Rowdy works the crowd at Cowboys camp in Oxnard.
Practice on Tuesday began much like it did on Monday, with most of the rookie class walking onto the field before the official start of practice.
And before practice started in earnest, OC coach Callahan was already doing snapping drills on the side with Harland Gunn, David Arkin and Phil Costa, all of whom would play center during the course of the day for an injury-depleted O-line. 15 minutes later the horn blew at 2:30 sharp and the players started stretching and warming up, followed by positional drills.
This is what the Cowboys call the blue practice. In the first thirty minutes of practice, all the rookies and the young players get to practice. The next thirty minutes are devoted to special teams work, after which the veterans join the team for two hours of full team practice.
Unfortunately, most of the practicing was done on the far field today, which made it very hard to follow what was going on from the publicly accessible areas. A chronological narrative won't make a lot of sense, so after the break I'll instead focus on the highlights that I saw at camp today.
- While the rookies were practicing and the veterans were warming up, Kyle Orton and Phil Costa were already off on the side of the field practicing snaps.
- Mackenzy Bernadeau was on the field, and was even wearing his uniform, but he didn't take part in practice. Instead he was shadowing the O-line players the whole time and taking part in the teaching. This makes me assume that his return to the team shouldn't be all that far off.
- It was almost impossible for me today to see anything of relevance from both the offensive and defensive lines because they were so far away, but one thing that has stood out over the last two days is the amount of teaching Bill Callahan is doing with his charges: where other position groups would run standard position drills, Callahan was continuously working with, teaching and coaching his linemen.
- The benefit of the "blue practice" became especially apparent when I watched TE coach John Garrett coaching his three rookies for an extended period. One coach, three players. That amount of dedicated attention by the position coach has to bear fruit.
- From what I saw, Kyle Wilber had a very good day. I saw at least two plays in which he would have recorded a sack and another one in which he blocked a pass. Today at least it looked like the offense had no answer for Wilber. The autocorrect function on my phone kept spelling Wilber as "Wilberforce". Today, Wilber was indeed a force on the field. And I kind of like that name so I think I'll stick with it. Wilberforce. Niiice.
- Akwasi Owusu-Ansah has been moved back to corner and picked off Stephen McGee early. Not sure that this constant back-and-forth will improve his chances of making the roster.
- Interestingly, Sean Lissemore made an entrance with the starters later during practice. This may not mean anything of course, but BTB-favorite Lissemore will likely challenge for a starting spot throughout camp.
- Jay Ratliff was working on the sideline against a blocking sled early, and took part in a teaching/technique drill with the D-line later on but did not actively participate in practice. And from the way the players lined up, the D-line starters currently project as LDE Coleman, NT Ratliff and RDE Hatcher.
- Rob Ryan continues to throw his entire playbook at the offense, even though we're not even in pads yet and practice is still at 3/4 speed. Blitzes from all areas, odd fronts, even fronts (LDE Spencer, LDT Coleman, RDT Hatcher, RDE Ware) and an incredible amount of movement: At one point I thought they were in a four-man front but then they started moving purposefully around and once the play started there were only two guys left with their hand on the ground. And it went so fast I couldn't even identify who was left with their hands on the ground.
- Andre Holmes, Felix Jones and Brodney Pool were working on the sideline in a group that also included Mike Jenkins. Coach Woicik did not leave them out of his sight for a second. Felix Jones had the temerity to laugh during part of the drill, which drew a snarky remark from Tim MacMahon at ESPN, who apparently believes that players shouldn't be allowed to smile in camp.
- I watched Mike Jenkins closely as he was running and sprinting with the three others, and I liked what I saw: He looked smooth, didn't favor his shoulder at all and didn't seem to have any conditioning issues. The hope here obviously is that his doctor's visit on Monday will reflect that, but it's too early to speculate.
- Watching Dez Bryant perform on the field is incredible. This is a player who is extremely smooth yet incredibly powerful at the same time - and he knows it. His play oozes a self-confidence that borders on the intimidating. Plus the guy catches everything. Except punts. A Dez Bryant in this form will blow away the NFL when the season starts.
- Dez Bryant vs Morris Claiborne was a bit of a lopsided affair today, with Dez easily coming out on top. The defense as a whole still needs to figure out how to deal with crossing routes. Miles and Dez regularly get a lot of separation on crossing routes against both corners.
- Jason Garrett grew impatient with the tempo of practice at some point and was heard hollering for the team to pick up the tempo. All plays are played against a live clock to simulate game-type situations, and the team didn't always get the play off in time. This was especially worrisome because most of the plays today saw the team practicing third down situations.
- Barry Church had another good practice, with an interception of a Romo pass and a couple of other good plays. He is solidifying his position in the secondary, and if Pool doesn't come back quickly, Pool may find himself playing on the second team.
- I had the feeling that I saw a lot of passes to the fullbacks today, and I liked what I saw from both Lawrence Vickers and Jamize Olawale. Of course, their primary job is to block, and we haven't seen that yet, but to finally have a fullback than can also be a threat in the flat as a receiver would be a nice bonus for this offense.
- Towards the end of practice we got a first glimpse of what we hope the defense could look like this season: Jason Hatcher got a sack on Tony Romo after Romo simply could not find a target to throw to because everyone was covered. At the end, the time was simply up and Hatcher got to him.
.That's it from Tuesday's practice, more hopefully on Wednesday as the team puts on pads for the first time.