. On the negative side of the ledger, Romo was picked twice in the session, once by Bryan McCann; Romo was under pressure on the play from a blitz by Sean Lee. His other INT was courtesy of Cletis Gordon who seems to have a real knack for the ball. Romo also had a pass tipped away by McCann, and had a couple of howlers intended for Witten and Hurd.
So far at Oxnard, I haven't seen Jon Kitna have a very good day. This afternoon he managed to connect on short dump-offs and flare passes, but he had three really poor throws, plus he was picked by Gerald Sensabaugh and almost picked by Mike Jenkins. He's not exactly inspiring confidence. Stephen McGee is getting very limited reps in most of these sessions. He had a run of three completions to Terrell Hudgins, Manuel Johnson and Ogletree. In his other stretch, Keith Brooking had a clean sack and then he handed it off for two runs.
The offense also ran some more Razorback formations. One was a reverse to Patrick Crayton, and then they unveiled the Razorback flea-flicker. Choice took the snap and threw to Romo who had dropped back from lining up as a WR to behind the line. Romo then threw back to Felix Jones who was on the other side of the play in basically a RB position and he was supposed to run the ball (not exactly a traditional flea-flicker). The play took a long time to develop and there was major traffic in the backfield; in a game situation this play probably would have been a disaster. The offense was also guilty of a couple more false starts, Phil Costa picked up one and Pat McQuistan picked up one.
There were times when the offense was sharp, mainly under Romo, but they were also out-of-sync on a few plays;having to re-huddle and they had too many dropped passes. They need to sharpen up going forward, but our defense looks stout and would probably give any offense fits.