My first training camp practice report of the Jason Garrett era. I may cover some ground that's been done before in the previous practices, but I want a complete account of what I saw. Excuse any typos, I wanted to get this up quickly.
All of the free agents were in practice today except for Abram Elam, at least I never saw him on the field. But guys like Gerald Sensabaugh, Marcus Spears, Doug Free, Kyle Kosier and the rest all participated. After some brief stretching, the team went into special teams work, first were kickoff returns. They were at 3/4 speed to start working on directional returns with half of the field. The first return guy was AOA, followed by Bryan McCann, Dwayne Harris and Kevin Ogletree. Martellus Bennett was working some on the second unit as part of the 2-man wedge. After the split field, they practiced some full returns with McCann showing some good patience on one return. There was a little bit of hitting in the drills, on one play Bennett flattened punter Chris Jones who was helping out on the coverage unit. Chris Gronkowski also got another brutal block in the session.
The team moved on to some positional work, with the QBs and WRs running skeleton routes; at the other end there was a lot of teaching going on with Rob Ryan and Matt Eberflus working with the LBs on stunts. The d-line was practicing techniques and Jason Hatcher was now working on the right side at DE. While the receivers were working on their routes, Jason Garrett was paying special attention, lining up about 12-15 yards deep on one side making sure the receivers were using proper technique on their cuts. He even shadowed Dez Bryant a couple of times like a DB at the cut spot.
We got our first look at 11-on-11 for the practice in the next session, but it was mainly the rookies and backups as most of the 'big-name' vets had yet to take the field. Stephen McGee was the QB. His first play was a short pass, then Ryan dialed up a blitz with the LBs and Hatcher shot through with good pressure. The offense tried a run next, but Ryan's defense held a meeting in the backfield and snuffed it out. The offense tried a pass but the protection broke down. Dez caught a short pass; then Hatcher busted up Bill Nagy on his way to the QB. Lonyae Miller got a nice run to the left side of the line; then McGee dropped back to pass and had all day but dumped it short. On the next play, McGee had one of his better moments when he dropped a deep pass between the safety and the corner to Titus Ryan. LB Alex Albright gave up contain on the outside and McGee rolled out and connected on a short pass. The next defense featured Hatcher at the nose position (Rob Ryan's defense is a trip to watch!), the offense ran a reverse for a little gain. On the last play, Dez showed a little bit of 'alligator arms' while dropping a pass with CB Mario Butler charging hard.
They broke up for some short condition drills and some passing drills. Next, they did some drills I was sure happy to see. They were all about the defense creating turnovers, and doing something with a turnover once they got it. First, a receiver ran a hook and caught the ball and turned upfield to run. Two defensive men immediately collapsed on him and did everything they could to rip the ball loose. If the receiver made it through those two guys, he had to do it again with two more defenders further upfield. In this drill I saw Dwayne Harris, Tysson Poots and John Phillips put the ball on the turf. The defense then moved to one side and lined up, Rob Ryan would throw an intentional interception and the defense would return and try to set up some blocking. Turnovers, baby!
They broke up into units again for some work on the blocking sleds, some agility drills and some skills drills.
One thing about Garrett's practices as opposed to Wade Phillips or Bill Parcells was the mixing of personnel, there wasn't as much regimented runnings of the 1st-unit, the 2nd-unit, then the third, guys were mixed up a little more. Some of that was due to the fact that Garrett let the big-name vets come on the field much later in the practice.
In the skeleton drills with QBs, RBs and WRs, they ran a lot of 2-TE sets with the TEs bunched on one side and the WRs on the other. They even had Bennett in a wing position on some formations.
They moved back to 11-on-11, this time with a lot of the starters. Kevin Ogletree ran with the 1's on some of the three WR sets. On defense, Orlando Scandrick was replacing Terence Newman on the outside at corner, then would kick inside on the nickel and Alan Ball would man the outside corner. During this part of the 11-on-11, they were practicing rushing the FG unit onto the field as time wound down after they ran a regular offensive play. During this session, Rob Ryan called a variety of different defenses, sometimes blitzing, other times with a two-man rush, once with no rush at all. It ended with a 50-yard FG on a rush-job that was good by Dan Bailey.
