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Dallas Cowboys Training Camp News: Jason Witten Says "This Was A Big Week" For Tony Romo

Latest Cowboys headlines: Jason Witten happy with Tony Romo's progress; Morris Claiborne to miss Baltimore game with shoulder injury; Can Rolando McClain be the starting middle linebacker?

Ronald Martinez

Cowboys Training Camp Report, Practice Number Sixteen: Adieu To Oxnard! - Blogging The Boys
Rabblerousr wraps up his observations from Oxnard with a State of The Union summary of things we knew, things we learned and things we still don't know. Two excerpts of things we learned:

Rolando McClain is the best linebacker on the team. When the Cowboys acquired McClain, the big question wasn't whether he had the talent to play, it was whether his head was in the right space to allow his immense physical gifts to shine. Thus far, it has, and he's poised to be a big difference-maker in the middle of a moribund defensive group.

The Cowboys did pretty well in the seventh round last May. The team made five seventh round selections, and picked up three players - Terrance Mitchell, Ken Bishop, and Ahmad Dixon - that will almost certainly make the team, and another, Ben Gardner, who will essentially get a redshirt year. The only real disappointment in the bunch is linebacker Will Smith. While he might be a disappointment, three for five is a great seventh round hit rate.

Cowboys Camp Report: Day 22 - Todd Archer, ESPN
Archer with his daily review of the hot topics coming out of Dallas Cowboys training camp.

Cowboys will return to Oxnard for years - Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas
Jerry Jones said the team would return to Oxnard next summer and "for the foreseeable future."


Jason Witten happy with progress of Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
It wasn't always reported on accurately, but Romo's back has been one of the biggest stories of camp, as would probably be the case with any high-profile QB coming back from such a surgery. Jason Witten is closer than most to what's going on with Romo's back:

"I felt like this was a big week for Tony," said tight end Jason Witten, the foremost expert on all things Romo. "Early in camp they were resting him some and we did not have him every day. I thought he did a really good job going the right places with the ball, good zip on the ball, leading us on the 2-minute drive (on Wednesday) with the same intensity he always has. I felt like this was a really big week for our team and felt he’s done a really great job setting the tempo for us. These last two days we’ve had success because of the way he’s approached it, so that has been impressive for all of us to see and to get on board with him."

Carter's starting spot might not be secure - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
The Cowboys’ top priority in the 2014 draft – after Anthony Barr and Aaron Donald – would have been Ryan Shazier, who would have been the weakside linebacker for the Cowboys in 2014. That spot was (mostly) held by Bruce Carter in 2013 and was a glaring hole in the Cowboys defense last year.

Archer argues that the Cowboys want Rolando McClain to play middle linebacker so that Justin Durant, who's had a very strong camp, can move to the weakside linebacker spot where he woud replace Carter.

Garrett loaded praise on Durant, who has played mostly middle linebacker and had his best practice Wednesday. He also said he is "very happy" with strong-side linebacker Kyle Wilber, and gave notice to Anthony Hitchens and DeVonte Holloman.

Asked about Carter's camp, Garrett was lukewarm. In the last two practices Carter took turns in pass-rush drills as an outside rusher. He's also been practicing on a lot of the special teams' units.

Scout’s Eye: Durant Shines; Ronald Leary Makes Push - Bryan Broaddus,
Broaddus reviews the second joint practice with the Raiders from Wednesday, and likes what he saw from Ronald Leary, Terrance Mitchell, Rolando McClain and Justin Durant. And given what Todd Archer suggested in the previous link, what Broaddus writes about McClain becomes even more interesting:

If there was a player that needed to have a good practice or two, it was Rolando McClain. You have heard me talk time and time again about the talent I believe that McClain brings to this squad. When studying the practice, it just confirmed my belief that if he can in fact stay healthy and keep his focus on the job ahead, he can be more of a factor in trying to win this starting job away from Justin Durant. For a defense that has struggled with a physical presence at the point of attack, he is a different type of player. He has the ability to extend his arms and play with his hands. You could see this during the practice. He has an impressive ability to take on blockers and get rid of them easily. He can also be a difficult player for a running back to deal with as a blitzer. There is some dip and bend to his game along with a great deal of power.

