Yesterday marked the tenth day of camp for the Dallas Cowboys, and also provided the highlight of the camp so far with a Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage, the first of its kind in a long time - dating back to some time before Bill Parcells was hired in Dallas.
The scrimmage featured mainly red zone and end-of-game situations, and by all accounts, the offense came out ahead in this test. Tony Romo and the first team offense completed 14 of 20 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns (Witten, Bryant, Miller) for what would have been a 131.3 passer rating. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was not pleased and took the blame for the defensive performance:
"We don’t like giving up points. Sometimes it happens. That is the way it is. But put it on me. I dusted off a couple of calls we hadn’t worked on. Put it on me, it's my fault. The players will be fine."
More of what the coaches and players had to say after the break.
While taking the blame for the defensive performance, Ryan was not overly concerned following the scrimmage.
"Of course there's stuff to work on," Ryan said. "Everybody's got stuff to work on. What we're trying to do is evaluate our players, evaluate the different guys. We have a great system, we have great players. Do we like giving up points? No. But that's the way it is. Sometimes that happens when you're playing a hell of an offense."
But Ryan did emphasize the need to execute for the defense:
"We missed a couple of little deals, but it was good work," Ryan said. "Obviously, you have to execute. Those are the most important situations in football. It wasn't the greatest start, but we got in a lot of good work. We'll be fine. ... Did we like giving up points? No, but that's the way it is when you are playing a great offense."
Linebacker Bradie James made a point that the scrimmage was a learning experience for everybody:
"We haven’t even made it to the preseason game yet," James said. "There are a lot of things we have to work out, iron out these defensive wrinkles. It’s good we got a look like that.
"We are in training camp. This ain’t the Super Bowl. There is a lot of things we have to learn. We aren’t there yet. That’s why preseason is what it is. There are things we definitely have to work on…but that was good. It was good that we keep getting these looks and we can’t help but get better from it."
Garrett also stressed the learning experience:
"I thought it was good and productive," Garrett said. "Those experiences are invaluable. It was important for everybody. We have a long way to go in all areas. It will be a good tape for us to evaluate."
There was no full tackling allowed by the starting units, which Abram Elam felt was a disadvantage for the defense, in addition to the unfavorable field position and red zone scenarios used for the scrimmage.
"We're trying to take care of each other. We're on the same team and we understand that. We're not the enemy. We're playing smart. Defensively we can't be as aggressive as we'd like to, but we're still just trying to execute ... We're still working. We're not going to hang our heads – just stay positive."
But Elam is also determined to be better the next time.
"Hats off to the offense, they were able to make a few plays,'' safety Abram Elam said. "But we'll go back and watch the film and try to make some corrections.''
Tyron Smith got some praise from Jason Garrett for blocking Anthony Spencer.
"It seemed like he didn’t seem in awe of the situation in any way. He’s been blocking these guys throughout camp, so it seemed like he responded fairly well to it."
Running back Lonyae Miller caught the eye of both Jason Garrett and Bradie James:
Jason Garrett: "He’s been impressive, he really has. When we first got Lonyae, it was hard not to like his physical ability. He’s a big kid (6-foot, 232 pounds). He can run. He’s physically tough, and we saw all of that. As he’s progressed in our system, he’s really grown a lot, particularly from the last year on."
Bradie James: "Did you see how he was running that thing today? It was awesome."
Miller himself concurs and credits the extra time he put in for getting better.
"I feel like I have improved from last year," Miller said. "It's just been about putting in extra time. I was able to get into my playbook and get some reps with the older guys and I feel like it's carrying over to here. I'm able to play faster, play smarter and limit my mistakes and really be alert in certain situations.
"I try to do everything. There's a lot more to being a great running back. You have to be able to pass protect, you have to be able to catch and you have to run inside and outside the tackles. So I try to make my game more versatile and bring more to the running back position than the average guy."
But Miller knows that he's still got his work cut out for him.
"I felt like I had a good day," he said. "But I’ve got to put this one behind me and continue to get better. I’ve got to continue to grind, continue to grind and come out Thursday against Denver and have a great game."
Running backs coach Skip Peete also weighed in on Miller, who had two touchdowns yesterday.
"The biggest area I think he’s improved is recognizing the defensive fronts when it comes to pass protection," running backs coach Skip Peete said. "He’s done a lot better in that aspect. He’s done a good job of picking up blitzes. He’s just playing very physical right now."
"The light has kind of come on," Peete said. "He’s playing with a lot more confidence. We knew he was a good runner. Now he’s taking his instincts and doing what he has to do to help the play be successful."
Rob Ryan is excited about two undrafted free-agent linebackers: Orie Lemon and Alex Albright.
"Orie Lemon had a couple of really big hits in there,'' Ryan said. "I tell you what, you guys (media) aren't mentioning that Alex Albright, that (No.) 47, but he's doing some really nice things. He was laying some wood out there.''
Sean Lissemore, who stood out on the defense with two sacks and one pass defended, said that studying up on the defense paid off:
"Personally I just want to come out here and try to execute the defenses that were called," Lissemore said. "They gave us a list of what defenses we were going to be running so I tried to study them before hand. I tried to be clean and execute my technique."
"One of [the sacks] was a twist...I just kind of ran through the center and I knocked the ball down coming through the middle. There was a couple other ones where I just pass rushed, kept my motor going and ran through the quarterback."
Bradie James has an earpiece in his helmet with which the defensive coordinator can talk to him when James is on the field. On Sunday, James found out something new - but perhaps not surprising - about Rob Ryan.
"He was quiet not one minute," linebacker Bradie James said. 'So he's talking, 'Bradie, tell Abe
Elam to get over, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.' I'm like, 'Damn, do your thing, Rob.''
"You know they can talk the entire time during the season," James said. "He told me, though. He warned me. He said he talks a lot, and he does."
Martellus Bennett had some nice things to say about Dez Bryant and Felix Jones:
"Dez is a magnificent player," he said. "You get a guy like Dez, any time he touches the ball, it’s a possible touchdown. I love to watch him play. I’m a fan of Dez Bryant on the field. I talk to him a whole lot off the field because he went through some things that I went through earlier, and I think he’s stepping it up as a person and being more responsible. So I think that correlates to what happens to him on the football field."
"Felix is awesome," Bennett said. "Felix has been great for the last couple of years. but I think he’ll finally get a chance to get 20 carries a game, you know, so he can be a 1,000-yard rusher for us and make all the plays that he can – catch five balls and run 20 times. He’s explosive."
"I hate to call Bradie out, but any time you’re one-on-one against Felix, you’re probably going to lose," Bennett said. "It’s like guarding Kobe in open space."
Garrett thinks Kevin Ogletree showed up a little bit.
"He has a good feel for playing," coach Jason Garrett said "He has a good feel for route running. He has a good feel for beating defenders in one-on-one situations. I think he has a good feel as a player in general. I think those situations were good illustrations of that. We’ll go back and watch the tape and see specifically how he did, but he showed up a little bit."
Jason Witten liked what he saw from Tony Romo and how he directed the offense.
"He did a good job," Witten said. "I think he was accurate with his throws. He was quick with his decisions and there were a couple of blitz looks where he got the ball out of his hands and he knew it wasn’t right to run it. He got the ball to Dez, and Dez is dangerous. So it’s not just his completions, but directing our offense, the game clock. They were giving him some blitz looks and he called out everybody. It started us off well and hopefully we can continue to go with that."