Thursday Mini-Camp News And Notes

IRVING, Tex. - The Cowboys returned to the practice fields at their training facility in Valley Ranch Thursday for the second day of their last mini-camp.

Players who are eligible to participate include first- and second-year players, any player who missed some portion of the team's offseason program because of injuries, and quarterbacks.

• Starting QB Tony Romo was excused from the mini-camp, meaning veteran Kyle Orton, who signed in the offseason as a free agent, took the first snaps under center, followed by Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter, who are expected to compete for the third quarterback position.

• The team waived RB Darrell Scott, who failed his physical, and replaced him on the roster with RB Ed Wesley, a rookie from TCU who went undrafted in the league's recent supplemental draft.

• The five players Dallas placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list Wednesday — G Mackenzy Bernadeau, WR Danny Coale, CB Mike Jenkins, S Matt Johnson and G/C Kevin Kowalski all were in attendance, although none took part in drills. Jenkins did some light conditioning work on the side with a member of the team's strength staff. Coale, who is working his way back from a broken bone in his foot, jogged to the field with no apparent sign of a limp, but didn't do any serious running.

• Some players who missed part or all of earlier mini-camps and/or OTAs with injuries, like CB Morris Claiborne, DE Tyron Crawford (hamstring) and LB Kyle Wilber (hand) were back on the field with their new teammates.

Claiborne is a rookie who has a lot to learn, of course, but when a team trades up to get a player with the sixth selection in the draft, a lot is expected. Despite playing with a brace to repair his surgically repaired wrist, the rookie from LSU showed flashes of the ability the Cowboys liked when they chose him. He's fast and extremely smooth getting in and out of his breaks, and showed outstanding hands when catching the ball in drills with the other DBs, despite the brace on his wrist. In one drill, in which the player runs forward and backward on an assistant coach's orders before racing forward to catch a pass from the coach, Claiborne regularly covered more ground more quickly than the DB running alongside him and caught every pass, including several fastballs that were fired at him from close range.

• It's weird to see a Dallas punter wearing jersey No. 1 who is NOT named Mat McBriar, the longtime Dallas who signed Wednesday with the Philadelphia Eagles. Wearing McBriar's old jersey was Delbert Alvarado, who has been to a couple of mini-camps with the team last offseason and this year. He handled all of the punts during special teams coach Joe DeCamillis's punt blocking drills, while rookie WR Cole Beasley was the lone return man.

• One defensive player who stood out in pass drills was CB Teddy Williams. The former UT-San Antonio track star has unquestioned speed, but some have viewed him as something of a lab experiment by owner Jerry Jones, since his hands have not matched up to his speed. But Williams made several nice catches Thursday, including one play when he leaped high and reached around the receiver to snag a ball that was headed in to the receiver's facemask. He's not a complete player yet, by any means, but it was very impressive.

• Another player who needs to make sure his hands match up to his speed if he wants a chance to make the team is WR Saalim Hakim. The younger brother of former Rams WR Az Hakim, Saalim has as much pure speed as any receiver in camp … and made a sensational left-handed grab of a pass from Orton during seven-on-seven drills on a ball thrown a couple of yards out of bounds. Hakim was able to keep both feet in bounds before tumbling over the sideline.

• The most impressive receiver Thursday was Beasley. At 5-8 and 174, he's the smallest player on the field and he is shiftier than he is fast, but he continues to make plays. Beasley fielded punts cleanly, beat CB Teddy Williams deep down the right sideline to snag a 40-yard strike from Orton and later reached back while running a crossing route to snatch a pass that was thrown a few feet behind him (and appeared to be an easy interception by S Justin Taplin-Ross).

RB Lance Dunbar, an undrafted rookie free agent, is a little like Beasley, in that he's not very big (5-8, 191) and doesn't have blinding speed, but he has an element of elusiveness that seems to be effective. Dunbar repeatedly took handoffs or caught short screen passes and wiggled his way through traffic or shook defenders with a series of fakes that allowed him to generate space and get upfield.

• If TE Andrew Szczerba is going to make the team, he has to improve as a receiver. The undrafted rookie from Penn State is big (6-6, 256) and looks like a solid blocker. But he dropped a few catchable passes, and on another play, he made a nice grab of a high pass, only to have it stripped out of his hands by LB Kyle Wilber, who headed upfield for a would-be touchdown.

• Undrafted rookies have to take advantage of chances to make plays and impress coaches. LB Aston Whiteside had a chance to do just that during seven-on-seven drills when he jumped in front of TE James Hanna on a short pass in the left flat. Whiteside had a chance for an easy interception just a few feet in front of several coaches, including defensive coordinator Rob Ryan but dropped the pass.

QB Rudy Carpenter got the fewest snaps of the quarterbacks during 11-on-11 drills, and had mixed results. On his first play, his pass sailed several feet over the receiver, allowing CB Mario Butler to make a beautiful sliding interception. On the next play, however, Carpenter bounced back, adding a few miles per hour to his fastball as he connected on a quick slant pass to WR Saalim Hakim, who made the catch despite having a defensive back draped all over him.

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