The intensity of Saturday's practice was tempered this morning as the team worked extensively on kickoffs and on red zone and goal line packages. There was far less hitting and a lot more teaching. Here are highlights, such as they are:
Practice began with two deliberately-paced kick coverage drills. When the team broke into units the d-backs and linebackers worked on red zone coverage, in both the man-to-man and zone schemes. The significant development was that all the coverages were in a base 4-3. It's the first time this week I've seen the defense work extensively with three linebackers.
The first 11-on-11 drill had the team working in a package Jimmy Johnson used to call "Jumbo," a set with two tight ends, two back and one receiver. The J.J. Cowboys used this in three circumstances -- when they were backed inside their own 20; when they were inside an opponents 20 or late in games when they were trying to grind out the clock.
The drill gives more ammunition to the idea that the team may not keep a fullback. Lousaka Polite got some reps but much of the time the Cowboys had three tight ends in the set, with one of them going into motion and lining up in the backfield.
Dallas practiced a lot of "wham" plays out this set. These are trap and power plays popularized by Carolina in its Super Bowl year of 2003; a tight end will go in motion and set just before the snap next to the fullback. This gives the offense two lead blockers for the tailback. Panthers OC Dan Henning, long a friend of Parcells, used this set effectively against the Cowboys that season. The coach clearly feels his old buddy's plays can work for Julius Jones.
The second 11-on-11 drill had the offense practicing its red zone passing game. It's unclear whether the offense regressed after its strong Tuesday, the defense stepped up today, or both. Whatever the case, the defense smothered all the passes to the wideout. In his plays against the first team defense, Drew Bledsoe had to throw the ball away twice and scramble on a third play. He was able to find tight ends but the only pass to a receiver that had a chance was dropped in the deep right corner of the endzone by Keyshawn Johnson, who had a butterfingered morning.
The going was not much better for Tony Romo, who misfired to a couple of open receivers. His best chance at a scoring play went awry when he sailed a throw to an open Quincy Morgan, who was running a post.
Dad, can I have the keys to the Caddy? Drew Henson managed to score in this drill. He was helped by some first teamers, most notably Jason Witten. Witten caught TD passes from Henson on his first two plays, then rotated out. Henson's unit lost its spark when the Caddy was put in the garage.
After a series of field goal drills, the practice ended with the offense working on goalline running and passing plays. The drill was run at half speed, with tackling prohibited. The emphasis was again on recognition and execution.
Petitti watch: Rob Petitti walked on the practice field with a chipper Bill Parcells at his side. The coach offered a mix of advice and encouragement. It's clear the Petitti experiment is still going forward full bore.
Glenn beats everybody: I mentioned yesterday that I had only seen one pass completed against Anthony Henry. Make that at least three. Terry Glenn got away from him a couple of times this morning in seven on seven drills. There is no corner in camp who can hold Glenn down right now. He's more than 100% recovered from his injury. If his body holds up, he can have a huge season. Yes, I know, it's a big if.
How steep is the learning curve? Demarcus Ware has some amazing physical skills but Flozell Adams reminded him today that he's still a rookie. The two squared off in a pass blocking drill and Adams shut him down. Adams got his big mitts on Ware's shoulders. At that point his rush was over. Line coach Kacy Rogers advised Ware on using his hands to rip free from Adams' reach. Until Ware learns better hand use, good tackles will give him trouble. Ware will face one of the NFC's better LTs this Monday when he lines up opposite Walter Jones. Give that matchup some extra attention.
Tuesday leftover: I gave Anthony Thomas some grief Monday for his poor work in a pass blocking drill. Thomas redeemed himself yesterday when he stepped up to stone a blitzing linebacker. His stop allowed Tony Romo to complete a long pass over the middle. Thomas had a very good morning receiving the ball. Given Bill Parcells' comments on Tyson Thompson's learning curve and Marion Barber's struggles, Thomas is set as the #2.
Beri-ouch: Justin Beriault has been limping noticeably all week. His balky knee severely limits his running ability. But Beriault is giving it the old college try, and is earning credit for his work on special teams.
Another Tuesday leftover: Overheard from special team's coach Bruce DeHaven after the first punt return rep of the afternoon, "that's a right return, [Kevin] Burnett, right! You went the wrong way!" Overheard before the second rep, "which is your right hand, Burnett?!! Raise your right hand." (Burnett raises his right hand.) "We're going that way this time."
The lonely guy: Jacob Rogers was a success story of week one, moving to first team at right tackle. Now, his Cowboys future looks shaky. Rob Petitti is getting extra love from Parcells and extra work with the offensive line coaches. Rogers pedals away on an exercise bike with Marco Rivera and Marcus Spears, but they're bulletproof. Rivera is a grizzled, high-priced vet. He's proven. Spears is a high priced rookie. He's yet to prove himself a failure. Rogers, deep into year two has yet to prove anything at all. I saw Torrin Tucker having a laugh with Parcells before practice today. That laugh may be coming at Rogers' expense.
The cartoon QB drill: Assistants have been using large rubber balls to help QBs with their footwork on screens and to sidestep rushes. When the QBs begin their drops, an assistant will roll the ball towards them. The QB is supposed to keep looking downfield while he either backpedals away from the ball or steps laterally away from it.
They're not just America's Team: I spent a good part of practice next to an English gentleman named Chris, who had taken a detour from his family vacation to see his favorite team. (Or is that his favourite team?) He became a Cowboys fan as a youth, listening to static-infested broadcasts on Armed Forces Radio out of Germany.
Copyright 2005 by Rafael Vela