The Cowboys donned shoulder pads and shorts this afternoon, adding a bit more punch to a morning workout in shirts and shorts. The focus continued on special teams and on working the Cowboys offense when the ball is between the 20s.
The secondary saw some shuffling, as both starting corners, Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins sat out after suffering injuries this morning. Latest word is that neither appears serious, though we'll have to monitor updated reports to guage the severity of their injuries. Courtney Brown and Orlando Scandrick moved into the starting roles, with Alan Ball jumping from backup free safety to the slot corner role when the defense played nickel.
Left tackle Flozell Adams also sat out the session, with Doug Free taking his place at with the first unit.
Hitting Your Spots
Joe DeCamillis shifted his focus from punt returns to blocking an opponents field goals and punts and blocking successfully for Dallas' kickers. DeCamillis again atomized each drill, and stressed speed an intelligence to all his players.
In the kick blocking drill, a spot was set up in the field eight yards behind the center, where the ball was to be kicked. Each rusher, whether he came off the edge of up the middle, was schooled to hit a spot one yard in front of the spot, in order to hit the ball but avoid the kicker and a roughing penalty.
A similar approach was used in the punt blocking drill. A spot was set up ten yards behind the center; the area where the ball is expected to leave the punter's leg. The rushers here met soccer balls, which assistants lobbed into their paths.
The team then rolled the mini upright onto the left side of the field and worked on snapping and blocking for Nick Folk and David Buehler. L.P. Ladouceur and Matt Stewart split the snapping duties, L.P. working with Folk's group and Stewart with Buehler's. I don't know if Ladouceur's job is at risk, but I can say that I saw no qualitative difference in the snaps today.
Break Them Down, and Build Them Up
The offense and defense then broke up into positional groups. The receivers, on the short field, worked on executing quick outs and comeback routes, with a referee present to call whether each receiver got both feet in bounds on his catch. Very, very few catches were called out of bounds.
On the far sideline, the offensive line worked in sub-ling groupings, and later in full lineups. Hudson Houck worked with pairs on combination blocking along the line of scrimmage. He would take a center and a guard, and have them work on getting a solid combo block on the nose tackle of DT in front of them, and then have one of the linemen scrape off and find the linebacker farther up the field. Houck then worked with offensive tackle and tight end duos, having them work similar combination blocks on DEs and OLBs.
Later, Houck brought the entire line together and had them block toss plays and stretch plays to each side of the line.
While this was going on, the defensive linemen were running a similar drill down the sideline, only they were working out ways to beat double team blocks and maintain lane integrity.
The offensive and defensive units then met on the main field for 11-on-11 drills. One put the ball at the offense's 30 and worked on first, second and third down plays in the middle of the field. (A yard marker was kept on the sideline and the players were expected to refer to it, and not the plays prior, for the correct down and distance to be pursued on a given play.)
As you might expect, the toss and stretch plays worked on during the group drills were a big part of the full team workouts. Again, it's pointless to say this group beat that one, because full tackling was prohibited, which makes it difficult to know which group would "win." The first, second and third units were also rotated liberally, go ensure each player gets his quota of camp reps.
Let's put it this way. Two weeks from today, the Cowboys will have games against Oakland and Tennessee on the record. We'll know, especially after the Titans game, how many "wins" the offense and defense notched.
Most of today's passing plays involved short passes off rollouts and bootlegs to backs and tight ends. I can't say how much more the backs and tight ends will feature in this year's offense until the games start for real, but they are getting more reps in this camp than I recall seeing at Oxnard.
-- The Cincinnati Kids (which one is Steve McQueen?) Mike Mickens and D'Angelo Smith worked as the second team corners this afternoon.
-- Alan Ball got some reps at left cornerback. He played there last year when injuries took down the starters, but he's been working exclusively at free safety this week -- until today.
-- Michael Hamlin got his hands on some passes today playing strong safety behind Ken Hamlin.
-- Welcome to the NFL Jason Williams. Martellus Bennett made his second snag of the day, snatching a high Jon Kitna throw for a touchdown in the back right corner of the end zone over a helpless Williams. The rookie had decent coverage, but as they say in baskeball, you can't teach 6'6" with long arms.
-- Time to face another team. The flim-flam plays are not working very well. I suspect it's because the defensive regulars have been burned already and are looking for the offense's specials.
-- Stanback, not quite back -- Isaiah Stanback got some reps with the first unit and dropped a high Romo dart after he had beaten Ball in the slot. This has been a problem for all three of the guys fighting for the 5th spot. Mike Jefferson, Kevin Ogletree and Stanback have all gotten open this week, drawn a throw and failed to hang on to the big-play pass. The one who starts closing these sales will get the last spot in this group. Stanback is leading, but a few catches on plays like this would make his spot more secure.
-- Funny moment of the day: In the late drills the defense ran a zone blitz that called on Marcus Spears to drop into the right flat. The offense called a Felix Jones flare to that very zone so Spears found himself chasing the cat. Marcus huffed, puffed and made the chase surprisingly close...
but let's be real. Felix beat him to the sideline.
Note: Tomorrow's morning workout is a walk through. You would have more fun mowing your lawn than watching a walk through. I'll be at the afternoon session.