They practiced a team drill on the opposite field that was hard to see, but I did catch a few notables. All the passes and runs were designed to the outside and only one two deep balls thrown.
Ray McDonald is known for his quick first step and getting 9 in the gap faster than most anyone. He jumped early on the first play and drew the ire of the coaches.
They did try and loosen them up a couple of times. On a long corner route, Corey Bailey had a head start and the right angle on a corner route, but the speed difference was really noticeable as Bubba Caldwell passed him. The pass was a little overthrown, but this is the kind of match up they are looking to get when Bubba is playing in the slot. On another play, to loosen the defense up from the tight coverage, every receiver went deep. Excellent coverage all around forced Leak to throw to a well covered Jemalle Cornelius, and Vernell Brown knocked it away.
Gavin Dickey just looks so much smother on the option than the other quarterbacks. Chris Leak looked comfortable doing it these days, but it just seems to work better when Gavin is in there.
Chris Leak rolls out on the first play. The rollout and bootlegs has become a bigger staple of the offense as the quarterback and receivers become more and more familiar with everything going on. The defense strikes again, as Leak takes a shot at double coverage, but throws it where only his guy has a chance. Incomplete deep.
Kenneth Tookes has played more with the 1st team with the absence of Reggie Lewis. When one of the slot receivers is tired in a 4 wide set, Tookes has jumped in there to play.
Leak tried an option, but Jeremy Mincey destroys and contains the play to the outside.
Dickey scrambles on a play action pass. The ever effective Mike McIntosh shows his maturity and comes back to the quarterback to receive the ball.
Leak gets sacked by Earl Everett and Mincey on one play.
Even the short passes are beginning to get difficult. In the first pass during pass-skel Jarvis Herring almost went through OJ Small to get the ball. It fell harmlessly to the ground.
On the next play Terrance Holmes reeled in an interception of a bomb by Leak. Tookes was flying down the middle of the field and had Bailey underneath. The ball was slightly overthrown and Holmes was there to reel it in.
Dickey hit Chad Jackson on a go route between the corner and safety on the side line. We saw a lot of these completed last week and earlier this week, but the last few days have been few and far between. They found the gap in the coverage between Dawayne Grace and Tony Joiner.
Tate Casey walloped Javier Estopinan the other day on a blind side block. Today Channing took a shot on the freshman tight end. Casey caught the ball, but Crowder made him pay and smacked him to the ground.
Vernell Brown gets a little revenge for Dallas Baker's high flying tricks as he smacks the ball away from the clutches of the much taller Baker. Incomplete pass.
Dee Webb was with the second team today. He has been hobbled all week and has seen limited playing time. In his absence Vernell Brown and Reynaldo Hill have done excellent jobs. I guess they are going to make him earn his way back up.
Reynaldo Hill continues to guard the corners well, especially deep in the end zone. Leak tried to hit Small for one of the patented corner passes, and Hill was all over Small to force the incompletion.
We are starting to see more slant passes. Baker and Jackson both caught slant passes for touchdowns down in the red zone area of the field.
Clint McMillan subbed for Marcus Thomas who was sick and away from practice. Maybe he had too much butter in his popcorn at the movie today.
Markell Thompson catches a wide open 16 yard crosser over the middle. The wide open passes especially in the deep and middle zones have become fewer and far between this week. He came back later on the same route and caught the same pass with excellent coverage from Crowder this time.
Brandon Siler stopped Markus Manson deep in the backfield on a wide running play. He broke down and showed some emotion for making the play. That was good to see.
Reynaldo continues on his aggressive streak. He rode Dallas Baker through his whle route on a deep corner pass.
Something that has disappeared a lot too is the wide open and uncovered flat pass from the first week. Dickey throw it out to Skyler Thornton and Vernell Brown is there tom tag him as soon as the ball reaches his hands.
OJ Small has back to back plays in the back corner of the end zone that just define what he means to this offense. On the first he has solid coverage from Corey Bailey who is bumping him to the corner and Small reels in the pass. On the second he was double covered by Bailey and Hill who both had their bodies on him and he reeled another touchdown in. Small finishes it off with a 3rd TD catch on a comeback to a scrambling Leak in the front corner of the endzone.
