The Cowboys returned to the outdoor practice fields Wednesday morning. Once again the fancy tent was set up with the fans and the misters and the food and the drinks, and once again, it was not available to the media.
Secondary concerns? The DBs went through a series of drills in which they backpedaled, spun around (simulating coverage of a receiver who quickly changes directions) twice and then raced right at an assistant coach, who fired a pass at them. Players who dropped the interceptions dropped to the field to do punitive push-ups, and based on this morning's drill, Roy Williams and Quincy Butler should have some enormous arms.
On the move: The linebacker units were the same as those put together during last month's OTA: (left to right) Greg Ellis, Bradie James, Zach Thomas and DeMarcus Ware with the first group, and Justin Rogers, Kevin Burnett, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Spencer with the second unit. But their was more movement within the groups today, as each of the linebackers flip-flopped to each side of the field. Last year, for example, Ellis played almost exclusively on the left side, and Ware mostly on the right (although the coaches moved him around to create mismatches to utilize his speed and pass-rushing ability. But both the inside and outside guys worked on each side of the field. If nothing else, it showed the coaches more of what each player can do, and allows them to better assess fallback plans in case of injury.
Can he do a crossover, too? Mike Jefferson, a wide receiver trying to earn a roster spot, did his best Allen Iverson impression when he caught a quick screen pass from Tony Romo and swung his arms in what amounted to something like a ball fake in basketball. Veteran cornerback Anthony Henry bit and reached for the ball (did he think Jefferson was going to lateral it to someone?), allowing Jefferson to trot down the sideline untouched.
Heavyweight battle: There are those who think that when two massive linemen get together, the end result often is little more than a bunch of pushing and shoving and grunting. Not always true. During one passing drill, second-year offensive lineman James Marten, all 6-foot-7 and 303 pounds of him, turned back to protect the quarterback's blind side. When he turned, he found himself standing in the way of defensive end Chris Canty, who is just as tall and "only" 299 pounds. Canty took the direct approach, grabbing Marten and flinging him to the ground … with one hand.
Folk hero: Second-year kicker Nick Folk was given little chance last year of unseating veteran Martin Gramatica as the Cowboys' kicker. Of course, he took Gramatica's job and ended the season in Honolulu, playing in the Pro Bowl. Wednesday morning, he put on a show. He fired about a dozen field goals from 52 yards out, and reached the goalposts so effortlessly he looked like he was tossing a ball underhanded. More importantly, his accurate was amazing. Not only did he not miss a single kick, he hit the arm behind the crossbar that extends down the middle into the goal post … five times.
On his own: Rookie defensive end Darrell Robertson, a free agent who some projected as high as a second-round pick before he ruptured a pectoral muscle while lifting weights prior to the NFL Combine, worked out with a member of the Cowboys' training staff. The pair mostly ran and stretched while the rest of the team worked through drills. Robertson said he is completely healthy, but said team medical personnel told him there was no reason to push it. He said he expects to take part in all drills when the team heads to Oxnard, Calif., for training camp.
What's wrong with this picture? One of the more curious battles Wednesday morning occurred during passing drills. Rookie tight end Martellus Bennett ran a crossing route to catch a pass from quarterback Tony Romo. Linebacker Zach Thomas ran with him, and jumped for the ball at the same time. Bennett jumped early, and started to come back down to the ground, allowing Thomas to reach the ball at the same time. The curious part is that Bennett is a 6-foot-6, 21-year-old former college basketball player who put his name in for the NBA Draft (and later withdrawing to go to Texas A&M) after his senior year of high school. Thomas is a 34-year-old entering his 13th NFL season, and is as close to being his listed height of 5-foot-11 as Tiger Woods is to being human. Bennett should have been able to catch that ball with his elbows, but he didn't jump hard, he didn't jump high and he didn't jump at the right time … and he didn't battle for the ball, either — when Thomas tipped it away, Bennett bailed on the play.
Be sure to leave a tip: Bennett contributed on one of the best plays of the morning session. Moments after his encounter with Thomas, Bennett ran an out route. Linebacker Justin Rogers stuck with him all the way, and when Bennett got his hands on the ball, Rogers tipped it free. Cornerback Jerron Wishom plucked the deflection out of the air, a couple of inches off the ground, for the best catch of the morning session.
He's got moves: Not everything Bennett did went wrong. On one play, he ran a deep route straight down the middle of the field, being chased by safety Roy Williams. Bennett dipped his left shoulder into a slight fake, spinning Williams around to the point that he actually ran away from Bennett … who made the reception before Williams returned.
The good hands people: The Cowboys worked on onside kicks and covering them. Nick Folk went through an array of onside kicks and pooch kickoffs. Bobby Carpenter, Justin Rogers and Kevin Burnett were perfect playing the odd bounces to cover them. Free-agent linebacker Tearrius George muffed one, and running back Tashard Choice muffed a pair — one of which bounced up and hit him before falling away, the other of which came down on his shoulder pad as he tried to field it before he and the ball fell out of bounds.
Wednesday Opinions & Observations
CowboysHQ Top Stories
Cowboys STARCast: Who Has Tony Romo's Back?Cowboys STARCast: Does anyone have Tony Romo's back?
CowboysHQYesterday at 12:19 PM
Cowboys Soup To Nuts: In Dez + Romo KitchenInside Cowboys, Soup To Nuts: Dez Cooks, Irving Surprises, Zeke's 'Scare,' Dak Fishes, Trade Factoids, Romo Throws Another Team Party
CowboysHQYesterday at 2:43 AM
Exclusive: Inside The Cowboys Bonding DinnerExclusive: Inside The Cowboys 'Rookie Dinner' - An 'Amazing Bonding Experience' With Details That Fly In The Face Of Reports Of 'QB Controversy' Factions ...
CowboysHQWednesday at 12:37 AM
Cowboys Riding Takeaways To The TopThe Dallas Cowboys' 5-1 start is fueled on defense by a group of defenders that have learned how to create turnovers at key moments of ball games
CowboysHQTuesday at 4:39 AM