One of the nice things about training camp is the access we as fans get to the players and coaches on a daily basis, even though most of us are not physically present in San Antonio.
The level of reporting from camp is simply stunning, starting of course with BTBs most excellent coverage. It feels like we're getting progress reports and even soundbites of almost every player at least once a day.
As I was clicking through all the different reports on the different sites, I couldn't help but notice that over the last two or three days, a lot of different position coaches on the coaching staff have been quoted in different articles.
Taken individually, these quotes are often used to provide color or to spice up an article about a specific topic or player. Taken together they can help paint an interesting overall picture of how the various position battles are progressing and which players are coming along well.
Offensive line coach Hudson Houck likes what he sees at left tackle.
"I think we've got two real good players," Houck said. "We've got five preseason games, so we'll find out which guy we're going to put in there. It's pretty open. Free has earned the right to get the first look, but we're certainly open to seeing what Alex can do."
Tight end John Phillips impressed offensive coordinator Jason Garrett with his hunting habits, both on and off the field:
"He hunts bobcats in the offseason, so I think that says enough about him," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said jokingly. "He's not always the flashiest," Garrett said, "but typically, he gets the job done. We're excited about him."
Tight ends coach John Garrett joins the growing crowd of John Phillips fans.
"He sat back there when he wasn’t getting a lot of reps and watched No. 82," tight ends coach John Garrett. "He watched the model of how to do it in every aspect of the game. He’s not dumb. He knows who to watch and who to emulate, and he has picked up a lot from Jason."
Linebackers coach Reggie Herring thinks that the Cowboys have the best depth he's seen yet at linebacker.
"We have more speed and more ability depth wise than we have in the three years I've been here,'' Herring said.
Of course, with Anthony Spencer on your team, it's not that hard to get excited
"He was already very difficult to block and deal with as a rusher or a run defender," Cowboys linebackers coach Reggie Herring said. "He's building consistency, and he's really established himself as a player. He's just applying himself more day to day, and we're very pleased right now with his attitude and his work ethic. It looks like he's got a chance right now, the way he's going, to pick up from where he left off last year by the end."
Reggie Herring wants to see a little more of Sean Lee before getting too excited.
"We’re very excited about Sean. I’m not going to declare anybody anything until they line up against NFL competition and prove it. Right now, he’s done a nice job at practice. He’s doing what we asked of him. He’s shown nice ability in the run and pass game. He’s a smart, instinctive player. So far, he’s everything we thought he’d be. So far. Now, let’s go play a few games and make an evaluation."
Tim MacMahon from ESPNDallas reports that word around Valley Ranch is that there's only one linebacker the Cowboys have graded higher in the past few drafts than Sean Lee. That would be Patrick Willis, the 49ers 3-time Pro Bowler & 2-time First-Team All-Pro. No wonder Reggie Herring is trying to keep expectations in check.
But overall, Herring sounds pleased with the progress of his linebacker corp:
Even Leon Williams is having a great camp right now – a guy we didn’t expect. Jason Williams is somewhat inconsistent but he shows flashes of great ability. We’re working on the consistency, the maturity factor with him. Sean Lee is an excellent, excellent prospect to be a Cowboy here. He’s doing things very well – very talented.
Then you take a Victor Butler. Talk about turning the light on. In the last three days, all of a sudden he's starting to rush the passer better than he ever has. The reemergence of a Brandon Williams, whom we didn’t have last year, who’s an explosive pass rusher. Steve Octavien who’s probably a harder worker than anybody we have at OL's, who’s making plays and is productive.
Coach Joe DeCamillis, special teams wizard and coach, wants Dez Bryant to be The Return Man.
"He's special with the ball in his hands and we're going to try to help him as much as we can," DeCamillis said, adding, "I think he's got a chance to be exceptional at both."
And the Cowboys do need Dez to step up, because kickoff returns were not something the Cowboys excelled at last year.
