Cowboys Training Camp Report 17: Third Down Wednesday

Dallas wore shorts and pads today in a two hour workout which began with extended special teams drills and lengthy walk-throughs of short yardage and goal-line plays.  

When the team finally scrimmaged, it worked on 3rd down passing, with all three offensive units mis-matched againt the defenses.  The 1st offense threw most of its reps against the 2nd D; the 2nd O got the 3rd D and Stephen McGee's group drew the first-team D.  

Tony Romo's guys went 6 for 9 on their downs, with Roy Williams converting two 3nd-and-11s, one on a comeback route on the left sideline and the second a diagonal route under Miles Austin from a slot-right formation.  Blitzing was heavy by every defense and the first squad was very effective at stopping interior twists and A-gap overloads by the inside backers.   Romo completed a nice sideline toss to Patrick Crayton between the lines of the zone.  

Jon Kitna's group struggled in its series.  The protection was fair but Kitna under-threw several targets.  He jumped out of his first series after apparently jamming a finger.  He returned to action his next rotation and appeared okay.  McGee could still use some reps with a better line.  He had roll-outs called but he's not getting very much time against Demarcus Ware and the first-teammers. 

The scrimmaging was slower than normal, with the middle of the practice taken up by extra 11-on-air work by the offense and coverage drills by the defensive backs.  Contact was almost nil this afternoon, at least until the passing drills.  The Cowboys appear to be pacing their contact, saving up for Bengals this weekend.  

Notes

-- Victor Butler got extra reps with the first-team defense in the final drills today.  Butler has been backing up Anthony Spencer all camp.  He continued his strong rush work with some effective dashes around the edge.  He stood up Martellus Bennett on one play and rode the TE back to the quarterback.   Earlier, he made Scott Sicko look like a rookie with a flying ole move which left Sicko grasping for air. 

Butler has worked exclusively as the strong-side OLB with Brandon Williams getting all the snaps at WOLB behind Demarcus Ware.  Butler showed some quality coverage skills early in camp and has menaced the right tackles and tight ends in more recent practices.  The second-year linebackers have all taken steps forward this summer and Butler does his part. 

-- Six deep at WR?  The top four in the team's totem look set after two weeks.  Last year's trio of Austin, Williams and Crayton retain their spots and Dez Bryant will claim his spot when he returns.  I think the team has to take two more wideouts and while Kevin Ogletree and Sam Hurd look strong, I would not discount Jesse Holley's chances.  He'll have to make some big plays in the pre-season games but he has made his share of grabs in the 11-on-11s.  He's a long-shot, but he beat the odds to make the practice squad last year.  

-- David Buehler was 5-of-6 in his drill, nailing kicks between 24 and 48 yards.  His lone miss was a 56 yard attempt which hit the left upright. 

-- He's got a knack:  Sean Lee returned to drills today, working mostly with the third-team defense.  His ballyhooed instincts returned intact; he recognized and blew up a Felix Jones screen working against the first-team defense.  He's got some ground to make up but Lee appears able. 

-- Welcome back, rookie:  I saw some intriguing skills from rookie NT Josh Brent last week, who caught Andre Gurode flat-footed in a first-week rush drill.  Brent then lost a week to a broken hand.  He's back and Gurode showed the rookie that he has an elephant's memory;  Brent got the worst or two duels in the 11-on-11s.  Gurode rolled Brent on a Marion Barber draw, showing that he's the boss. 

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