Full pads were back Tuesday afternoon for a hard-hitting session which worked on the two-minute drill, with the three offenses getting shots to cover a full field in the no-huddle to close the practice. While the early 11-on-11s were dominated by the defenses, the offenses all moved the ball, in spite of heavy blitzing, on the final drives.
The final scrimmages saw the receiving greybeards Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd make big catches with the first offense. The coaches rotated them in with Tony Romo and the rest of the starters and the older guys used their plays wisely. Crayton made three consecutive catches to start the drive, while Hurd made some big grabs later. Repeat to yourselves, ladies and gents, receiver depth is a good thing; receiver depth is a very good thing.
Joe DeCamillis' guys started the practice working on the finer points of blocking field goals and punts. Reggie Herring took the left side of the rush on one side of the field, while John Garrett handled the right side on the other half. DeCamillis rotated from side to side to monitor the drills. One rusher went for the ball, and then peeled back to block the kicker while a second rusher went after the spiked ball. Assistants kicked volleyballs to discourage hand injuries and to give truer bounces to the blocked balls.
The offense then worked on split field sessions, with the receivers and corners going one-on-one on the left half while the rest of the team went 9-on-9 with runs the only calls. The rotations moved fast, but Alex Barron and Mike Tepper created a lot of space around their perimeter on one sweep. Later, Jay Ratliff established order for the first unit by beating a Phil Costa/Travis Bright double team before stuffing the runner. The rookies Tepper and Josh Brent had a hard-core battle. Brent has a pretty deep repertoire for a rookie, with a solid rip move, swim move and a pretty strong bull rush. He had Tepper hanging on.
The teams then went full scrimmage two-minute, no-huddle attacks. The first offense, with Crayton and Hurd outside, went at the 2nd defense. Jason Witten got the drive started with a quick 8 yard out. The defense was blitzing on every down and Romo showed extraordinary communication with Crayton, hitting the receiver on three consecutive plays just ahead of the rush. Crayton caught a square-in short of the safeties and finished with a velcro snag of a fade over Orlando Scrandrick. Romo was throwing to spots with the rush in his face and Crayton got to those spots every time -- and made the catch.
The starting wideouts replaced the backups when the offense got inside the ten and Roy Williams missed a Romo bullet in the left corner. On the next play, the QB lobbed a fade to Miles Austin, who made his over-the-shoulder grab.
Jon Kitna took the 2nd offense against the 1st defense and moved well from his 30 to the defense's 20. He also faced steady blitzes and completed two quick outs to Kevin Ogletree in front of Mike Jenkins. Kitna then hit a long seam to Martellus Bennett to get his unit into the pre-red zone. Stephen Bowen then beat Tepper with a strong inside rush to stop the drive. The coaches waved the field goal unit on the field and David Buehler hit his field goal.
Stephen McGee then led the 3rd offense and moved his team. McGee made a fearless pass over Jamar Wall to Titus Ryan up the right sideline. Ryan was McGee's target of choice and this second catch put McGee's group inside the five. The coaches brought the ball back to the 30, where the ubiquitous Cletis Gordon picked off a McGee out, ending the scrimmage. Buehler was waved on and nailed a 42 yarder to end Dallas' day.
In the morning report, I noted that the quarterbacks were getting the ball off in eight seconds in the no-huddle drill. I wondered how much time we should add if linemen were added to the workout. This afternoon, I got my answer. Romo, Kitna and McGee all got plays off between 9 and 12 seconds when in hurry-up mode. The Cowboys are getting close to being full speed.
-- Soft Collisions -- the secondary again worked on one-on-one tackling in space, with the tacklers making soft collisions, wrapping up the ball carrier and lifting him slightly off the ground. Dave Campo and Brett Maxie stressed proper angles, helmet placement, shoulder placement and keeping a straight back, chastising DBs who bowed their backs when wrapping up the runner.
-- The Pasqualoni Effect? In the pre-practice drills, several defensive linemen squared off and worked on smacking the other lineman's hands away. It has the look of a Mr. Miyagi "wax-on, wax-off" exercise, but it explains a lot. I've noted in previous reports that interior linemen like Igor Olshanky, one of the participants here, look much better at getting an offensive lineman's hands off their bodies. The DL clearly are working at getting free and improving their upfield rushes.
-- Making the extraordinary ordinary, part three: the corners and safeties practiced the same over-the-shoulder and one-handed grabs the receivers tried yesterday. They grabbed a surprising (or perhaps not so surprising number) of one-handers.
-- The secondary spent a lot of time working on recognizing and matching up against spread formation sets, especially 4 WR packages. Does Dallas' staff expect lots of wide sets from Cincinnati?
-- The Haynesworth Sprints: The Cowboys finished their workout by lining up the entire team for a 200 yard sprint, two circuits from one sideline to the other. I took out my stopwatch and timed the stragglers, Mike Tepper and Robert Brewster. They concluded their circuits in 48 seconds, a 24 second split, with an anticipated time of 1:12, two seconds off the limit Albert Haynesworth has yet to reach in Washington. Of course, the team ran theirs after an hour and 45 minutes full-contact practice.
And in fairness to Haynesworth, none of these guys need shots of synovial fluid in their knees. Funny why nobody has pondered that as the reason Albert can't run, no?