Starting at WR: Kristi Yamaguchi: OK, that's not exactly fair, but a large number of players — both receivers and defenders — were losing their footing frequently on fairly simple cuts. Maybe they need different cleats, but the surface feels very similar to that on many other artificial turf fields, including the one inside the team's former indoor practice facility. Of course, those players who didn't slip often took advantage of those who did, such as when WR Travis Wilson's feet shot out from under him, allowing new S Gerald Sensabaugh to easily snatch his first interception with his new team.
In good hands: Two of the best catches of the day were turned in by fifth-year WR Sam Hurd. In early skeleton (seven-on-seven) drills, Hurd ran a slant route from the right side of the field. Romo's pass was slightly behind him, but Hurd reached out with his left hand, tipped the ball forward over his head, then tipped it twice more before snagging it with one hand. Then, toward the end of the session, Hurd ran a deep out route. The ball seemed headed out of bounds, well out of Hurd's reach, but he accelerated, dove and made the catch, managing to get both feet in bounds and eliciting howls of approval from teammates and coaches.
Heads up: Yes, coaches often demand that players "get their head in the game," but that idea was taken a bit too seriously by S Tra Battle, who got hit directly on top of his helmet — twice — when covering in passing drills. The second one fell to the ground incomplete, but the first shot straight up into the air, allowing WR Miles Austin to maintain his concentration and make the grab on the goal line.
Keep trying: WR Patrick Crayton twice matched up with CB Michael Hawkins in passing drills, and twice he tried a double move. The first time, Crayton broke out a stop-and-go move that didn't really stop, and didn't fool Hawkins, who stayed with Crayton and easily knocked away the pass. A little while later, Crayton tried an out-and-up move. Hawkins bit on the move, and Crayton dusted him for what would have been an easy touchdown.
Defending with the stars: Many QBs develop a "security blanket" relationship with their TE, and that may be no more evident in Dallas than anywhere else. QB Tony Romo and TE Jason Witten might be best friends and clearly are an exceptional passing tandem, but it was the first day of practice for them, too. Near the end of the session, Witten lined up in the slot and ran a crossing route. OLB Anthony Spencer chased Witten, and made one of the best defensive plays of the day when he dove in front of Witten to knock away the pass. The didn't lead Witten as much as it should have, and if it did, Witten could have used his long arms and enormous hands to make the reception, and Spencer never would have gotten close to it. But by being just a little off-target, Spencer was able to close on the ball in a very short distance and make an outstanding play.
OTA Insider (Part II)
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