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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Morris Claiborne Shines, Joseph Randle Impresses

Latest Cowboys headlines: Stephen Jones says club will contend for a championship; Another strong day at the office for Morris Claiborne; Joseph Randle is a blur hitting the holes.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys opening ceremony: Stephen Jones says club will ‘contend for a championship’ | Brandon George, Dallas Morning News
Stephen Jones stepped in for Jerry Jones during the opening ceremony yesterday and explained what the brass expects this year.

"We certainly are looking forward to a great season," Stephen Jones said, "and we certainly expect to contend for a championship but it starts right here in Oxnard."

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Cowboys 2015 Training Camp Practice Summary: Dallas, We Have (Real) Football! - Rabblerousr, Blogging The Boys
Rabble's observations from the Cowboys’ third training camp practice, which featured the return of real(ish) football: players in pads hitting one another in earnest.

Old School Saturday -- #CowboysCamp Day 3 - Rafael Vela, CowboysNation
Vela focuses his recap on a series tutorials by old, learned Cowboys hands, but also has this nugget on Morris Claiborne:

Another strong day at the office for Morris Claiborne. The tight press lessons have taken. He made one of the standout defensive plays in the final split 6-on-6 drill when he undercut a Terence WIlliams in-route, and dove across Williams’ body to make a lunging interception inches above the turf. He appears a lot more confortable with his hand usage. Unlike 2014 where he looked tentative, he’s much more confident riding receivers up the field with his hands in cover-3. His overall awareness appears much better. He’s the most aware corner on the team, meaning he can find a ball in the air better than any of his peers and is better able to make a play on a ball in the air than any other Cowboys corner.

Ten Thoughts from Day 1 in Pads | Clarence Hill, The Star Telegram
Hill offers up ten practice observations from a day when Joseph Randle and Morris Claiborne stood in practice. Here's his take on Randle:

Joseph Randle is a blur hitting the holes. He may have spoken out of turn with the "meat on the bone" comment. But was not off base in thinking he will rip off more big gainers than DeMarco Murray behind the Cowboys offensive line. He certainly gets the line of scrimmage and into the secondary much faster than Murray.

Sat. Practice Recap: First Day of Pads; Claiborne, RBs Stand Out | Rob Phillips, Dallas Cowboys
Phillips also offers a summary of the day's events, and he likes what he saw from Morris Claiborne.

The fourth-year corner announced his return to the practice field in a big, big way. It’s only been nine months since Claiborne tore his patellar tendon, but after an extensive rehab, he went through all but one session of Saturday’s practice – and he impressed. In the seven-on-seven period, he picked off Romo by jumping a post route. Several minutes later, he almost had another when he broke up a deep ball intended for Devin Street. It would have been a big day for a guy who was completely healthy – let alone someone who suffered a major injury less than a year ago.

Camp Watch - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
In Archer's camp observations, some of the downroster guys get some attention, including Davon Coleman.

Defensive tackle Davon Coleman had a solid first day. He was able to stop Lache Seastrunk twice behind the line of scrimmage in run drills. In the "blue" period of practice, however, he got caught in the wash in a pass rush by rookie guard La'el Collins.

Dallas Cowboys: First practices - Sean Lee, Dez Bryant, Mo Claiborne - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Archer explains how the Cowboys are smartly working some regulars coming off injury or inactivity into the flow of training camp. So if you were worried when you heard about Sean Lee sitting out practice and working with the trainers, don't be.

"Everything is fine," Lee said. "I’m just trusting the trainers. They’ve got a progression plan for me that is working from Day 1, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. But I think being in pads for the first time in a long time, they just want to progress me a certain way and it’ll be good."

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Dallas Cowboys are on unfamiliar turf with committee of running backs - Sam Farmer, LA Times
Farmer writes that with Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker, Emmitt Smith, or most recently DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys have been at their best when they "can put the ball in the hands of a superior back and watch him roll up yards." But that may be about to change.

"Most teams use a couple of different backs who contribute for them on first and second down, maybe they have a role guy who comes in on third down on passing situations," Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett said. "So that's been the trend in the league. Maybe because it's such a demanding position physically, those guys get beaten up a lot. It's a rare guy who can withstand that punishment with all those carries week in and week out."

What's more, there's the notion that even a second-tier back could gain big yards behind that offensive line, the best in football, which includes three Pro Bowl players and two All-Pros.

Pass Protection Could Play Major Role In Deciding Open RB Competition | Nick Eatman, Dallas Cowboys
Eatman reminds us that the Cowboys place a strong emphasis on a running back's ability to pass protect, and that pass protection may be a key decider in who gets snaps at RB. And right now, McFadden looks to have the lead in that department.

