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.
Copyright 2005 by Rafael Vela