After working on nickle and special blitz packages for the first four days of camp and then turning their attention to red zone, no-huddle and two-minute offense, the Cowboys kicked off Oxnard 2015's third phase by turning their attention to the slobber-knockers: goal line and short yardage. Because work on goal line takes a more severe toll on players' bodies than, say, work on the third down offense, the full team periods, which had been growing in duration and intensity late last week, were comparatively brief and brisk affairs: the team got its work done, knocked the heck out of each other, and moved on to the next item on the day's agenda.
Perhaps because of the subject of today's lessons, this was the saltiest and testiest practice of camp. During the final team period, two fights broke out, the biggest one being a skirmish between Tyler Clutts and Kyle Wilber, who had enjoyed a few testy reps earlier in the week. Outside of the fights, the general attitude was chippy and confrontational; offensive players celebrated more loudly - as if rubbing it in. Here's one example:
Escobar skies for a touchdown over Church, then lets him know about it. https://t.co/4B3CWhyMGp— David Helman (@HelmanDC) August 8, 2015
For their part, the defensive players seemed always to have an elbow for a receiver or a hard swat for a ballcarrier. And I'm sure whatever attitude the defense adopted to start practice was made nastier by what transpired during the short but impactful goal line segment of the second full team period.
The first team offense scored on all four of their goal line plays - and did so in dominating fashion, opening wide lanes for backs to run and moving in perfect concert on a play action pass that Tyler Clutts took in for a score. The second team fared almost as well, scoring on three of their four shots. While this was happening, proud vets like Sean Lee (who was withheld from the session) and Greg Hardy openly expressed their discontent at what was happening. Afterward, Jason Garrett gathered the team and laid into the defense, telling them he had never seen anything like it. All the while, Rod Marinelli added his two cents, punctuating his comments with choice vulgarities.
It wasn't just this period wherein the offense dominated. In the earlier competitive period wherein the O-line and D-line went head-to-head in the running game, the guys in white (offense) had their way, using the trap blocks they had worked on in position group drills to open wide lanes for Gus Johnson, the only back working with them, to run through. Thus the goal line period was merely a continuation of a dominant afternoon for Frank Pollack's big uglies.
Speaking of the offensive line: I read a scholarly article years ago from a psychologist who had been asked by the San Diego Chargers to visit with the team and, among other things, to assess the personality type of players at each position. One of his observations was that offensive linemen tend not to be individualists; rather, they feel more secure as part of a team or larger group. This asseveration is certainly true insofar as it applies to the Cowboys' O-line, all of whom came onto the field as one (and, apparently, all hang out together on off days, eat their meals together, work out as a group, etc.). This tendency toward cohesion is one of many reasons the O-line promises once again to be the team's heartbeat..
Although I doubt this had any effect on their struggles in short yardage, the Cowboys' defense was weakened today by the loss of starting corners Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick. In a big surprise, we were informed that Carr broke his hand and would require surgery on Monday, in Dallas. Scandrick has been battling a gimpy knee (some observers have speculated that this is the reason he has had a less than stellar camp thus far), and decided to give it a rest. The interesting question is: how long a rest will he need; is this a longer-term issue?
After an opening week during which there were very few injuries, and none to any players of note, the Cowboys have now begun to add starters' names to the growing list of the wounded. Not only did Carr and Scandrick miss today's work, but Nick Hayden sat out significant parts of the work (including the goal line debacle). On the defensive side, Dez Bryant and Doug Free both sat out Saturday's affair (and are likely to miss Sunday's work as well, I'd bet). To add insult to injury, special teams ace Andrew Garchkar went down in mid-practice with an unspecified leg injury. As a consequence, a passel of down-roster guys had an opportunity to go up in class. The early returns are that most of them struggled to fight at the new weight.
Because of Oxnard's proximity to Los Angeles, Cowboys Camp is regularly visited by LA-based celebrities. Occasionally, Jason Garrett will have one of them address the team. Today's practice began with a little speechifying by Denzel Washington (who was joined by his son, D.J, who is in "Ballers."). Given his status in Hollywood's acting pantheon, I suspect the players - especially the younger guys - were dazzled by Denzel. But this cuts both ways; Washington, a life-long Cowboys fan, was himself a little star-struck:
Denzel Washington: "I've been a Cowboy fan my whole life. I'm talking about Duane Thomas. ... Walt Garrison, Calvin Hill, Tony Dorsett."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 8, 2015
Denzel Washington: "I'm just happy I get to meet Tony Romo and them guys. This is a dream for me. Days like today are just fun days for me."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 8, 2015
Indeed, Denzel, being at camp is a dream. And unlike you, I get to live it every day.
Life is good...
Stay tuned, loyal readers; I'll have a fuller, more detailed report on the day's action later tonight/ early tomorrow morning (depending on your time zone)...