Dallas Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley continues to dominate training camp. This is especially true when Tony Romo is the QB and it'll probably continue to be the case as Dez Bryant sits nursing his hamstring tweak.
No matter who is covering Beas, he always manages to get open. Beasley has become on of Romo's most reliable targets and he looks primed for a career year in 2015. Based off what I've seen this offseason, including in the Blue-White Scrimmage (witnessed by 6,962 in Oxnard) I wouldn't be at all surprised if Beasley has the 2nd most receiving touchdowns for the Cowboys this year - behind Dez, of course.
Beasley isn't looking that far ahead, of course ...
But when Sean Lee talks about what a "challenge'' it is to oppose this offense every day, Romo-to-Beasley is one of the points he's thinking about.
Speaking of dominating camp, no one has performed at a higher level than Tyron Smith. He consistently keeps Lawrence, Hardy, Gregory and the other pass rushes in check, and did so again on Sunday. That's not a knock on the pass rushers - they've all had a solid camp as well. That's just a testament to Smith's dominance. These pass rushers won't face many (if any) tackles of Smith's caliber this season, so they should be prepared no matter who they're going up against.
As Romo as his father have observed, Tyron vs. Hardy means a battle of "Real men.'' But based on these workouts, Tyron is the "manliest'' of them all.
Elsehwhere along the O-line: With Ronald Leary (back) sitting out practice, La'el Collins received plenty of reps at LG with the 1st team OL, and he held his own. He was able to hold guys like Tyrone Crawford and even Greg Hardy in check. However, he still has a lot to prove if he wants to replace Leary as the starting LG. People outside of camp have predicted a change there. People inside camp insist Leary is going nowhere.
And working against those guys? DE Ryan Russell had a good practice as well. There were several times I noticed the rookie in the backfield, causing problems for the QB. I counted twice that he would've had a sack in an actual game.
With Dunbar and McFadden banged up, Gus Johnson and Lache Seastrunk got a few extra opportunities. Johnson is starting to turn some heads and gain supporters at camp. He's a tough player who could potentially fill the "power-back" role that the team seems to be lacking ... though of course it'd be a heck of a story if he sticks as a practice-squadder.
The top running back spot is being earned by Joe Randle, who scored a TD in goalline by going up and over the top ... though the ball did squirt loose.
Sean Lee and the defense disagreed. But most of all, coach Jason Garrett -- acknowledging that up-and-over is acceptable and sometimes even part of the playcall -- doesn't mean Randle can ever let go of the football.
QB Jameill Showers took some 3rd team reps with the Cowboys - behind Romo and Weeden. Dustin Vaughan hasn't had a great camp and isn't as improved as the coaches would like. If Showers continues to impress in the preseason, could he end up replacing Vaughan as the 3rd QB for 2015? This will be an interesting battle to watch. ... part of the purpose of the preseason opener at San Diego on Thursday ... though Garrett said there is no significance to Showers working ahead of Vaughan in some drills here.
When Sean Lee is on the field, this is a completely different defense. The coaches have been cautious with Lee by slowly upping his workload. Now Lee is participating in team drills and shows no signs of any lingering effects from his season-ending injury last year. Lee was all over the field in the Blue-White, making plays and looking like his old self.
Elsewhere at linebacker: Another defensive player who had a nice practice was LB Andrew Gachkar, who has kind of had a quiet camp. During team drills, Gachkar intercepted a tipped Brandon Weeden pass and made several big stops. He could be a big contributor on special teams and a solid backup LB.
Gachkar and Lee weren't he only LB's who made plays. Damien Wilson was all over the field as well. He's a very instinctive player and is always around the ball, making tackles. He could very well be this year's Anthony Hitchens.
Morris Claiborne has been one of the most pleasant surprises of camp. Claiborne has made a tremendous recovery from his season-ending injury last season and has been very solid in camp thus far. In team drills, Claiborne made some impressive plays, including one in which he stuck with Terrance Williams on a slant route, going all the way across the field. He was behind Williams initially but showed good burst and closing speed to get in there and cause an incompletion.
Much of what is happening at cornerback right now is colored by injury problems. Carr has returned to Dallas for surgery on his hand; it's not considered serious but he's out for a bit. Scandrick has a minor foot problem that kept him out of the Blue-White. Patmon was also sidelined during a workout that ended in celebration when Dan "Split 'Em'' Bailey closed practice with a 53-yard field goal.
And speaking of injuries ...
"You never want to take the 'Dez' out of Dez," said Garrett, citing the passion and energy Dez Bryant exhibits.
But Dallas did keep Dez out of the Blue-White and does plan to keep Dez out of more work, including quite likely at the Chargers, as he nurses that hammy.
“Certainly you don’t want a player getting hurt celebrating, but that’s not what happened,” Garrett said. answering a question about whether Thursday's crossbar dunk celebration is tied to his tight hamstring. “He got hurt on a route. We don’t think his injury is serious."
Dez himself has reported that same prognosis to our man Mike Fisher. So even though Bryant spent Saturday morning away from the walkthru while getting treatment, the Cowboys are putting a positive spin on the situation. Undrafted rookie Lucky Whitehead is getting a chance to move up the depth chart and will surely be a featured player on Thursday. And Romo says a forced day off for Dez might be beneficial.
You always want everyone out here,” Romo said. “At the same time, sometimes guys who have played a while, it’s not the worst thing for them to have a break."