A young fan enjoys the first day of Cowboys camp in Oxnard.
What a circus!
I have no idea how many people were at camp today, but it felt like a lot. The fences and bleachers were packed with Cowboys fans decked out in blue and silver. And they got their money's worth today (although technically, many of the visitors didn't pay more than the 10$ parking fee):
We got the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders doing their stuff and singing the national anthem; we had some Oxnard dignitaries on the field; some flag-carriers from the nearby Navy base; Jerry making sounds about giving the Giants a good-ole-whoopin'-of-the behind. And we had Skydivers. SKYDIVERS! With the Stars and Stripes. And with the Cowboy Star.
That was all Jerry-time. At precisely 2:30 pm PT, the whistle blew and it was Garrett time, the circus was over and the Cowboys got down to the business of training camp.
The day started with the team doing stretching exercises, although most of the star players remained in the locker room while this was gong on. Stretching was followed by some positional drills, which were conducted in individual groups and carried out at a brisk pace.
Callahan had his linemen on the side (as he would often throughout the day) and instructing them, the linebackers were off somewhere else and I was watching the wide receivers taking practice passes. Interestingly, the WR group included fullbacks Shaun Chapas and Jamize Olawale, while the RBs were off somewhere else. Olawale in particular looked good catching the ball out of the backfield.
All the while Garrett was standing back, surveying practice like a field general while his coaches were going through the drills and teaching their players. All of this was done at a brisk and business-like pace, and the pace picked up a little more with the first 11-on-11 drills (still without the starters).
One standout play was an interception Teddy Williams had against Cole Beasley, although technically it was against air: Williams held Beasley early on his route, and when McGee let the ball rip, Williams hustled to make a beatiful diving catch of the ball. Good effort, and for what it's worth, the refs didn't blow the play dead.
In this early action of seconds versus seconds and thirds against thirds, Justin Taplin-Ross and Eddie Whitley were taking reps with the second team. Later on, Barry Church and Danny McCray would work the safety spots for the first team.
Today was the first real chance I had to see Clifton Geathers. What a mountain of a man! At 6-7 he's the tallest guy on the roster and you could see that from 100 feet away. He was lined up at LDE with the second team and looked good.
About 20 minutes into practice, the starters began making their way onto the field. Dez Bryant was one of the first out and was met with loud cheers, as were Ware, Witten, Romo and Austin later.
After those early 11-on-11 drills the team moved on to punts, with two punting units lined up behind each other and punting sequentially. I guess this increases the amount of reps the team can squeeze into their allotted time. Lined up as returners were Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Dwayne Harris and Kevin Ogletree. Chris Jones got some nice length on his punts, but struggled with accuracy, twice kicking balls into the spectators on the right, and twice almost killing coach Callahan on the left side of the field. All four balls did go pretty far though, as did the balls that stayed in bounds. All four returners caught the ball without major incidents.
The players then gathered for another round of stretching, which was pretty unremarkable except for a few chance observations:Claiborne has apparently decided that Brandon Carr is his new BFF. He was shadowing him everywhere and they were stretching together. Both seemed to be in a good mood and laughing together. Not far away, Mike Jenkins was stretching as well, and he got special attention from Coach Woicik, who came over to Jenkins, watched him stretch and exchanged some pleasantries that had both men smiling.
The practice continued with 11-on-11 drills, this time with the starters. Again, the practice was conducted at a brisk, almost energetic pace. Overall, most of the practice felt like it was designed to help the players get their heads back into football, and to get themselves mentally straight.Couple of highlights from the 11-on-11 drills:
- Cowboys were showing some 4-3 packages and had Lee, Connor and Carter lined up on occasion
- Romo executed a beautiful back-shoulder throw to Austin, after their previous attempt had been an incomplete
- Claiborne was beat on occasion by both Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, but always recovered quickly.
- Rob Ryan was blitzing everything: safeties, linebackers, corners, everybody got a little blitzing action.
- Salim Hakim had a fine catch-and-run TD on a McGee pass and was able to showcase his speed.
After the 11-on-11 drills, individual practices continued. I was standing close to the wide receivers and watched an amazing display of synchronized receiving by Bryant and Austin. Both ran the same routes on opposite sides of the field against air, both were thrown the ball at the same time, and both had to cut at the same time to get to the ball. The precision with which the two players executed these routes was astonishing, it was almost like watching the same player in two places at the same time.
The only other player to show similar route-running skills was Cole Beasley, who had a great day in my estimation. Where other receivers would cut and then turn their head looking for the ball before proceeding along their route, Beasley would cut and immediately be running along his route in anticipation of where the ball would be. He did get a couple of balls thrown too high for him to catch, but he brought down just about everything else.
The entire practice looked like it was conducted at 3/4 speed, so there is still a way to go before what we saw today means anything, but here are some more players that caught my eye:
- I think James Hanna caught every ball thrown his way. He showed soft hands, looked the ball into his hands and in general looked like what his measurables indicate he could be.
- The fullbacks caught all balls thrown their way without incident. That bodes well. And I liked what I saw from Jamize Olawale.
- When the stars like Bryant, Austin or Murray get the ball, it is a markedly different thing than when some of the UDFAs get the ball. Their game is simply at an entirely different level, and even practicing at 3/4 speed that was very obvious.
- Ed Wesley looked to have had a good day. He got into trouble with his coach once when he didn't finish a run, but overall he looked powerful and authoritative running the ball. Not smooth or elegant, but impactful. Sort of like a pocket Hercules.
- Barry Church looked very confident in the secondary and was quite vocal throughout, barking out orders left and right.
- Cole Beasley was lining up outside a lot. There was some miscommunication on at least two of his routes (don't know whether it was his or the QBs fault) but he did haul in some nice passes, including some long ones.
- Lots of WR reverses at camp today. Don't know if that's going to be part of the plan this season, but I am not overly enthusiastic about this.
- Orie Lemon had a nice pick of an Orton pass that would have been a pick six.
- Practice ended, get this, with wind sprints. As BTB-member stubabe remarked to me, "Welcome to high school football". This is Garrett's camp. In today's NFL, you can't run camps anymore the way Jimmy Johnson did. But Garrett looks like he's going to try to get as close as he can get to that in today's NFL.