Monday for the Dallas Cowboys was the first of the CBA-mandated off days for the players. Given the rash of (so far minor) injuries on Sunday, it may have come at a very good time.
While the team is resting themselves, we are still here to keep an eye on all things Cowboys. And there was still plenty to pass on.
One of the most encouraging things so far in camp has been the intensity and fire Morris Claiborne has brought to the practices. He is off to a good start in becoming the player that Dallas thought he was when they traded up to get him with the sixth pick of the draft in 2012. He is playing and competing much better at this stage of camp than he was in his first two years. Part is probably due to better health, and he seems more comfortable in the scheme. Another factor is, like a certain highly talented wide receiver he sometimes goes up against in practice, he may have had to do some maturing, the kind that is forced on you in dealing with life.
In a span of only a few days last December he experienced the birth of his daughter, Madison, and the death of his father, Robert Owens. He alternated from joy with the birth of his second child to sorrow over the death of his father, who was 64.
He could not go to his escape on the football field because he was dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him out of six games last season. He used the word "funk" to describe what was happening.
Tyron Smith has rapidly established himself as one of the top offensive tackles in the NFL, and a lot of credit for his development has been given to how he had to go against DeMarcus Ware in practices. Facing an All Pro was seen as accelerating his learning process. Now he is going to be given a chance to do the same for rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
"One of the most underutilized resources in football are offensive guys talking to defensive guys and defensive guys talking to offensive guys," head coach Jason Garrett said. "That's with coaches and that's with players. I think it's important to understand the other person's mindset, what they're trying to get accomplished, both with scheme and technique. So any kind of communication that happens between those guys I think is really, really good, particularly with the younger players."
Lawrence told reporters his goal is to hit double-digits in sacks right out of the gate. It's nice to hear that kind of target-setting from the rookie, but Rich Gosselin, always ready to throw cold water on anything bearing the slightest resemblance to enthusiasm by or about the Cowboys, points out that this is extremely unlikely, based on recent history.
In the previous 10 drafts (2004-13), there have been 50 defensive ends and outside linebackers - your potential edge rushers - selected in the second round. Those 50 averaged only 1.7 sacks in their rookie seasons. Only four of the 50 managed five or more sacks as rookies.
Thirty of the 50 collected one sack or less as rookies. Twenty failed to sack a single quarterback in their rookie seasons and 10 failed to sack a quarterback in their NFL careers. Thirty-two of the 50 have fewer than 10 career sacks.
While we are on the subject of DeMarcuses, I just want to point this out. And, as I did with the injury sustained by Jason Hatcher, ask you to imagine the howls of outrage at this kind of news if Dallas has ponied up the money it would have had to commit to keeping Ware in the fold.
Denver Broncos head coach John Fox stated that the injury did not appear to be serious.
Of course, "doesn't appear" leaves the window slightly open for the possibility that it is. And as Broncos fans learned four years ago with former Denver pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil, a season-ending injury can happen out of nowhere in the early stages of training camp.
If you think all the stories linking Johnny Manziel to the Cowboys are done with, you have no understanding of how the media works today. All it took was a question to Jerry Jones about how much he considered Manziel when Dallas went on the clock in the first round, and the story was suddenly one of the most talked and Tweeted about of the day.
And I want you to know that almost as I was handing in the card, it was that close to put that Manziel card in, it was that close. And I looked over at my son Stephen, our oldest son is the chief executive officer, and I said, ‘I took the right pick.'
So who else besides the Cowboys could make headlines with a comment about who they almost picked in the draft?
On why he still uses a flip phone in the day of iPhones and Androids. I think the headline says it all.
In addition to his typical insight into how players like Orlando Scandrick and George Selvie are looking in camp (very good, in both cases) Bryan Broaddus takes a look at two much lesser known names. He finds that Ryan Williams is much more like Lance Dunbar, especially with the ball in his hands, than most people realize. And he seems to be on board with the idea that cutting down the wide receivers is going to be tough due to the unexpected level of talent there, including Dezmon Briscoe.
There have been several snaps during the one-on-one periods where he has really done a nice job of playing with technique to buy space and separation in the route. When you watch him run his routes, there is a real consistency to them. He is not all over the place with his arms and legs. He plays with discipline and you can see it in the way he moves. He appears to have natural hands and he is able to extend those hands to make the catch. He doesn't fight the ball at all. He has a smoothness about him. As he begins to learn this offense and his responsibilities, he is a player that I would continue to keep an eye on that might be difficult to release if he can continue to find ways to get himself noticed because I believe he is going to get more opportunities in the coming practices.
There are mixed opinions on whether the Cowboys should give Josh Brent a chance to re-enter the NFL, but at least one player has no doubts at all.
Cowboys safety Barry Church says his teammates would also welcome back Brent.
"If they open the door for him, I'm opening my arms," Church said. "I can't wait."
This is a quick explanation by the head coach of the difference in trying to be your best and being your best. And it may be the first sighting of a new Garrettism in the "being your best" definition.
Being your best: "The guy goes to class, studies, does what he's supposed to do, day in, day out,'' Garrett said. "When that exam comes he puts a little bib on because he's slobbering. He's so excited to answer the questions, right? Because he's ready, he's ready to be his best.
So when he starts talking about wanting guys to slobber out there, you already know.
This gets my nomination for camp Tweet of the day.
Cowboys DT Henry Melton on beating rookie RG Zack Martin: "I just had to let him know I’m here and it’s going to be a long training camp."— Brandon George (@DMN_George) July 28, 2014
I think that sums up several points rather nicely.