When the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers announced in early May that they would hold joint practice sessions in San Diego from Aug. 20-21, it hardly warranted a mention here on BTB, only making it to the frontpage as one item among many in one of our news roundups.
One of the reason the joint practices are not receiving a lot of attention is that this will be the second straight year the Chargers and Cowboys have scheduled these practices. This year though, instead of having them in the Texas heat, the two practices will be held in San Diego following the two teams' preseason game on August 18.
And while joint practices with other teams aren't scheduled every year, the Cowboys have frequently had these practices in the past with the likes of the Broncos and Raiders, so much so that a joint practice feels like the norm for the Cowboys. But a look around the league indicates that for most teams, joint practices are the exception, not the norm.
This year, in addition to the Cowboys/Chargers it looks like only the Chiefs/Cardinals and Falcons/Titans will have joint practices, while the Patriots and Saints are still in discussion about potential joint workouts. But that's about it.
Matt Bowen, a former safety in the NFL,argues that joint practices are a great tool in the evaluation process because they provide more competition and more opportunity to practice (and show up on film) in a "live" environment:
Think of it this way: these joint practices are scripted. You can get 15 plays in the red zone, work the 4-minute drill, 3rd downs and also dedicate time to special teams in a competitive setting. The coaching staffs have control over the game situations they script during these practice or scrimmage sessions - unlike the preseason schedule.
There is no guarantee your first or second unit will get to work on their 2-minute package or use their goal line personnel under the lights during the preseason. It all depends on the flow of the game, number of reps, etc.
Much different when you meet up with an opposing club during camp. Multiple reps for the entire depth chart and a much higher level of competition than players will see on a daily basis practicing against their own teammates.
The trick with these joint practices of course is to not let them degenerate into a two-day brawl, as they often did when the Cowboys and Raiders met up in the 90s. At that time, the joint practices were largely a product of the close relationship Jerry Jones had with Al Davis.
Under Garrett, I can't help but feel that these joint practices will be designed as an intergarl part of "the process". At last year's joint practices, Garrett said:
"Sometimes you can get comfortable working against the same guys. It’s fun to shock the system a little bit."
And who knows, the Chargers might have a second Laurent Robinson waiting for the Cowboys to pick up: Only this time the Chargers' castaway may be a tight end instead of a receiver: Norv Turner currently has seven tight ends on the roster where the Cowboys only have five (and five already feels like a lot).