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Dallas Cowboys back at training camp

The Cowboys had the day off yesterday after making the trip back to Oxnard following the preseason game in San Diego. They'll be back at practice today and tomorrow before heading to Denver. The Cowboys will scrimmage and practice with the Broncos later this week leading up to a preseason game in Denver Saturday night.

One thing that will definitely be a focus this week is improving the special teams unit. Following the game Wade Phillips was critical of the play of the team, especially on punt returns.

Phillips’ criticism of the special teams has been in the works for a while. On a team whose first-team offense and defense played as well as could have been hoped for in a 31-17 loss, the special teams’ first and second units remain a serious concern.

On four punt returns, the Chargers averaged 20.5 yards.

"It’s disappointing. We’ve got to take this talent that we are going to have on the 53 [man roster] — we have to cover," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "We have got to cover on both sides. We should have one of the best coverage teams in the NFL.

"That bothers me."

I'm sure that Wade Phillips will be having some intense conversations with ST coach Bruce Read. In the past Phillips has stood by Read through all kinds of scrutiny, but you have to think that if the coverage units continue to play like they did Saturday something will have to change.

When I played football, I wasn't a starter so I played primarily on the coverage teams. In practice we would do a half speed walkthrough hitting marks on the field as we went downfield, just like the Cowboys have done so far in camp. However, we would also do full speed plays which were critical to learning the angles you needed to take to ensure you had proper coverage. The Cowboys looked like a team who were running down field at full speed for the first time this year, which is exactly what they were doing. Perhaps the coaches will be rethinking their strategy for upcoming practices.

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Another aspect of the game that needs some kinks worked out is the communication between Brian Stewart and Bradie James, who was wearing the new helmet device for the first time in a game.

"I can't just start talking bad to somebody if they make a mistake," James said. "I can't chase them down. Really what I have to do is step out of the huddle because there's a lot of chatter, a lot of guys talking about what happened on the play before. I have to step out to hear what Stew says."

Before making the call, Stewart listens to coaches in the press box about the offensive personnel grouping, and then he makes the play call to James. He has until 15 seconds are left on the play clock before the system shuts off, as it does for the offense.

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"I have to make sure everybody gets back to the huddle," James said. "If they don't, they're waiting for me to make the call. When you had the signals, the secondary can see their coverage part. It's hard for the secondary because they always are run off if it's a deep pass. You have to wait on them, so we still communicate. It's one of the things we have to work out."

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One of the bright spots from Saturday's game was the evidence that Felix Jones was the right pick for the Cowboys in the first round. It seemed like he wasn't even at full speed and yet he was running past half the Chargers' defense who could do nothing but lunge as he sped past. Despite being nervous, Felix said he felt good about his NFL debut.

"I see running lanes in different areas and I just try to make something happen," said Jones, who admitted it was fun to see those same cutbacks in the collegiate level were still there in the NFL. "When I see a running lane I try to get in there as fast as I can and try to create some space. It kind of worked out in my favor today."

Vision. It's the primary superpower of Super Kitty.

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Adam Jones admits he didn't play as well as he hoped he would, but that's expected as he tries to get up to speed after a year off. He says something that didn't help in the game was the uneven reps we got during the game.

"I don't want to have no excuses, but I didn't get into a groove like that," said Jones, who played less 10 snaps in the Cowboys' 31-17 loss to San Diego on Saturday. "Play two plays, sit out two plays, play two plays sit out a play, play three plays. It is what it is. But I enjoyed myself."

I can understand that. When you make a mistake you want to get right back in there and correct it. That's tough to do from the sideline. However, at the same time you have to realize there are other guys on the team that need reps as well. You just have to make the most of the time you have in the field.

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Ray Sherman is proud of Miles Austin's play.

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Richard Bartel was happy to get the chance to play, and feels like he is better than last year.

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The Sporting News has a great story about the Garrett family. Here's a brief excerpt.

Three brothers, all with the highest-profile team in the highest-profile sport in the country. John coaches tight ends, Judd is the assistant director of player personnel, and Jason is the offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting. Throw in their dad, Jim Sr., who played, coached and scouted for NFL and college teams for more than 50 years, including more than 20 with the Cowboys, and this is a great NFL family that few fans know anything about.

To understand why Jason Garrett is hailed as the NFL's next great coach, you have to travel back to 1970. He was 4 years old, and his dad was an assistant with the Giants, one of many stops in an itinerant career. Jim Sr. bought an 11-bedroom house in Monmouth Beach, N.J., across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. The yard worked perfectly as a football field, Wiffle Ball diamond, wrestling ring, etc. The Garretts lived there through Jim Sr.'s tenure with the Giants, then returned every summer as coaching jobs moved the family around the country.

Hat tip to scottmaui for the link in his fanpost.