"Kickoff returns is definitely something we want to improve on," DeCamillis said. "We were above average to good on almost everything last year, but kickoff returns we just weren't ever comfortable. We're emphasizing that."
Running backs coach Skip Peete has an interesting idea about how to get each back enough touches.
"But a lot of times, it's not necessarily the number of carries you get," Peete said, "it's the touches. If you get 15 carries and 10 catches, that's your 25 touches." "I love that," Peete said. "There's nothing like having a running back in open space. You get big yardage." [emphasis mine]
Secondary coach Dave Campo gives us some insight into the position battle for the 4th corner spot.
"I'd say Cletis Gordon has been in the lead, he's got the experience," Campo said following Wednesday's practice. "I like Cletis. I think he's made as much improvement as anybody out here. I feel like he's really embraced the scheme and he's working very well and he offers something the other guys don't have, he has size and uses his hands and he can be more physical than the other guys."
"[Jamar Wall] is starting to make some plays and I think that's going to be his strength. Sometimes he looks a little herky-jerky out there and not real smooth. But there's been a lot of guys who played that looked real well but they don't play very well. He has playmaking ability. When it's for real, he's a physical player and some of that stuff will begin to show up."
"Bryan McCann is technically sometimes better than the veteran guys, just footwork, break-and-drive and all those kinds of things, but he's 186 pounds, [Wall] is 196 and [Gordon] 200. What's he going to do when the pads come on? Are the big receivers going to push him and that kind of thing? He looks a little smoother than Wall, but Wall I've seen play but you have to see who is going to be a factor."
Dave Campo also wants Allan Ball to focus exclusively on Free Safety
"Right now, he's at level 101,'' secondary coach Dave Campo said. "He's working to 201. He's close to 201. If we get to 201, we're going to be pretty good. "Not many guys get to 401. I'm at 401.''
"He'll make some plays,'' Campo said. "He's still feeling his way around a little bit. "The No. 1 thing for the guy back there is to make sure we're right. We can be aggressive, but we've got to make sure we're right first. If all four guys are right, we're going to be pretty good.''
Wide receivers coach Ray Sherman thinks highly of the WR groups' talent level
"I think we've got a little more talent than we had in Minnesota, little more than I had in Green Bay and even in San Francisco," Sherman said. "Overall, talent-wise as a group. Now we had some individuals that were very talent but overall talent is probably the best."
Ray Sherman also hints at the role Dez Bryant might play in the coming season.
"He is learning to play on the outside," receivers coach Ray Sherman said. "If you throw a lot at him, you're going to confuse him and slow his growth down. You have to get him in a spot and get him comfortable, with the system and also have him understand all the other components of the route, what those entail. Then, you can branch him out to other parts."
Chris Boniol loves David Buehler’s temperament when it comes to kicking FG’s, thinks that nothing bothers him, and likes the authority with which Buehler kicks.
"David’s a unique individual with unique physical skills. It’s not my job to teach him how to kick - he knows how to kick - it’s how to kick better."
"Nothing bothers him. I don’t know if you’ve watched this in OTAs, our fields were horrible, we got wind – we did everything we could to make things tough on him. And nothing bothers him. If you have a bad kick, if you have a bad day, he rebounds. He responds and comes back positive. And that’s important."
"Yesterday he was 3 for 4 but he hit the upright from 35. Well, he came back and hit a 46 and 48. With some authority. And that’s an important thing to see in a kicker. How do you respond after a miss? He does a good job of that."
Quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson sees Tony Romo off to a better start than last year.
"He's had a fabulous camp so far," Wade Wilson said. "He plays practice as real as anybody I've ever been around. He treats it like a game. When our guys are rushing him, he has a complete understanding of where he wants to go with the ball. If he has to move to get rid of the ball, he knows where to get it out. If everything is clean, he is throwing the ball as accurate as I've seen. Better than last year." [...] "He's asserting his personality onto the offense as well. In the meetings and on the practice field, it comes in how he approaches things every day."