Garrett: Don’t Rule Out McClain Among Top 3 Linebackers - Nick Eatman,
Eatman continues Archers theme:

For now, [McClain's] backing up middle linebacker Justin Durant, who has filled in nicely for Sean Lee here in camp. But Durant can also play WILL and SAM linebacker and that kind of versatility gives the Cowboys flexibility to switch things up if McClain continues to emerge.

“Well, we’ve actually had a linebacker group we put in about 10 days ago where that happened,” Garrett said of a linebacker group that included McClain in the middle and Durant to the WILL for Kyle Wilber. “We believe in competition. It’s amazing how players respond to competition for their job and for playing time. So, Rolando needs to keep growing and developing every day, but at the end of this thing, we’re going to decide who [our] best three linebackers are and figure out where they should play.”

“We’ve got to give guys opportunities to play in different spots as we go through this process,” Garrett said. “If (McClain) shows us in practice and a game that he deserves to be one of them, we’re going to figure out how to do it. The position flex that Justin has to be the MIKE and also be the WILL, that’s very logical. Then you say OK, where’s Bruce (Carter)? Well, there’s competition at SAM linebacker. There are a lot of ways to do this and we’ve just got to figure out who the best three guys are and who deserves the playing time. We make those decisions as we go.”

Rolando McClain Worried About Progress, Not Timetable - David Helman,
Contrary to some speculation, Garrett said he hasn’t had reason to question McClain’s commitment through the three weeks McClain had been with the team at training camp.

"You can tell he likes football. Unfortunately he’s been dealing with a couple of different things that he’s been on the practice field and off the practice field," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "But when he’s played, he’s done some good things for us."

McClain has been on and off the practice field as he's been getting himself back into football shape. Of the 16 practices in camp so far, he missed the first two (non-padded) practices due to a court date, missed one due to injury and left three practices early as he dealt with various aches and pains he had to work through.

"I’m trying to get my body back right. I ain’t all the way there yet, I’ll be honest, I’m not there yet," McClain said. "The coaches are doing a great job getting me acclimated and getting me to that point, but it ain’t no rush. It’ll be ready when we’re ready, but I feel alright."

Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray not ready to predict yardage yet - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
When asked how much rushing yards he'd get this season, Murray didn't take the bait.

"Well, I’m focused on getting better right now," Murray said. "I’m not worried about individual accolades. I’m trying to get better every day and help this team out. Once the preseason is over I’ll sit down and talk about it with myself team goal as well as individual."

"I think I’ve got to prove it to myself every day," Murray said. "That’s more for me. I’m not worried about proving it to anyone besides myself that I’ve got to work hard every day. I’ve got to get better and help this team win. I think for me it’s just a mental game and I’ve got to be the strongest out there physically, mentally and emotionally."

16 practices; 13 players cut - Cowboys Interactive Roster Builder
Yesterday the Cowboys cut TE Dallas Walker and replaced him with another TE, Asa Watson, a UDFA pickup for the Patriots this year. That means the Cowboys have cut or traded 13 players over the course of the 16 practices held in Oxnard: Jarrod Pughsley, Tyronne Green, L'Damian Washington, Darius Morris, Brian Clarke, Dashaun Phillips, Joe Windsor, Ben Malena, Cody Mandell, Andre Cureton, Ben Bass, Korey Lindsey, Dallas Walker.

Follow the link above to use the Interactive roster builder to update your 53-man roster projection.

Cowboys DT Amobi Okoye overcomes 'one-in-a-million' syndrome, lengthy coma to return to NFL | Rainer Sabin, DMN
Sabin details Amobi Okoye's battle with an extremely rare, and potentially fatal, autoimmune syndrome called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

Doctors clear DT Amobi Okoye - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Cowboys defensive tackle Amobi Okoye was cleared by doctors Thursday for full football activities 13 months after being placed in a medically-induced coma at a Houston hospital to stabilize recurring seizures. The Cowboys expect him to join practice next week.

Morris Claiborne To Miss Baltimore Game With Shoulder Injury - Blogging The Boys
Morris Claiborne will not make his first appearance in a pre-season game on Saturday, a shoulder injury has sidelined him again.

Now evident at Cowboys training camp: Defense is grasping for straws | Brandon George, DMN
George runs down the list of injured or missing players on defense. Read through the list and it will send chills down your spine - but not in a good way.

Come back to BTB later in the day as we'll take a slightly more in-depth look at the overall injury situation, including which players missed how many practices.

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