2 Minute Drill
1st team defense vs. 2nd team offense
1:23 ;left on the clock, 14-10 is the score, ball is on the -20 or 8 yards from a TD
1-10: Dickey hits Tookes over the middle for 11 yards and he is stopped when he catches it, clock is running.
1-10 at the 31; Dickey hits McIntosh on a Go route on the far sideline in perfect stride, he got behind everyone. Only the sideline stopped him. Complete for 36 yards to the 33.
1-10 at the 33; 1:11 left on the clock; Dickey throws the ball away after excellent coverage all the way around.
2-10; Short pass out of bounds on opposite side to McIntosh/
3-6 at the 29; 1;03 left on the clock; Bernard Middleton catches a crossing route for 4 yards and is immediately tackled. Clock running.
4-2 at the 25; ;43 seconds left, the ball is batted down by Ray McDonald and the defense wins.
1st team defense vs. 2nd team offense
:52 left on the clock, score is 18-10, ball spotted 42 yards from the endzone. The offense needs a TD and 2 point conversion to tie.
1-10: Chad Jackson is in the game for Jemalle Cornelius. Pass complete to OJ Small for 11 yards.
1-10 at the 31; :53 left; Leak tried to hit Jackson on a deep ball on the right side. Brandon Siler dropped deep in the zone over there and Kyle Jackson had coverage over the top as the ball went to the sidelines.
2-10; OJ Small (the glove) catches a first down pass at the 16 yard line.
1-10 at the 16, Dallas Baker ends up with the play of the day as he has a well thrown post pass that is completely covered by Dawayne Grace. Dallas out-muscles the rookie and scores with one foot in bounds at the back of the end zone.
2 point conversion, Leak bobbles the snap and makes an errant pass to end the series. Defense wins again.
Reynaldo Hill evidently wants a chance to return punts. He jumped back there to receive and Coach Zook had to yell at him for the second time this preseason to jump out and guard the gunner on the left side. Vernell Brown and Dickey continue to man the punt return duties.
Jemalle Cornelius blocked the first punt attempt as they went live action. I have a shot of it in the picture gallery, just before the punt. Cornelius will block some punts this year.
The 2nd team offensive tackles are being worked around a little. At times today Carlton Medder was playing left tackle and the switched to right tackle and then back again. When he is not manning either of those spots, the replacements have been Phil Trautwein at right tackle and Jason Watkins at left tackle.
Ciatrick Fason continues to look better after a sore knee slowed him down earlier in the eek. He made a move and stiff armed Reynaldo Hill one time that had his teammates yelling and turned a four yard run into a fourteen yard run.
The defense continues to shine today. A few plays here and there are coming open for the offense, but compared to the beginning of the preseason, the difference is really noticeable.
One of the requirements while out at practice, is that anyone on a football field and traveling from one place to another must run or jog to get there. Coach Dixon always screams out "If you are on the field, you are running!!!" The other day, he caught Markell Thompson walking and made him run back to the opposite side and back before leaving practice.
Reggie Lewis is ok but still hospitalized. They are not sure what his problem was but they know it was dehydration. They expect him out anytime and his mother says he is climbing the walls to get out.
Earl Everett smacked C-4 twice today and C-4 made sure to acknowledge the sledge hammer like blows. It was good to see Everett out there slamming around a little.
Taurean Charles was viewing the practice from the sidelines. He will start school on Monday and any punishment is pending the outcome of his law problems.
Today there were 12 linebackers on the field for individual drills. Just 3 days or so ago, there were only 8. With the recent additions of Mike Mangold, Jarvis Moss, and walk-on Derrion Robinson to the linebacker corps they finally have enough to field split teams. Add a healing Todd McCullough who practiced the drills today, and the numbers are looking much better. In the middle of the individual session of practice, Coach Miller took the Sam linebackers over to work with the tight ends head to head. In that group were Jarvis Moss and Mike Mangold. Hmmmmmmmm?