The first of two Friday practices found the team back in shorts and shoulder pads. The emphasis was on the passing game, with the defense working on package recognition and coverage assignments. The offense, in turn, worked on a variety of passing sets.
The team hit the field 20 minutes before the listed 8:50 starting time and had an extended walk through. The defensive front seven spent fifteen of those minutes doing nothing but recognzing offensive packages, calling the proper defenses, lining up properly, switching properly to motion and untimately, dropping into the proper areas on the field. The offensive linemen worked on hand placement and proper footwork for handling rushes.
Between drills the first team offense and defense had extensive situational faceoffs. After an eleven on eleven exclusively for running plays (there is not hitting, simply work on executing the play properly) the ball was put on the offense's 40 and another two minute drill was run with Parcells handling the clock.
The first unit moved the ball neatly from across midfield, converting a third and five with a ten yard hook to Jason Witten. Bledsoe's pass beat an inside blitz by Dat Nguyen. After the ball was spiked to stop the clock, Chris Canty swatted down another pass intended for Witten. Bledsoe kept the chains moving on third and ten with a square in to Terry Glenn for fifteen.
Bledsoe and Keyshawn mis-connected on the following play. Bledsoe threw a fade while Johnson ran a hook. Another incompletion put the offense again in third and ten at their 30. Bledsoe got five of it for free by using a hard count to draw a blitzing Roy Williams offsides. The defense got the last laugh, however when Dat Nguyen intercepted an intended slant to Keyshawn.
Tony Romo brought the second unit on and teamed with Quincy Morgan to gain a quick six. On the second play of their sequence, Romo read blitz and threw a deep fade down the left sideline. Morgan saw that the ball was slightly underthrown and jumped over Jacques Reeves to snag the ball. He was downed at the ten. Two plays later, Morgan beat Reeves on an out on the left sideline for a TD.
Overall, the execution of the first two QBs continues to improve. There should be no question that Bledsoe is the number one. Anybody hiding some secret hope that Romo or Henson will displace him this year is not watching the practices. Bledsoe does make the occasional mistake, but he has a much better command of the offense than the youngsters. And his accuracy appears to improve with every practice.
Romo is moving forwards at a much faster pace than Henson. He looks more assured and shows much more zip than he did as a rookie two years ago. However, he and not Bledsoe is the one with the problem holding the ball too long. He will make two crisp reads and throws and then telegraph his third pass -- late. The result is too many near interceptions or breakups on what should be sure completions. The positives far outweigh the negatives however, and Romo does appear to have a future, though it's unclear if he's starting material.
After Henson rotated back in, however, he showed some recognition problems. His first quick out was intercepted by Anthony Henry. He completed a short pass over the middle to Reggie Harrell, but it was obvious looking at Bill Parcell's face that the light is still not on for his young charge. I looked at the coach, who was standing in the deep middle, 20 yards behind the defense. As Henson continued his set, Parcells shook his head, rubbed his chin with his hand stared blankly at the ground. This is not the look of confidence.
Demarcus Ware is running hot and cold in coverage on the weakside. If Singleton is having brain freezes, the new coverage schemes could have some major breakdowns. Watch this closely during the Monday night game. Parcells was complaining yesterday about his OLBs. This may be one reason why.
Copyright 2005 by Rafael Vela