I finally made it. Saturday marked a big milestone for me here at Blogging The Boys, as it was my first ever time to travel to Oxnard as a (semi) official representative for the site at Dallas Cowboys training camp. It was exciting and a bit crazy.
While it was a fascinating chance to see what I saw differently from being there, it also was highlighted by being joined by @rabblerousr, @DannyPhantom24, and @NoHuddle, all friends from social media that I got to meet face to face for the first time. They also helped me with their own observations of practice, which takes us right into my first thing to note.
- You are going to miss some of the things going on, no matter what. Of course there are times early in practice when multiple things were happening, like the special teams working on punts and field goal assignments, the quarterbacks working with the centers, and the rest of the linemen involved in their own drills. It is just the way things are. Even in 11-on-11 work, when those 22 are the only players doing anything, you can really just focus on one thing. For most that is almost always where the ball is. It takes real effort to see what is going on with the other players, which can sometimes be even more informative. But it is hard.
- Dan Quinn has gotten so much notice for his one-on-one, hands-on instruction. John Fassel was doing the same on Saturday, stopping a field goal rep to adjust foot and hand position on one of the linemen. It would have been easy to miss, but it happened directly in front of me and caught my attention.
- It may be that the backup quarterbacks were starting to find their rhythm, or maybe the coaches set them up for more success. In any case, they looked better. The first 11-on-11 work of the day was in a goal line situation, and Garrett Gilbert had back-to-back touchdown throws, followed by one from Cooper Rush. Ben DiNucci would get his own later in the session.
- I don’t know exactly what this means, but late in practice the team was in a lot of 11-on-9 work. They would only have two defensive linemen on the field, and they usually were working a stunt. The rest of the activity was pretty much normal, and it rotated through ones, twos, and threes just like everything else. One possible reason is to protect the players involved in the trenches by not having too much going on at once. Maybe that is not the real reason, but I’m just trying to figure it out.
- Tyron Smith saw limited action but was not held out the entire practice as was expected. And the most impressive moment of the session, at least for my easily impressed self, was when he, Zack Martin, and La’el Collins came striding across the field at the beginning of practice. Have you ever seen someone come in and just own a room? That was exactly how they took the field. It was a real “We have arrived, you lesser mortals just carry about your business” moment.
- Still, the most consistently impressive player continues to be Randy Gregory. During situational work, I lost track of how many times he would have gotten a sack or broken up the pass if he had not been holding up to protect the quarterbacks. He is not unstoppable - just really, really hard to handle.
- That is sort of known at this point. What is a little less apparent is that Neville Gallimore may be the second-most impressive lineman. He was doing a lot of penetration on both passing and running plays. It is good.
- To take it a step further, the defensive line may be my favorite unit on the team after one day. Along with Gregory and Gallimore, Dorance Armstrong and Quinton Bohanna had some nice plays.
- That stuff is harder to see. What gets the average fan in the stands juiced is something like the ongoing back and forth battle between CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs. Both had their moments, and it did look to my untrained eye that Diggs was covering a bit too close. The refs on the field apparently agreed, throwing a flag or two his way. But this is a great thing to see as the two are strengthening each other.
- Another player who seemed to be making frequent nice plays was Cedrick Wilson. With Amari Cooper out (Michael Gallup was back in action), Wilson was taking up the slack, and doing so rather well, including a nice TD reception on a scramble play by Gilbert.
- Don’t sleep on Malik Turner, either. He was probably the best of the rest among WRs, and has to be in the conversation about just how many of them the team will carry.
- There were several nice plays from the backup running backs and wide receivers. But Rabs summed that up a bit harshly, albeit perfectly accurately, by describing one such instance as “a nice play by a guy who has no chance to make the roster.” We can hope that injury does not change that and force some of those decisions a different direction. Still, it is always sobering to remember that in just a few weeks the NFL dream is going to be derailed, in some cases permanently, for a whole bunch of these players.
- I know this horse may be getting beaten past the point of its own demise. Or perhaps it is that we have heard so much about it that we just take notice. But on a routine looking play, Jaylon Smith had a stop of a ball carrier - and was doing a little celebratory dance. It was not a big one, and not even his trademark swipe. It just stood out, especially because not many other players were celebrating much of anything when they had a good play. It was almost as if they just felt they were doing their jobs.
- Finally, it doesn’t have anything to do with the way the team is shaping up. But the fan base clearly is excited and expecting big things. To get into the practice this morning, there was a line of cars that extended over a mile. The local authorities stopped letting people enter shortly after the practices started because the facility was deemed to have reached its capacity. Beyond the typical whooping and hollering when someone makes a big play, this is a clear sign of the pent-up demand for a real winner from this team.
We discussed Saturday’s recap in full length with highlights included as we have been doing with every Dallas Cowboys practice over on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel. Make sure to subscribe to our channel (which you can do right here) so you don’t miss any of our videos.