The VRR: Cowboys Eager to Hit Non-Cowboys

For nearly two full weeks the Dallas Cowboys have been at the Alamodome, competing against each other.  Although they try not to take down ball carriers and quarterbacks, there has been a fair share of hitting during camp. And as Raf noted yesterday, the players "can smell the Hall of Fame Game".

Patience, Dallas defenders. Soon you will be hitting orange & black instead of blue & silver. Very soon.

"We are looking forward to hitting someone different," says linebacker Keith Brooking. "We have really good tempo going on in practice during training camp right now, but still the tempo, the speed of the game picks up a great deal when you get to the preseason game and then obviously it's another notch when it gets to the regular season. We need that work out there in full speed going against another opponent and we have some good tests in the preseason."

More VRR after the jump.

For new starters, it will be interesting to see how they gel with their respective units against live competition.

"I'm definitely eager," says safety Alan Ball. "This is game week for us. So I’m excited to go out there and play someone other than our receivers and quarterbacks."

Yesterday, the Cowboys released their Hall of Fame Game Depth Chart.

Nick Eatman shares his thoughts on it.

What jumped out first for me was the kick and punt returners, which had Titus Ryan as the first choice in both area. At running back Herb Donaldson is ahead of Lonyae Miller, although I think Miller is going to get his share of reps.

And at fourth cornerback, Mr. Interception Cletis Gordon is the second-team cornerback, ahead of Jamar Wall.

This current Dallas squad will see much of its 2008 self on Sunday, as the Delorean takes them back to the days of Tank Johnson, Adam Jones, and Roy Williams...I feel like I'm forgetting somebody. Anyways, Bradie James says it's all "business".

We are just going to see them. It's a business trip for us so that's about it. We are just going out there doing what we need to do and whatever (Terrell Owens) has to do he has to do. But, it's a business trip for us; we want to see where we are. We have been working hard and get a chance to see all the work we have been putting in.

Cincinnati's Depth Chart

No doubt Sean Lee (strained quad), who is set to return to practice today, could use some more practice reps. Bradie James sure wouldn't mind another breather or two.

"I don't know if it's a setback," James said. "I just know the vets have to take more reps because he's not in there, so he needs to get back." Lee is expected to return to practice this afternoon. It's about time, if you ask James.

"If we can get the rookie to ever come out and practice, it will be good, you know what I mean," James said. "I'm sure he's going to get a storyline return, but he needs to get his butt back out here and practice."

DB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is also expected back today.

Owusu-Ansah, a safety, has not practiced since the Cowboys drafted him in the fourth round. He had off-season shoulder surgery and tweaked a hamstring while conditioning.

Below, the former #94 shares his knowledge with the current #94...

Even with a change at the free safety position, Dave Campo could have himself an even stronger secondary unit than last season's.

"I like Alan Ball," Campo said, after practice at the Alamodome. "Alan Ball I trust. Alan Ball is a guy who brings a great speed to the position. "There's going to be some transition. That's why we've got preseason games. But I've seen him in action. I've seen him start three ballgames, critical ballgames, including one that we won 7-6. "So I know the kid can play."

For the Cowboys' secondary, the change didn't come overnight. Last year's pass defense was 20th in the league in yards given up. The Cowboys also were fifth-worst in interceptions. Turnovers are the next step, Ball said.

"We have a great offense," he said. "We have to try to get the ball in their hands."

The "ubiquitous" Cletis Gordon: Dallas' 4th corner?

"I definitely have the opportunity," said Gordon, who has bounced around between four teams since signing with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent out of Jackson State in 2006. "I feel like here with the Cowboys, if you perform well, they give you the opportunity to play. That's just what I'm trying to do."

So far, he's done just that. Gordon intercepted three passes Tuesday at the Alamodome, two of which came during team drills and could have been taken the distance. Late last week, Gordon picked off Tony Romo and headed the other way with one arm pointing skyward.

Sounds like a pretty talented team when a couple of the bigger worries are 4th CB and backup center. While Gordon looks to be taking care of the former, the latter will be most likely be decided during preseason. Although Travis Bright and Phil Costa are listed on the depth chart behind Andre Gurode, the regular season option would most likely be Kyle Kosier. If such a move were needed, Montrae Holland would step in for Kosier at left guard.

"We're working on it," Houck said of the backup center. "With a backup it's Kyle. We got to work him more." When asked would Kosier benefit by playing center during the preseason, Houck said, "We haven’t' talked about it. It's probably a pretty good idea."

High ankle sprains. You don't want those to linger, especially for a talent such as Dez Bryant. Jerry Jones knows Bryant is eager to get back on the field, but seems to be looking at the big picture.

Well, I think that first of all, Dez is likely to progress faster because he’s really young and plus, he’s got a very healing attitude about getting out there.

Now, the problem with that high ankle sprain is that people want to get back out on it too fast. Players play with sprains all the time but if you really want to get over it, totally get over it and get well, you get off of it. And that’s a little bit of the dilemma here.

He got a lot of work in and I don’t think it set us back.

Despite arm soreness, Tony Romo should be playing this Sunday against the Bengals. What do you think the over/under is for how many series he plays? Two? Perhaps Sunday we will see Stephen McGee's arm get sore.

"Now we’ll wear them down again," Phillips said, "because we are still in training camp and we have two two-a-days this week so we won't be as fresh as a regular season game but fresh enough to do well in the [preseason] game individually anyway."

For upcoming fantasy drafts, Tony Romo's stock is on the rise.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: No, he hasn't thrown a pass recently, and I have no idea who he's dating, but I simply think I was underrating him and the second tier of quarterbacks. Romo scored more fantasy points than Tom Brady last season, and I don't view the difference between them as being so large as I had it.

Also, I think Dez Bryant will be a terrific weapon -- I hadn't been ranking the rookie well enough, either -- so watch out for this Cowboys' passing offense. Romo moves into my top 45, passing Matt Schaub.

The Alamodome's attendance numbers for Cowboys Training Camp:

Tuesday (morning, 3,646; afternoon, 5,222), camp total (175,908)

Troy Aikman was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame last night.

Aikman moved from California to Oklahoma at age 12 and he went to junior high and high school in Henryetta before playing for the Sooners his first two years of college. He says he learned the value of integrity, how a handshake is as good as a contract and "a lot of things that tend to stick with you for the rest of your life."

"I've lived in Texas now longer than anywhere and then California and then Oklahoma, but yet Oklahoma is what I consider home," said Aikman, who moved on to play for UCLA before a 12-year career in the NFL.

"It's the people that I feel that I probably identify with the best."

For those traveling to Canton, here are all the events planned for the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival.

Here's an early X-mas present idea for the Cowboys fans in your life. The Maple Street Press Cowboys Annual is available. Order your copy today!

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