Garrett said McFadden’s blitz pick-up is one of the best parts of his game.

"He’s done an excellent job throughout his career. He’s a smart football player. He’s aware. He’s been in those situations. He’s also physically tough," Garrett said of McFadden. "That’s one of the great impressions that we had of McFadden when he was coming out of school is that he’s a tough guy, he’s a tough runner. Oftentimes, (running backs are) not physically strong enough to handle it and those guys just knock you over and go get the quarterback. But he has all the positive traits and he’s done it a lot."

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Rolando McClain once had same score as Sean Lee on LB aptitude test | Rainer Sabin, Dallas Morning News
McClain has a football IQ on par with Sean Lee.

His position coach, Matt Eberflus, says it is "off the charts." Jason Garrett, a Princeton man, characterized it as "exceptionally high." One other assistant coach likened him to a football savant.

"I was sitting at Penn State at the hotel there and this was before I went out to see Rolando," Eberflus said. "And I tested Sean Lee. I gave him about a 40-question test and this son of a gun is hard now. You have to know your calls and what the adjustments are for each defense. And I give them several defenses. And Sean was 39 out of 40. We still talk about it today. He’s still mad he missed the one question.

"But then I go out and go talk to Nick [Saban] because I played for Nick and all that. So then I go out there and he tells me great things and [Crimson Tide defensive coordinator] Kirby [Smart] tells me great things about Rolando. We sit in Kirby’s office and we do the same test. Forty questions. So [McClain] goes through it and says, ‘Golly, this is hard.’

"But it was easier for Rolando at the time because it was real similar for him scheme-wise. For Sean, he was in a 4-3 scheme playing an outside backer and an overhang position. I figured it was in terms of knowing the knowledge of it prior to that it was easier for [McClain]. And Rolando did really good on the test. And guess what? He missed one question too. Those guys are very intelligent and they’re good guys and they’re really good players. I am excited to have them in the room."

Cowboys welcome McClain despite issues with knee, suspension | Miami Herald
McClain's knee isn't ready for training camp, and he'll sit out four games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, but simply having McClain in California is good enough for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

"I just like hanging out with him," Marinelli said. "I like him in the meeting. I like him every time I see him. I just like him. And he's getting healthy. He's getting his rehab. He's getting all those things done. It's terrific having him here."

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Tyrone Crawford settling in at defensive tackle | Drew Davison, The Star Telegram
Most people know this is Tyrone Crawford's fourth year in the NFL. Few understand that this is the first training camp in which he's preparing to play defensive tackle. For Crawford, that makes things a lot easier.

"Extremely easier," Crawford said. "I knew where I wanted my weight, I knew how I wanted to lift and I knew different things I needed to train. I knew things I needed to study, people I needed to study on film."

The NFL’s Next Notable Pass-Rushers - Grantland
Bill Barnwell and Robert Mays team up to look at the next generation of potential pass rushers, one of which is Tyrone Crawford.

His position (and the sack totals that come with it) means Crawford won’t be looking at the same payday when he hits free agency this offseason, but damn, does this guy jump off the screen at times.

Crawford doesn’t fit the mold of a pass-rusher I typically fall in love with. His work is not necessarily pretty, but it’s always overwhelming. This is a big comparison, but he reminds me a bit of a poor man’s Ndamukong Suh. He is strong as hell, but he also has the burst to finish plays when given the chance. He tends to lean on this inside move, using his quickness to take advantage of guards setting up to take him on from the outside, but look at how quickly he gets from the line of scrimmage to the quarterback. Not many defensive tackles come anywhere close to that.

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Source: Jeremy Mincey in Oxnard to discuss two-year deal with club | Brandon George, Dallas Morning News
Quoting a source, George writes that Mincey arrived in Oxnard yesterday evening and will meet with Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett on sometime today.

Mincey will meet with Jones on Sunday to discuss a two-year deal, the source said. Mincey’s holdout is pending what happens in his meeting Sunday with Jones. If the two sides can agree on a new two-year deal, Mincey will return to the field Sunday and join his teammates for the club’s fourth day of training camp practices.

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Cowboys LB Justin Jackson tears ACL; team down to 9 linebackers | Dallas Morning News
Per David Moore, linebacker Justin Jackson tore his ACL on Saturday. Jackson had been signed on June 8, and his season is over before it started.

Cowboys sign linebacker Will Smith | Dallas Morning News
The Dallas Cowboys signed LB Will Smith (Texas Tech) on Saturday. Smith was originally drafted by Dallas in the seventh round (238th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. He spent a portion of his rookie season on the Cowboys practice squad.

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