Take a look at the receivers and corners as they go at it 1-on-1, as well as the offensive line versus the defensive line.
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Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media during his daily press conference in Oxnard, California. Garrett discussed:
- Which players are due back from injuries/rehab this week
- Ben Bass and his upcoming role in this defense
- Kyle Wilbur development
- Versatility factors of defensive linemen in this scheme
- Defensive ends vs. right or left handed strategy
- Dialing back and developing Matt Johnson in the secondary
- How Dez Bryant’s passion in practice translates to game day
- Sean Lee and J.J. Wilcox comparison to Bill Bates mentality
- Dez’s leadership and influence on other players on the roster
- Describing Monte Kiffin and the passion he brings to the defense
- A little lesser-known history about Monte Kiffin;
- How team captains are determined each year
- The differences to expect this season from new Special Teams coach
- Traits of special teams coaches Rich Bisaccia and Joe Avezanno
- Dez Bryant vs. Mo Claiborne battle – making each other better
- Current edge that veteran Brandon Carr has over most corners
- Adjusting to practicing with full pads and other required gear
- Rapport with Dez and Tony Romo evolving
- Shoring up the roster with newly signed defensive linemen
- Strategy for working Jay Ratliff back into the lineup
- Eric Rodgers fit into Garrett’s the right-kind-of-guy mold
- New, strict accountability system for pre-snap penalties (both sides of ball)
- Collective style regarding all coordinators and coaches
- J.J. Wilcox comparison to late Sam Mills, style of safeties and linebackers
- inside information on today’s activity from training camp, and
- how the Dallas Cowboys 2013-2014 roster is shaping up.
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• Hope you had a chance to catch the TRAINING CAMP ON-DEMAND segment from Tuesday where we featured the one-on-one drills with the wide receivers and cornerbacks. If you did, you saw a show from Dez Bryant. Through three days of camp, this is not unusual for Bryant, who has been nothing short of spectacular in the manner in which he has gone about his business. The route running along with the sheer physical strength that he has played with has made him difficult to defend. In our video, he was matched against Morris Claiborne on each one of his reps, and, to Mo’s credit, he didn’t take himself out or away from working against Bryant.
Every rep that the two went at each other was intense, where technique went out the window and it came down to the sheer will of who was going to make the play. When you are battling Bryant, you might be in position in the route like Mo was several times but just his ability to adjust while in route makes him so dangerous.
It wasn’t that Claiborne was struggling to fight Bryant, but more like Bryant can physically beat you up as he is going down the field, then find the ball no matter where it is in the air and this is something that NFL cornerbacks are going to have to deal with when they line up across from Bryant the entire season.
• Continuing my thoughts on Morris Claiborne, I was very interested to see how he would respond to playing against the run in this new scheme off the edge, especially with pads on. I have addressed this situation plenty with both he and Brandon Carr on what is expected of them on the outside. From my observations, there were several plays where the ball was spilled to the outside and Claiborne had to step up and make the play.
Like his battles with Bryant, he could shy away and hide but instead he stepped up and forced DeMarco Murray to the sidelines and out of bounds when Murray tried to plant a stiff arm in his face. Later in the Team Run period, he again stepped up off the edge playing close in a tight formation and handled Lance Dunbar for a short gain in the open field. For Claiborne, this has now become his responsibility full-time because soft corners don’t win in this scheme.
The physical matchups against Bryant and having to successfully play the run are part of the gig. His first day in the pads showed that he understands the task ahead.
• Another player who is off to a nice start in camp is Doug Free. In the first day of pads, I thought he did a nice job of showing up and handling the position with some nice technique. In just watching him play, you can see that his confidence level is much better as well. With each rep, he has been on point with how his hands and feet have to work together. His sets have put him in positions where he looks stable and solid.
I have yet to see the problems he has struggled with when a defender goes from speed to power on him. He is playing stronger at the point and when he has to sit down on a rusher, he has been able to do so without giving much ground.
In the running game, he has shown the ability to adjust in this zone scheme with the front side reach and backside cut off. When the ball has been run to his side, he is not late or struggling with his technique.
He has played with good quickness and has been able to finish his blocks or tie up his man. Still plenty of practices to go for Free, but so far he is heading in the right direction.
• It was a good learning experience for Barry Church on Tuesday on how to play safety as the single high guy in this scheme. In the 7-on-7 drill, Church was in the middle of the field when Dez Bryant went on a “9” route against Brandon Carr up the field. Church reacted well to the route to help Carr but the angle he took to the ball was too deep and behind Bryant who once again went straight up for the ball at its highest point.
Bryant was able to make the catch but Church would have had a shot at the play if his angle was more to or in front of Bryant, instead he goes sweeping by him with no chance at the ball. On Monday, we observed Will Allen playing the same route to Miles Austin correctly and in position for the interception.
Later in the period, Church was able to show a nice drive and reaction to a ball that was thrown in front of him to Gavin Escobar up the field to deliver a big hit on the rookie tight end. For Barry Church, every day is a new experience when it comes to techniques that he is going to have to learn coverage-wise. He has the physical ability to handle the job but he just needs the experience of reading and positioning himself in routes to make those necessary plays.
OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys are bringing in two defensive linemen to make up for their lack of depth after injuries at the position.
They’ll take a look at defensive end George Selvie, a former South Florida defender who’s made stops in the NFL in St. Louis, Carolina, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay since 2010, and veteran defensive lineman Landon Cohen, who’s played in 25 games throughout his career.
