DeMarcus Down, Spencer Up: Sideline Notes

OXNARD - My Camp Cowboys Notebook from the sideline, low-lighted by the play that caused the temporary loss of DeMarcus Lawrence and highlighted by my talk with Anthony Spencer:



Initially I hoped we could simply say, "once again, the Dallas Cowboys defense took a few hits."

And it started out simply enough.

First, LB Rolando McClain left the field with an apparent ankle injury. Jerry later cleared that up by saying that he has a stomach virus. The other injury, however, is infinitely more worrisome. Rookie pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence went down while going against Tyron Smith in 1-on-1's. Lawrence immediately grabbed his right ankle and was in obvious pain. He limped to the trainers tent and was later driven to the locker room on a cart. The team said he would undergo X-rays to determine what the injury is, precisely.

Tyron Smith told reporters he thought Lawrence just sprained his ankle. We hoped he was right.

Cowboys officials told Fish that they didn't think it was a high ankle sprain. Still good news.

But then the 10 p.m. Pacific Time reports from here in Oxnard: a fracture in Lawrence's right foot. A planned surgery. A hoped-for return in two months.

And yes, once again - just like last year at this time and then all season long - this defense took a hit.

- I am told that Rod Marinelli was Mic'd up for Tuesday's practice. The editor better have the *bleep* button ready! Keep an eye out for it on DallasCowboys.com.

- Caesar Rayford was the first player on the field on Tuesday. Came out about 20 minutes before the rest of the D-linemen and worked on his pass rush moves. Seems his extra preparation payed off. Rayford had a solid practice. Did very well in 1-on-1 drills vs the O-linemen. On one play, he got low to beat Travis Frederick for the would-be sack, which is impressive considering his height (6'7").

He'll have to battle Wilson on the depth chart. But suddenly the vacancy is there.
- Aside from letting Rayford slip by him on that one play, Travis Frederick was pretty much immovable. It didn't matter who he went up against, he held his ground. He was very good last year, but looks to have made a big jump in his sophmore season.

- Tyrone Crawford also had a nice practice. Did a good job getting by Zack Martin in 1-on-1's on a couple of plays. Good test for the rookie OG. Crawford also beat Doug Free with ease for what would've been an easy sack.

- Jason Witten may be getting older, but on Tuesday, he showed no signs of slowing down. Witten made several tough catches, including one in traffic between 3 defenders. After he caught the ball, he fought for an extra 5 or 6 yards with the 3 defenders all over him. Also made a nice sideline catch where he had to extend to snag the ball and then secure it before going out of bounds.

- Dez did what Dez does. Bryant was 3-for-3 against Scandrick in 1-on-1's. He made his usual "how did he do that?" catch where he beat Scandrick down the sideline and leaped up to get the ball at it's highest point with Orlando all over him, somehow coming down with the catch. His one noticeable mishap, however, came in the team period on 3rd & goal, dropping a pass in the corner of the end zone. That doesn't happen very much with No. 88.

- One the the most impressive players at practice on Tuesday was Terrance Mitchell, which is starting to become the norm. The rookie just makes plays, regardless of the situation or who he's going up against. He forced incompletions 3 out of 4 times in 1-on-1's and picked off Caleb Hanie during team period to end the 2nd team offense's drive. This kid's gonna make a name for himself if he keeps it up.

- The Cowboys moved Lance Dunbar around a lot on Tuesday. At one point, the QB motioned him out wide. On the next play, he lined up in the slot. A few plays later, he caught a quick dump-off pass and used his shiftiness to gain 10-15 yards. The Cowboys are clearly trying to find ways to get #25 more involved with the offense.

- Anthony Spencer was on the field with Ronald Leary, Amobi Okoye an Terrell McClain, doing rehab work. Spencer spent most of the day working on the yellow cords. He later told me that he "feels great", with a big smile on his face, and said that it's a "good sign" that he's doing so much work on the cords lately.
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Fish reports that Dallas is starting to see a glimmer of hope here. That would be nice. The Cowboys could use that.

Could his goal of being ready for the season opener be more realistic than we previously thought?

- This week, Dez Bryant told reporters that Terrance Williams is "one of the best route runners" he's ever seen. When I asked him how he feels about that, Williams replied, "I don't know, man. I'm just trying to do my job and help make his job easier."

- Tyler Clutts said (while signing autographs) that the Cowboys base-offense in 2014 will feature a fullback, adding "it'll a big part of our offense."

- Jamar Newsome continued to quietly have an extremely solid camp. The guy has been catching everything thrown his way. In fact, guys like Chris Boyd, LaRon Byrd and Dezmon Briscoe, have all been impressive too. Very deep group of WR's. Wish they could keep 'em all, but when it's all said and done, the Cowboys will be forced to cut 1 or 2 really good players at that position. And it'll be special-teams contributions that'll probably decide it.


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