And to kick things off, a little friendly scrimmaging with the Raiders. You know, the team Rolando McClain was playing for when he perforated Jason Witten 's spleen. Dez Bryant is pumped.
The Raiders will be in Oxnard, Calif., on Tuesday and Wednesday to practice against the Cowboys. The two teams have a long tradition of practicing against each other, and it's a way for both teams to help break up the monotony of training camp.
"That's going to be real fun," Bryant said of practicing against the Raiders. "I told the defensive backs as we were breaking down, I'm mad that we didn't get the best of y'all [Sunday] and now we have to take it over to Oakland."
Orlando Scandrick has become one of he Cowboys best defenders, but he'll be missing for the first four games of the 2014 season after being busted for performance-enhancing drugs.
Henry Melton left Sunday's practice, but word is that it was not serious and did not involve his knee. He is expected back in a week or so.
Chris Jones has outlasted one challenger, but gets to face another.
The biggest story of camp continues to be the story of Tony Romo and his back. With all the assurances coming into training camp about how he was 100% and ready to go, the way Romo has been held out of some practices and the first preseason game has raised much speculation about just how healthy he really is. Todd Archer goes beyond the simplistic and tries to give a more accurate look into what is going on and how Jason Garrett and Wade Wilson, both experienced NFL quarterbacks before becoming coaches, are monitoring the situation and making sure there are not problems that even Romo might be unaware of.
Throughout camp, the Cowboys have relied on Romo to tell them the truth about how he is feeling. The coaches have also used their experience playing the position.
"The thing that we have to monitor is making sure he is not compensating some way technically and kind of developing these habits that ultimately will compromise him," Garrett said. "So it's better to back him off from that and make sure he is doing it as right as possible and kind of go down that road of him building in all the things he can do with his technique [instead of] kind of hiding this thing he is coming back from, and you develop bad habits."
Romo's throwing motion is similar to a golf swing. He throws from the ground up, with his lower half starting the motion and his arm catching up to create a quick release. In warm-ups, Romo will almost exaggerate the hip turn to force his arm to whip through to create enough speed.
Archer has a couple of the better articles out today. In this one, he gives a shorter version of the Romo back controversy, but then adds three reasons each for optimism and pessimism concerning the 2014 season. My favorite is this one on the optimistic side:
3. Not since 2002 have expectations been so low for the Cowboys, and that is a good thing. After missing their window for success from 2007 to 2010, the Cowboys have been overhyped for most of the past four playoff-less seasons. Because they have a visible owner, play on national television a ton and have recognizable names, many have kept calling the Cowboys one of the most talented teams in the NFL even if that wasn't true. After three straight 8-8 seasons and the losses of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee on defense, calls for 6-10 or worse have been heard more than calls for anything better than 8-8. The Cowboys went 5-1 in the NFC East last year with the worst defense in franchise history. With just a tad better play defensively, the Cowboys believe they can make the postseason.
In yet another sign of how the emotional wide receiver is continuing to mature as both a player and a leader, Dez Bryant talks about the importance of playing the game when you don't have the ball in your hands.
"That's one of my focus points coming into this training camp, getting there, blocking, finding that guy on the backside," Bryant said. "Playing with [running back] DeMarco [Murray], the ball is supposed to be going left and he'll end up coming back right. So you got to be aware. I think I've took a step forward, not only me, but the rest of the guys have took a step forward by taking a different approach with our blocking."
Ever since Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli came to Dallas, the dogma has been that the key to making their defense work is getting pressure on the quarterback with the pass rush. But with the loss of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, and the continuing health issues of Henry Melton and Anthony Spencer, Marinelli is now looking at a different approach to things. He is looking for the secondary to help the pass rush have more time to get to the passer.
"It's a big part of what we're trying," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "Our strength right now is that our corners are really good and we think we've got some good safeties. We can do some things with those guys to help us."
So far, the Cowboys have seen Brandon Carr miss most of camp due to the loss of his mother, and Morris Claiborne has been one of the players struggling with minor injury, but both are looking to get back on the field with camp standout Orlando Scandrick. Hopefully their return will help prevent a repeat of the debacle that was the San Diego Chargers pre-season game.
Among the steaming pile of bad plays and missed assignments that was the Dallas defense in San Diego, there was one player, rookie safety Ahmad Dixon, who stood out for his effort and caught Jason Garrett's eye.
Dixon was the only defender Garrett cited for positive play in the Chargers game. While he was not perfect, the effort was what the coaches wanted.
"He is a run-and-hit guy who showed up on defense in college," Garrett said. "He showed up in the kicking game in college. It's hard sometimes to see those traits in practice. Sometimes you see a player like that, you see his flaws. You see the things he doesn't do well, and then he doesn't have the opportunity to be the physical that you have seen and you want him to be.
One member of the defense is not discouraged by what happened in the pre-season opener. Jeremy Mincey thinks good things are coming.
"Got a lot of good friends on the team," Mincey said. "I mean, it's the most I've hung with any of my teammates in a long time, as much as I do. Don't get me wrong, I've been on some good teams where I was friends with my guys. But as a whole, man, everybody's cool and it's starting to jell and it's starting to mesh. I think we have a chance to have something special here, man, seriously."
The owner of the Cowboys maintained a low profile for several days, but he ended his silence on Monday. And as you might expect after he had refrained from talking to the media for a while, he had quite a bit to say.
In the wake of the rather suggestive pictures that have been all over the interwebs, Jones took a "nothing to see here" approach, saying he had known about the pictures for five years and that they were "misrepresented". His intent at this point seems to be to ignore the whole thing until it goes away.
He also addressed the recent flap about the NFL's head of officiating paying a reportedly brief visit to the Cowboys' "party bus" while Stephen Jones was hanging around outside a nightclub and also entertaining a group of women on board, as indicated by pictures also on the internet.
"I just don't have a problem with it at all and I don't deem it inappropriate at all,'' Jerry Jones said, noting that he is unaware of any complaints from other teams regarding socializing with Blandino. "Part of Blandino's job during the offseason is to network with the clubs. That's a good thing. ... As you know, our bus, we entertain, that's what we do. ...
That's why we have our buses."
The headline pretty much has all the relevant info. Jerry Jones has no updates and no prediction for when things will resolve themselves.
He thinks he saw the real problem in the Chargers game.
"If we're going to gap ... then when it's your time to make the tackle, you've got to make the tackle. To me the other night was all about not tackling and not making the tackle when you had the chance to make it. Tackling can be worked on, will be worked on. We'll get better tackling and we've got players out here that can execute the system."
Tackling, I guess.
Again, the headline covers all the pertinent info.