The Dallas Cowboys practiced in shoulder pads today and basically hit the two-hour mark for the session. Most of the time was spent in 11-on-11 and the good news is the offense, under Tony Romo, looked sharp. After the past few practices watching the defense dominate, it was good to see the "o" get some payback.
As usual the Cowboys started off with special teams work, this time drilling on FG protection, blocking FGs, blocking punts and working on a defense for a punt situation when the team doesn't truly believe the other team will punt. They proceeded to actual FGs with David Buehler, by my count from an admittedly poor angle, hitting 5 out of 6. Two of the kicks were "against the clock" with the coaches counting down like the end of the game or end of the half situation. Buehler was good on both of those. After some skeleton plays on offense where they worked on roll-outs, smoke screens, y-drags and other specialty patterns, they broke apart for position drills.
Once that was completed, it was long sessions of 11-on-11. There was special emphasis on tempo; getting in and out of the huddle and getting the play off on time as a coach was calling out the time before each play and coaches could be heard yelling "get in the huddle" throughout the practice.
Romo's first session mixed in a few runs with passes to Austin and Hurd, but Cletis Gordon once again showed his knack for the ball when he stripped Felix Jones for a turnover on a run. Kitna's turn had Tashard Choice on an inside run which Bradie James stuffed. Even though the offense had a good day, James and a few other defenders made good plays. Kevin Ogletree made a nice catch deep down the sideline on Mike Jenkins from Kitna, and Terrell Hudgins did the same on a pass from McGee, although it looked like he pushed Jenkins off at the last moment. A cagey veteran move from the rook. Romo was almost picked by Curtis Johnson on his next go around but rebounded to make a nice throw to Martellus Bennett while avoiding pressure from a blitz. This session was pretty even between the offense and defense, but Romo picked up the pace when they came back for the next time.
The next 11-on-11 was from the 30-yard line and they were sort of doing down-and-distance but they didn't always stick to it.Romo's first series was crisp; he hit Patrick Crayton on a hook, then connected with Witten after Jason Williams had turned him loose, followed by a tricky, improvised shovel pass to Marion Barber when nothing was open downfield. He then hit Ogletree who had beaten Jenkins' press coverage for what should have been a TD but they backed it up so Romo could run a few more plays. He tried a swing pass to Felix but Jason Willams had good pursuit, but followed up with a TD throw to Crayton while avoiding a heavy blitz. Kitna was able to hit a few short passes on his turn but was also sacked by Keith Brooking and DeMarcus Ware who met at the QB.
Romo got another turn and threw too high off Austin's hands in the endzone on his first pass, but followed up by hitting Crayton for a TD who had beaten Jamar Wall. He then threw a screen to Felix who got a nice block from Kyle Kosier. He finished with a short pass to DajLeon Farr. Kitna found Choice on a short pass but was subsequently picked by Barry Church at the goal line.
After a break they moved back to full-field 11-on-11 and Romo again was looking good. He started with a deep pass to Roy Williams down the sideline who had gotten behind Bryan McCann. A couple of plays later he hit Roy on a short pass and Jason Williams grabbed Roy in a semi-horse collar and swung him around. This got Roy jawing at Williams and rookie Sean Lee jumped into the fracas before Wade Phillips walked over and broke it up telling them to get in the huddle. Romo sandwiched a couple of completions to Austin around a pass that was broken up by McCann. Kitna threw a screen to Crayton but later was forced into a bad pass because of pressure from Bradie James. McGee was getting a couple of reps in between Kitna and Romo but not much was happening there.
On Romo's next session he found Austin deep over the middle after he had beaten AOA. Finally, we were seeing Romo get some deep connections after a week of mainly short to intermediate throws. Roy caught a couple of passes in a row then Felix caught a screen but Jason Williams had good pursuit. Williams then had a good blitz pressure on Kitna forcing a bad pass, but Kitna followed up with a catch to Martellus Bennett.
They took a break and came back for more. It was a long practice. Romo's turn had a few runs, and another long pass to Austin. But he did make a mistake when he was picked by Barry Church. Yes, that was two on the day for Church. Kitna hit Choice short but Terence Newman was right on him, then T-New had Crayton covered like a blanket to force an incompletion. On Romo's last turn of the day, they ran a Razorback formation and Choice faked the handoff to Felix coming from the edge and took the ball up the middle for a good gain; the defense definitely bit on the fake.
I mentioned some of the good defensive plays made throughout the practice above, but overall Romo's time under center was very productive. I didn't recount all the short to intermediate completions he had on the day, but he had a lot, and he also had the long strikes which had been missing earlier in the week. He was getting a much cleaner pocket from the line and his timing was on. And he was getting the ball in the endzone for a few TDs when they were down in the redzone.