BTB readers: At training camp, I made the acquaintance of a die-hard Cowboys fan (and frequent BTB reader) who was going to continue on to San Diego to watch our star-wearin' chums scrimmage with the Chargers. I asked him if he would be willing to file a field report on the goings-on in America's Finest City. He willingly agreed, but under conditions of anonymity. When he got there, he discovered that the practice was closed to all but Chargers season ticket holders; however, our intrepid friend called upon some connections, and sent me the following from a Chargers season ticket holder who is also a Cowboys fan. As you will see, what he shared with us was above and beyond the call. Enjoy!
The Chargers' practice facility is directly behind the Charger offices, consisting of two grass football fields side by side, with a third 50-yard field perpendicular to the south. There was one set of aluminum bleachers on the far football field opposite the Charger offices with no cover. Fans were allowed to stand on the sidelines of the far field opposite the Chargers' offices, and thus like Oxnard, there was a near field with good vision and a far football field where it was harder to see. There was no shade and the sun was hot, mid 80s when the practice started around 10.
The Cowboys arrived by bus from their hotel, already dressed in full gear. The Cowboys did the same beginning practice drills on the near field as they did in Oxnard: walkthrough, warm up (lineman doing high steps, backs and receivers doing pat and go), team stretch, then the same individual drills. During team stretch, Garrett was walking around saying "It's just a football field" and "Let's go men, get your mind right. It's a football field."
The two teams came together on the far field for special teams that were not live. The one thing that stood out was how aggressive the Chargers gunners on punt coverage were and how aggressive all the Charger players were on kick coverage, even at less than full speed. The Cowboys seemed to pick up the intensity after getting popped a few times with chest shots (where the Charger player hit the Cowboy player in chest, but did not take them to the ground).
How did the Cowboys fare during the rest of the practice? Make the jump to find out!The remainder of practice was divided on the two fields - the Cowboy offense against the Charger defense on the near field, and the Charger offense against the Cowboy defense on the far field. Interestingly, the teams did some full team work to start, and although running backs and receivers were not taken to the ground, the speed was live. Of course QBs were not hit. The teams then followed with one-on-one receivers/ DBs on one end and inside running drill on the other end; then 7-on-7 on one end and pass rush drills on the other end; and then finally more team on team. The highlights were as follows:
-Doug Free should be a concern. I am not sure what happened to the Free of two years ago. Free was beaten both inside and outside in the pass rush drills by the likes of Larry English. Melvin Ingram beat Jeff Adams, but never went up against Smith, who stoned everyone he faced. Bernadeau really anchored well against the bull rush, and consistently won in the pass rush drills. It was difficult to see our defense in pass rush drills, but Robert Callaway deposited the Charger backup center in the QB's lap twice in a row, and Adrian Hamilton had some feast or famine success, one time bending low and getting around the edge and another time bending low and getting planted in the ground. I could not really see the first teamers' efforts.
-I did not see Dez get injured, but was struck by the fact that, after he was hurt, very few passes went to the wide receivers with Romo at QB. The first team had success to the tight ends, Phillips in particular, and to the backs. But Ogletree et al. could not get separation from the Chargers first team corners, Jammer and Cason (unlike the Cowboys, the Chargers had their names on the backs of their jerseys). In fact, before he was hurt, Dez could not shake Cason on an out in one-on-one.
-In the team run, the offensive line had more success than in the pass rush drill and got more of a push. Murray looked as good as he looked in the preseason game, but Jones looked even slower. As has always been true, Jones just does not always see the hole. He also dropped a pass in the flat. I wonder if Jones' weight is up, if he is still recovering from injury and getting in shape, or if he has just lost that split second of quickness that some running backs lose after a few years.
-On the far field, Lionel Smith stood out. He broke up two deep passes, one where he looked beat but used his good speed to close the gap and then found the ball at the last instant to bat it away. I like him, but he has not moved up the depth chart and likely won't make the team. Carr continued where he left off in the preseason game, breaking up passes. However, the first team secondary gave up some big gainers, and Rivers seemed to be able to find the holes whenever the Cowboys played zone. My view was not great, but it looked like on at least one of these, Rivers would have been sacked by a blitzer if the play was live, and so the secondary was being asked to cover longer than the play was designed for.
-Akwasi Owusu Ansah can't play, and he continued to prove that against the Chargers. Teddy Williams showed against the Chargers on defense what he shows in his kick returns--he has the athletic ability (and even the technique now) to play corner or return kicks, but he is just not physical enough to play professional football.
-Overall, the Cowboys competed well and did not look overmatched. This was true even of the 2s and 3s, who were clearly beaten by their Charger counterparts in the game.
Many thanks to our Cowboys-lovin' friends for their superb work. I'll try to convince them to author another report from Tuesday's scrimmage!