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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: "Playmaker" Sean Lee Changes Face Of Cowboys Defense

Latest Cowboys headlines: Sean Lee’s presence helps spark defense; Rookie QB Jameill Showers takes snaps ahead of veteran Dustin Vaughan; Cowboys' corner depth being tested.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Lee’s return, improved defense highlight Cowboys’ scrimmage | Clarence Hill, The Star Telegram
Hill offers an ode to Sean Lee and the impact his presence has on the defense.

"He brings intensity," Jones said. "Everybody’s effort level goes up. It’s a big-time difference when he is out there. Things change. He is a playmaker. It was good to see him out there."

Lee’s Presence Helps Spark Defense During Goal-Line Drill in Scrimmage | Nick Eatman, Dallas Cowboys
After getting run over by the offense in goal-line drills on Saturday, the defense looked much better on Sunday.

The difference? Well, that would be the insertion of Lee, who was visibly upset on Saturday with being held out of action as a precautionary measure. The coaching staff didn’t do that Sunday and Lee responded by making a few tackles in the red-zone period.

"I thought the whole red-zone drive today was better than yesterday," Lee said following the control scrimmage on Sunday. "We came out and competed, but we have a lot of room to improve. We have to compete with that intensity every single day."

Sean Lee now full go in Cowboys camp - Todd Archer, ESPN
Lee continues to make progress from his ACL injury, and has be re-installed as the defensive signal-caller the past two days with the first team, Archer observes.

"To me he’s an All-Pro player at the end of the day," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "So [have a ] you guy out there [with] his resume and what he’s done in this league, I mean it’s instant credibility for everybody. The strength of the calls, all those things, and you know the guy is going to go 100 mph and he’s going to make plays."

Cowboys LB Sean Lee on doing 11-on-11 team drills: ‘I felt great today’ | Rainer Sabin, Dallas Morning News
Lee feels great, the Cowboys feel great, the fans feel great. But the coaches are not rushing Lee back regardless.

"His rehab has gone really well," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "He’s making progress every day. I think we have done a good job as an organization of being deliberate with him and his return…It’s good to see him getting more work over the last couple of days."

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Cowboys 2015 Training Camp Practice Summary: Thoughts From The Blue-White Scrimmage - Blogging The Boys
Rabblerousr offers a collection of thoughts and observations from the Blue-White Scrimmage, and highlights Randy Gregory's progress among other things.

During the one-on-one pass drills, we were treated to the steady improvement made by Randy Gregory. On his first rush, against "the pickle," R.J. Dill, he displayed impressive explosiveness and the ability to dip and bend the corner (his shoulder might have been as low as a foot off the ground) without sacrificing speed. On the next play, he went hard upfield, then turned into the tackle, driving him back into the quarterback.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, Gregory has been seeing a lot of time with the first team on the nickle. My pet theory is that the coaching staff wants him to get as many snaps as possible against the heavy-handed Tyron Smith (consider: how much better is he going to get going up against Dill every day?). They realize that he has special skills, but needs to develop a variety of moves. Against Dill, he won't need to do that, as he can win most snaps with an upfield rush.

Rabble will have a more extensive practice summary up later today, so stay tuned here on BTB.

Practice recap: Joseph Randle's disputed score highlights scrimmage - Dallas Cowboys Blog - ESPN
Joseph Randle's disputed touchdown was one of the highlights of Sunday's scrimmage, Archer writes, and adds the following nuggets:

Rookie fifth-round pick Ryan Russell had two would-be sacks in team work, including one on the second play of the scrimmage of Vaughan. The backup offensive line will have some work to do before Thursday’s preseason opener. It allowed four sacks and had two false-start penalties.

Linebacker Andrew Gachkar had an impactful day with an interception of Brandon Weeden on a deflected pass in the play-action portion of practice. Five plays later in seven-on-seven work he put a thumping on fullback Tyler Clutts after a short completion.

Rookie QB Jameill Showers takes snaps ahead of veteran Dustin Vaughan in Blue-White scrimmage | | Dallas Morning News
Showers may not have officially leapfrogged Vaughan on the depth chart, but he could end up getting some snaps on Thursday against the Chargers if he continues to show up.

"We just wanted to make sure each of those guys got work," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We want to give them work in different situations. Showers has done a nice job. I think he’s moving around better. He’s understanding the system better. He’s getting the ball out of his hand better. We want to make sure we give him chances to continue to grow."

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Tony Romo becomes fan when watching ‘real men’ matchup: Tyron Smith vs. Greg Hardy | | Dallas Morning News
The battles between Greg Hardy and Tyron Smith have been must-see moments throughout the first week of training camp, and even Tony Romo was excited to watch the matchup.

