Jason Garrett Press Conference: Sean Lee and thoughts from Day 1 | Duration 12:07 | Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media from Valley Ranch following Tuesday’s OTA practice. (Watch | Listen)
IRVING, Texas – With OTA work finally set to begin this morning, Let’s take a quick look at a few developments worth keeping an eye on at Valley Ranch.
- If the rookies thought the pace was quick when they hit the field after the draft, wait until they get a taste of how fast things work today. When you get veterans in the mix that understand the plays and the speed in which they need to practice, rookies tends to look confused and make mistakes. In the big picture, this helps them get ready for training camp.
- Will be interesting to see who opens at right cornerback with the first defense. Orlando Scandrick had a solid 2013 season while Morris Claiborne attempted to work himself back into shape after dealing with several injuries. Don’t be surprised one bit if the coaching staff makes Claiborne have to earn that job again. Scandrick should be the starter from what we observed in 2013 but is the front office on the same page with the coaches if they were to make that type of move?
- Keep an eye on the rotation in which Derek Dooley plays these receivers. Devin Street was the one rookie that was used in the slot the majority of the time. These rotations will give you a little hint what they think of these kids.
- Will be interesting to see how Scott Linehan uses Lance Dunbar and Gavin Escobar today. The practice situations call for first and second down plays.
- Has stretching been given a new name (Dynamic Warm-up/Stretch)? With all the injuries this club has had over the years, something different needs to be done. This starts with the players who tend to treat stretching as if they are hanging out at the bus stop with their buddies shooting the breeze. Maybe this Dynamic program can make a difference or the players take it more serious.
- There is not a better player for rookie Anthony Hitchens to study (now, on film) about how to practice than Sean Lee for how to play Mike linebacker in this scheme. In studying Hitchens before the draft, he was a little too heavy for the position and would be better if he slimmed down a bit. If you remember how much an influence Lee was on DeVonte Holloman when he made the switch from outside to inside linebacker, expect the same for Anthony Hitchens as he begins this journey.
- With Rod Marinelli as the new defensive coordinator, he is spending more time with the entire defense than just with the line. Marinelli still has his hand in some individual periods but the majority of the work falls in the laps of Leon Lett and Ben Bloom. For a man that was painfully shy in his playing career, Lett is front and center when he deals with these players. Many times he’s seen him with these young players when they are walking down the hall together, they are working on pass rush moves. This is a solid transition for the Dallas Cowboys on the coaching staff.
RELATED: Anthony Hitchens knows he’ll need time to become ‘next man up’
IRVING, Texas – Anthony Hitchens isn’t prepared to be the next man up at middle linebacker yet, and he’ll be the first to admit it.
The fourth-round pick was brought in to back up Sean Lee, and after the star middle linebacker left the first practice of Organized Team Activities with a knee injury, it was Hitchens who got time at the spot.
Hitchens may need to get comfortable there, given that Lee’s ACL injury will likely keep him out for the year. But the rookie, who’d never played middle linebacker, still has a long way to go.
Asked whether he’s prepared if he’s the guy called upon at middle linebacker, Hitchens responded candidly.
“Honestly, right now, no,” Hitchens said. “But I will get there. It’s going to take time. I’ve still got to get everything down. If we had a game tomorrow, no, but it’s a good thing we don’t. I have time to get better.”
He said he only started learning middle linebacker when he arrived in Dallas, but most of the Cowboys’ linebackers are taught to be versatile.
“This defense is a lot of rotating and a lot of pulling on strings, so everyone plays every position almost,” Hitchens said. “So, you know, just got to get down the different footwork and the calls. I’m taking on guards more than tackles now, so it’s just a little different.”
The Lee injury was deflating for everyone on the field, including Hitchens, who was thrust into action. Hitchens called Lee the defense’s best player and the guy everyone looks up to.
Even off the field, Lee’s been instrumental in Hitchens’ development.
“If I’m not in and he’s not in, I’m right next to him,” Hitchens said. “I see him walking around before meetings start, I’m always asking questions with him. Smart guy, he knows a lot. Obviously, you can tell on the field, but yeah, he’s a very smart guy.”
The trick for Hitchens now is to understand his responsibilities and get an idea how offenses can and will attack the defense. He also needs to learn how to line up, make the checks and ensure the defensive players are all on the same page.
That can be a lot to learn for any middle linebacker, let alone one who’s not familiar with the position.
“There’s a mental and intellectual challenge that comes with certain positions,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “Quarterback would be one of them. Center would be one of them. Mike linebacker would be one of them. But we feel good about the linebacker options that we have. We drafted Hitchens for a reason, and we feel like he’s a good football player and has some position flex. We’ll see how he responds to the opportunity he gets.”
Garrett said he thought Hitchens did well at the rookie minicamp and he’s excited to work with him, but after jumping in with the starters, Hitchens knows there’s a lot more adjusting to do.
“It was a different speed,” Hitchens said. “Obviously, guys are moving a lot faster. But it was a good opportunity to see where I need to be at, and I’m not there yet. It was a big eye-opener, like, ‘OK, you’re not where you need to be and there’s still room to improve.’”