The first unit on defense generally looked like (DL) Spears, Ratliff and Olshansky, (LB) Ware, James, Lee and Spencer, (CB/S) Scandrick, Sensabaugh, Chuch and Jenkins. The 2nd unit was (DL) Coleman, Brent and Hatcher, (LB) Butler, Cummings, Greenhouse, and Williams, (CB/S) Ball, AOA, McCray and McCann. Again, this was more fluid than in past years, so guys were subbing in and out a lot.
On offense, the line was as expected - Free, Kosier, Costa (for Gurode), Holland and Smith. On the second unit, David Arkin has moved over to the right side behind Holland. Sam Young was the right tackle backup, and Jermey Parnell worked the left side backup.
They ran some more 11-on-11 that was focused on the run, but the defense was stuffing it lead by Ware, Spencer and Olshansky. There were also multiple offsides and false starts in this session. Later in the session, Sensabaugh had a nice play in coverage, Lee turned a run back into traffic, and Cummings made a couple of nice plays on runs.
A break for some punt blocking drills and some line blocking drills for FGs.
The team divided for 7-on-7 drills on one side, and o-line vs. d-line on the other. I was more interested in the OL/DL matchups. Tyron Smith stood-up Victor Butler, Ratliff ate up Holland (I mean blew right by him), and Costa and Brent had a pretty even battle. Hatcher fell to the ground against Kosier, Free had no problem with Brandon Williams, and Kenyon Coleman abused Young. Arkin gave up too much ground to Lissemore but managed to stay in front of him, Billy Blackard put a wicked spin move on Nagy, and Olshansky got a good push on Kevin Kowalski. Hatcher blew by Parnell then they moved to some two-man stunts. Holland and Smith did a good job on Ratliff and Clifton Geathers, but when they did it again, Geathers slid by Holland. Kosier and Free handled Ware and Hatcher, the second time Ware got around the edge but might have been too wide of the spot for the QB. Costa and Kosier were good on Brent and Lissemore, then Olshansky and Geathers got the better of Arkin and his partner (missed the number) as Arkin was slow to switch off his initial block.
Back to 11-on-11. Ware blew past Free and Butler beat a Felix Jones block for good pressure. During this play and on several subsequent plays, Ryan called a defense with only two down lineman and four OLBs with the rest secondary players. Spencer got into Romo's face on the next play, then Jesse Holley beat Alan Ball deep down the seam but dropped the ball! Sean Lee had nice coverage on a Felix swing pass, then came a string of short passes to Bennett but he dropped a couple. AOA came on a blitz from deep in the secondary but Kitna got the ball out just in time, but overthrew the pass. The next two plays were bad passes from McGee as he was under heavy pressure from blitzes.
The final session was a drive from the 20 with 2:30 left on the clock simulating the end of the game. This was run with the starters. First was a draw to Felix for a short gain, then Romo hit a lineman on the helmet with a pass. On 3rd down, Romo connected with Austin in front of Scandrick for a first down. Felix tried a draw but Ratliff disrupted it, then Romo threw towards Austin up the seam, the play was broken up by Church but he was called for pass interference, first down offense. After a pass that was high to Dez who couldn't corral it, Romo hit Dez on a slant for 13 yards beating Jenkins and getting a first down. The offense called timeout. Austin then caught a crossing pattern in front of Sensabaugh, and Felix caught a pass for 8 yards that resulted in a first down. The offense used its second timeout. After a Smith false start, Dez caught a short pass and the offense was in the redzone. On second down, McCray broke up a pass for Witten in the endzone, next Romo had to dump the ball when his first read to Ogletree was snuffed out by good coverage from Jenkins and the rush was getting to him. On 4th and 10, Dez made a catch over the middle but Jenkins made the stop short of a first down. The defense wins.
That was the end of practice.