Selvie spent a month in Tampa Bay after signing with the Buccaneers in April of this year before getting released. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Rams in 2010, playing in all 16 games for St. Louis his rookie season. He was waived in September 2011 and then spent time with Carolina and Jacksonville in 2011-2012.
The defensive lineman played in 11 games in 2011, including four with Carolina and seven with Jacksonville. He stayed with the Jaguars in 2012, playing in nine games that season.
Cohen’s bounced around the league since getting drafted out of Ohio in the seventh round in 2008. He played in Detroit in 2008-09, suiting up for 20 games during that time. He spent time with Jacksonville, New England, Seattle, Arizona and Philadelphia since then, suiting up for two games with the Jaguars and three with the Patriots.
After adding three players to start training camp in quarterback Alex Tanney, wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei and tackle Demetress Bell, the team has one spot open on the 90-man roster. Tanney was the only one of those three to pass his conditioning test when arriving in California.
The Cowboys need help and depth at defensive line after losing Tyrone Crawford for the season on the first full day of training camp practices Sunday when the former third-round pick tore his Achilles tendon.
Crawford was a backup player expected to play an increased role, but it’s not just the backups who are hurting on the defensive line. Starter Anthony Spencer also sat out of practices early in training camp with a bone bruise on his knee, and he’s slated to have surgery that will keep him out two to four weeks.
Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff is also not participating in practice after hurting his hamstring during the conditioning drills, while defensive lineman Ikponmwosa Igbinosun sat out Tuesday with his foot in a boot.
Rookie receiver Terrance Williams had a rough couple of days in his first training camp, unable to get open, being pushed around by Morris Claiborne and generally looking a step behind. But Tuesday, he turned it around with a better performance.
He got his nose in the playbook, sat in the film room, and paid attention.
“I put that to use,” he said about Tuesday’s practice, when he was stronger and caught more passes. “That’s something I’ve just got to continue to build on, keep going over the playbook. I just paid attention to what the coaches were telling me and the other players were telling me. And today, I ran well and caught the ball well.”
Coach Jason Garrett said he tells all the players, but especially the rookies, to “know, and know they know.” That means playing with confidence in your assignment, and Williams, one of the Cowboys’ third-round picks in April, is starting to see what that means.
“The coaches and Dez and Miles told me to relax and just do me, just have fun,” Williams said. “I get to thinking, and I get to second-guessing myself and then I don’t run the right speed. But when I’m playing relaxed and freely, I can just take the top off defenses.”
Williams smiles when he thinks about how he got chewed up by the coaches on Monday.
“It was just to help me out,” he said. “If they didn’t like me, they wouldn’t have said anything. So I just took it to heart. I came to the film session, paid attention to the stuff they told me and put it to good use.”
Phillip Tanner looks like a new man. He feels like one, too.
The Dallas Cowboys running back lost 10 pounds in the offseason, down to 210. He credits his weight loss to better eating and different workouts.
“The coaches see the difference,” Tanner said Tuesday. “Coach [Bill] Callahan messaged me in the offseason and said, ‘I thought about putting you at fullback last year,’ joking around because I was so big. It really has helped me, and I appreciate all the hard work I put in during the offseason.”
Tanner played in 14 games last season but carried the ball only 25 times for 61 yards with four catches for 41 yards. He had expected his second season in the league to be more productive, especially considering DeMarco Murray missed six games and Felix Jones was non-productive.
“There were a lot of times last year where I would see it, but I wasn’t able to get there as fast I wanted to,” Tanner said. “In the NFL, holes are only open for so long. So it was kind of hindering me from that. My goal this offseason was just to get leaner, faster and quicker and play at a certain weight.”
He is as light as he has been since his sophomore season in college. It has him playing faster. He outran Bruce Carter in an 11-on-11 drill Monday, something he admits he probably wouldn’t have done last year.
Tanner’s eating habits changed in the offseason. At Chili’s, his favorite restaurant, he chose the salmon and broccoli. At Wendy’s, it was a grilled chicken salad and a baked potato. He was allowed two cheat meals per week, with Wingstop and Dominos the favored stops. Snacks became granola bars instead of candy.
It has turned him into a lean running back ready to compete not only for a job but for playing time.
“We come out, and we compete against each other every day,” Tanner said of the running backs, “and it just makes the team better.”
On the road to training camp to fight for a roster spot, Tennessee Titans rookie linebacker Jonathan Willard tackled a car fire.
Traveling down Interstate 40 on Tuesday in Tennessee, Willard came upon a car on fire and helped pull a woman, her three children and their dog to safety.
“When she pulled over, the car was really on fire at that point,” the former Clemson Tiger said. “The driver, she acted like she was in some kind of daze or something. She told me that she didn’t stop because she didn’t think it was her car that was on fire. Another guy stopped, and we managed to get the kids and the dog out and get them to safety, and then I finally got the woman out.”
Willard tweeted out pictures of the blaze and said he was surprised more drivers weren’t stopping to aid the woman.
“I was just glad that we got the kids and all of them out of the car,” he said. “I was thinking that I was just doing what everybody else would do, but there were cars just going past us and no one else was stopping, so I don’t know if that is what would happen or not.”
Willard went undrafted and signed with the Titans after a productive senior season at Clemson, leading the Tigers with 95 tackles and compiling three sacks.
He can now add gallantry to that resume.