"I’m probably like you guys," Romo said. "I get excited to see it too. My dad was out here and he was watching. He got excited. I brought him back in. We were watching some tape, going over on our off day. He didn’t see the ones from before and I showed him and he asked me, ‘Who’s going to win this one?’

"These are two men. The NFL is all men. But then there’s like real men involved with it. It’s pretty cool just as a fan almost sometimes because you know how talented both of them are. And you know how aggressive they’re going to go on each snap. And then you also know that they care deeply about winning. I think it’s a great matchup. I think it’s going to benefit our football team to see that energy, day-in and day-out."

Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag: So far no competition at left guard - Dallas Cowboys Blog - ESPN
Even before the Blue/White scrimmage, Archer saw Ron Leary with a stranglehold on the left guard job.

As much as everybody wants to believe La'el Collins will be the starter at some point, Ronald Leary has done nothing wrong to give up the job. Collins hasn't been bad, either, but as I've said when camp started: for Collins to win the gig, he would have to knock out the champ. So far Leary has taken every first-team snap in camp. That should tell you what the coaches are thinking in this "battle." Unless Leary falls apart or gets injured, I don't think there's a doubt he's the starter Week 1 against the New York Giants.

Dallas Cowboys' corner depth being tested - Todd Archer, ESPN
With Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick missing Saturday's workout, the Cowboys' other cornerbacks tried to take advantage of a heavier workload.

Cornerback depth is something the Cowboys have not had a lot of. [...] But this year things look a little different. The Cowboys could keep six cornerbacks on their 53-man roster and Saturday’s practice did not become an aerial show for the offense with Carr and Scandrick absent.

Some of that might have been due to the nature of practice with the focus on short-yardage and goal line. Maybe some of it had to do with Dez Bryant’s absence because of a slight hamstring strain.

At least part of it had to do with the remaining cornerbacks.

Cowboys thrilled with the distinguished ‘Senator’ from UConn | Drew Davison, The Star Telegram
Stephen Jones likes what he sees from Byron Jones, and impressed by how the rookie isn't overwhelmed despite being asked to play multiple positions.

"It’s cool because whenever they move me around, I feel like they’re challenging me," Jones said. "It’s like they’re saying, ‘Hey, Byron, let’s see what you got. Can you play the nickel? Can you play dime? Can you play safety? Can you play corner? All in one practice, so I accept the challenge.

"Once you know the entire defense, the schemes of the zones and man coverages are very interchangeable. Everything is based on someone else doing something, so if you know what the safety is doing, you know what you’re doing. It helps knowing multiple positions."

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Holding pattern with starters opens doors for young Cowboys | Miami Herald
This AP report by Shuyler Dixon notes that the list of injured veterans for the Cowboys is growing, which is an opportunity for the younger players to step up, especially in Thursday's game against the Chargers.

Garrett says his philosophy has always been to get players lower on the depth chart plenty of work in the two weeks before the preseason opener.

"And sometimes that's challenging," Garrett said. "You want to get the ones out there. But you really build your football team by giving younger guys and backup players an opportunity early on to see where they are, to see them compete on as level a playing field as possible."

"There are some many different opportunities, hurdles, obstacles that we have when we evaluate these guys," Garrett said. "And hopefully you've prepared them along the way to take the next hurdle. And we'll see if they have."

Build youth depth or get starters reps? Why Garrett says that is challenging for Cowboys at camp | David Moore, Dallas Morning News
Moore explains that the practices leading up to the preseason opener are about giving down-roster players opportunities to show if they can contribute.

It’s about evaluation and building depth to withstand the grind that will come. The coaching staff also wants to see how units respond to a challenge.

"This is when guys get opportunities," Stephen Jones said. "Obviously that’s probably going on to varying degrees across the league. Everybody when you get two weeks into camp, you’re having to work with this.

"Every situation is different. A veteran player who gets hurt is going to be a little different than a younger player who gets hurt. He has to get out here and show or he’s not going to be around here long.

"A veteran player would probably be a little more conservative with it because we know what they can do and we want to make sure they’re ready to go for the Giants."

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Banner saying "WE STILL DEM BOYZ! #SACKSCOMIN!" flies over Eagles camp | Jon Machota, Dallas Morning News
A plane carrying a message flew over practice at Lincoln Financial Field. The banner read: "WE STILL DEM BOYZ! #SACKSCOMIN!"

Needless to say, Eagles players and fans alike did not react in a humorous way.

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