Cowboys Sideline Report: Let's Get Physical

OXNARD - Goal-line work was the centerpiece of the day on Saturday. Full-speed. Full-contact. And - a rarity in this camp - a successful effort by the Dallas defense. Our sideline report:



- GOAL-LINE STUFF: The Dallas Cowboys offensive line is not only one of the strongest units on the team; it might be one of the best in the sport. So a set of three cracks at goal-line offense for the first-teamers (and another set of three for the second group) figured to be an offensive win on Saturday.

Not so fast.

In the first live reps of training camp, Joseph Randle punched it in from one yard out, but then on the second play Barry Church forced a throwaway incompletion and on the third play Ryan Williams was stuffed inside.

This offense is way ahead of this defense in every way. So this success was a boost.

- DEMARCO WATCHES: The Cowboys did not give DeMarco Murray any of those aforementioned goal-line snaps.

"We know DeMarco can get a yard," coordinator Scott Linehan said. "I think the whole thing is to see these younger players, get some reps to see how they respond. That’s not uncommon to do that."

Murray told CowboysHQ that he'd prefer to get that work but is happy to do what the coaches wish. And what the coaches wish reminds us of Emmitt Smith being handled in a similar way ... which we're fine with.

- DIAMONDS?: - One guy I've talked about a lot is rookie CB Terrance Mitchell. He's been one of the most pleasant surprises of camp. However, another rookie has surprisingly been turning a lot of heads as well: DT Davon Coleman. He's been one of the most consistent D-linemen out there and is constantly pushing the pocket back and making life hard for the offensive linemen.

The Cowboys have historically done a great job of finding highly productive undrafted players (Tony Romo, Barry Church). Could Coleman be the Cowboys latest diamond in the rough?

- BIG GEORGE: Another D-lineman who had a nice practice was George Selvie. No. 99 was in the backfield a lot on Saturday, and was able to get his hand on a Brandon Weeden pass to cause an incompletion. The team will need him to duplicate (at the very least) his production from last year if this D-line is going to improve.

- KIDDIE CBs: With Carr and Claiborne still not practicing, the youngsters got some more quality reps. Mitchell was impressive as usual and Tyler Patmon had an interception during team drills. B.W. Webb didn't do as well, however. Webb was burned by Terrance Williams several times, including once for a touchdown. Webb has played better this offseason, but on Saturday he just seemed outmatched.

- SLOW MO?: Speaking of Claiborne, although he didn't practice, he was out there running and stretching with the team and looked good. Didn't seem slowed down at all. Is expected to be back out there soon as he fights through tendonitis of the knee.

- OLD HANDS: Charles Haley and Larry Allen were both at Saturday's practice. When practice ended, Haley gave a long speech to the team in their final huddle. After his speech, Haley spent some 1-on-1 time with Tyrone Crawford and Jeremy Mincey, working with them on the nuances of pass rushing.

- BRENT CONFIDANTE: There was another special visitor at Saturday's practice, Cowboys confidant David Wells. Wells has helped troubled Cowboys players for years, mentoring the likes of Michael Irvin, Nate Newton, Dez Bryant, and most recently, Josh Brent. Wells has been with Brent ever since his release from rehab, and has helped him take the necessary steps to attempt an NFL comeback. Could his presence at practice be just a friendly visit? Or is he there to discuss Brent with the Cowboys higher-ups? Let the speculation begin.

- T-WILL STEP-UP: Terrance Williams had a very nice practice. Webb had no answer for him, and neither did the other DB's. His route running is looking really crisp and precise. Runs with a purpose.

- TE DAY: Saturday was a nice day for the TE's. Witten was his usual self, catching everything that came his way. Escobar had some really nice catches, showing off his height and great hands. Even Hanna got in on the fun, making a couple of impressive catches during 1-on-1's.

Of Escobar, Scott Linehan said, "He's not just a receiving tight end.''

- WHAT THEY WANT OUT OF RO: Fish makes the point that when you watch and listen to Dallas talk about the Mike, it becomes clear they want Rolando McClain to win the job. And indeed he's now starting to take first-team snaps at middle linebacker.

“So far it’s been good, just learning everything on the fly, trying to figure out what I can and just play fast to the best I can,” McClain said. “It’s been good.''

Dallas needs something to be good on D. He might be it.

The guys have been doing a great job setting examples how to work as far as what’s expected so I’m just trying to fall into that; do the best I can. It’s been a while since I played a game, but I’m just trying to do the best I can so ar. Just trying to make plays and see what happens from there.”

- CARR UPDATE: Funeral services for cornerback Brandon Carr’s mother, Kathy, have been set for Wednesday afternoon in Michigan.

The timetable is such (with the Cowboys playing their first preseason game Thursday at San Diego) that Carr is expected to practice for the first time in training camp next weekend.

- ROMO SITS: Quarterback Tony Romo did not practice on Saturday afternoon but is expected to participate in Sunday's workout.

“We thought it was a good idea to have him off today, and hopefully he’ll be ready to go tomorrow for the Blue-White Scrimmage,” coach Jason Garrett said.

There was some debate on Twitter about Fish noting the word "hopefully.'' But the fact is, until Romo gets over some sort of hump as "proof'' of his 100-percent health, the Cowboys' words here will be examined.

And "hopefully'' comes with no guarantees.

- SPENCE OPTIMISM: Anthony Spencer says he feels "like we could be in a good place around Week 1. I’m hoping for it.”

He knows he can't hurry back just because DeMarcus Lawrence is out after foot surgery. He also knows that PUP remains a possibility (as he he would miss the first six games of the regular season.)

"I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” said a positive-minded Spencer.

- ONSIDE KICKS: Morris Claiborne, Ben Gardner, J.C. Copeland, Sterling Moore, Will Smith and Matt Johnson worked on the side, with Moore and Mo also helping to "coach'' their fellow DBs. ... running off to the side with a trainer ... OT Darrion Weems is out at least a week with a shoulder injury ... We saw assistant coach Derek Dooley asking Dwayne Harris (ankle) if he's 'sure you're in?' Harris was good to go and later told CowboysHQ, "I just like to keep Coach on his toes'' ... As usual, Dez went through team stretches with a football in his hand. ... DeMarco Murray wore the helmet cam for DallasCowboys.com. Keep an eye out for the video. Should be a good one! ... The 2014 Blue/White Scrimmage will be held on Sunday at 2:30 PT. Fans can tune into KTXA 21 where Bill Jones and Babe Laufenberg will have the call. Brad Sham and Bryan Broaddus will offer play-by-by and color analysis on 105.3 The Fan and on the web at www.dallascowboys.com. ... Cowboys waived/injured guard Darius Morris (Temple) and waived wide receiver L'Damian Washington (Missouri) on Saturday. The club signed defensive ends Kenneth Boatright (Southern Illinois) and Adewale Ojomo (Miami).

-THE FINAL WORD: “It’s easy to see why (Rolando McClain) was a top-10 pick in the draft coming out of school.'' - Coach Jason Garrett.

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