All players were in attendance, although four — linebacker Keith Brooking (knee), defensive back Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (shoulder), tight end Nick Tow-Arnett (leg), wide receiver Terrell Hudgins (staph infection) and linebacker Stephen Hodge (knee) — worked on the side with trainers and members of the team's strength and conditioning staff. The only players who did not participate at all were nose tackle Jay Ratliff (elbows), although he said he expects to be back on the practice field Wednesday, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who is several weeks away from returning.
• Peer pressure: Running backs coach Skip Peete isn't shy about admonishing players who need to improve a particular technique, but he had a group of assistants helping him Thuesday morning. In one drill, he had all of his running backs line up, side by side, with a gap of a couple of yards between each. One at a time, the player at the end of the line would peel off and run behind the line to catch a pass from Peete, who was throwing passes between the players who were waving their arms (to distract the back catching the passes). The backs took turns, and when rookie free agent Herb Donaldson's turn came, he dropped the pass. Before Peete could say anything, the other running backs — led by the outspoken Deon Anderson and Tashard Choice, as well as the normally silent Marion Barber — scolded Donaldson, telling him to "run it again." Donaldson ran it again, and subsequently dropped another pass, drawing even more complaints from his teammates. When he caught the third, the veterans who were riding him for his drops were the first to pat him on the back for his improvement.
• Catch of the day: It was just a position drill, but rookie cornerback Jamar Wall made a remarkable catch that showed off playmaking ability he had not shown previously since his arrival at Valley Ranch. Safeties coach Brett Maxie was firing passes high over the heads of defensive backs as they backpedaled before leaping to make the catch. Maxie's pass to Wall was a little higher than the others, and behind him, but the former Texas Tech cornerback was able to leap high in the air and reach back with one hand to snag the pass.
• Filling a slot: Bigger receivers normally get lined up out wide, but Roy Williams ran a lot of plays during seven-on-seven drills and full-team drills in the slot, and looked fairly comfortable doing it. He has played inside a little in the past, but if he can play both inside and outside, it will make him a more versatile weapon. Teaming the 6-3, 215-pound Williams with the 6-2, 214-pound Miles Austin and the 6-2, 217-pound Dez Bryant in a three-receiver set could cause some serious migraines for defensive coordinators as they try to locate enough big cornerbacks to defend against those three.
• Bouncing Ball: Speaking of versatile players, Alan Ball proved to be a valuable member of the secondary last year when he moved from cornerback to fill in at safety. Ball was on the move again Tuesday, working with the first-team defense as a nickel cornerback when the offense went to a three-receiver set. Ball was filling in for Orlando Scandrick, who remained out after breaking a bone in his left index finger a couple of weeks ago. Scandrick was at practice with his injured digit wrapped up, but didn't participate. He had surgery after injuring the finger, which it is hoped will shorten the healing time for the broken bone from about eight weeks to somewhere around six.
• Good pick: When the team split into full 11-on-11 drills, the first-team offense had some success moving the ball against the first-team defense, until safety Mike Hamlin — who was working as the first-team free safety beside strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh — hung back like a center fielder before bursting forward to pick off a Tony Romo pass.
• Strong supporting cast: The Cowboys' starting lineup should be as talented as that of any team in the NFL in 2010, but as always, depth is vital. Lineups change and injuries happen, so all teams try to collect quality backups, as well. A couple of Dallas backups got the better of the first-team defense Tuesday on one of the nicest pass plays of the day, when wide receiver Kevin Ogletree shook his man and baited safety Gerald Sensabaugh with a shoulder fake. Sensabaugh bit on the fake, only to watch Ogletree spin away from him to make a leaping catch of a high pass on the sideline from backup quarterback Jon Kitna.
• Good hustle: Sensabaugh made up for the play moments later with an interception over the middle, but what was notable about the play was his run after the pick. Normally in practice, a player will make an interception and then cruise out of bounds or take a few steps and stop, but Sensabaugh headed toward the sideline before turning upfield and heading toward the end zone. In this case, he wasn't the only one who kept running; backup offensive lineman Pat McQuistan chased Sensabaugh a good 30 yards downfield. Sensabaugh is fast enough that he would have outrun McQuistan anyway, but he also had linebacker Anthony Spencer serving as an escort — something that is rarely seen from veteran players when the thermometer is close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, as it was Tuesday. (For someone listed at 6-6, 317, McQuistan showed remarkable wheels while chasing Sensabaugh.)
• Call the game warden: Among the visitors at Tuesday's OTA session was former Dallas fullback Daryl "Moose" Johnston.
• Brace yourself: Second-round pick Sean Lee again wore the knee brace that he says is merely a precaution to protect his left knee. At first glance, the slender Lee looks nowhere near the 236 pounds listed on the Dallas roster, but pay attention to the brace and the bulk of his … bulk … becomes clear. The rookie from Penn State has disproportionately large thighs, which is part of why he runs so well and hits with such power.
• On target: Third-string quarterback Stephen McGee made two of the nicest throws of the day Tuesday. First, he found new tight end Kevin Brock on a crossing route in the end zone on a play in which Brock — a smooth, fluid athlete for a guy who carries 255 pounds on his 6-5 frame — easily shed linebacker Leon Williams.
Shortly thereafter, McGee tossed a high, arching pass into the back corner of the end zone — over safety Danny McCray, linebacker Jason Williams and cornerback Jamar Wall — where receiver Rashaun Greer was able to get both feet down after making a leaping, twisting catch.
Tuesday OTA Insider news & notes
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