Here’s your scouting report on the 2014 Dallas Cowboys Day 1 and Day 2 OTA’s …
- It was unfortunate what happened to Sean Lee during team period when he was working to his left to defend the screen. On the play, Lee cleared J.J. Wilcox, who was coming forward in coverage. As Lee moved to the outside, he started flying when he read that DeMarco Murray had the ball and was cutting it back inside. Lee tried to hit the brakes and come back inside, but both feet came off the ground — then his left heel hit the turf and buckled his knee. It’s at that point where it appears the injury took place. With Lee’s left knee bent and his right leg straight, Zack Martin engaged him on the block and stumbled over Lee, falling to the ground. There was nothing dirty about the play on Martin’s part and to think otherwise is not correct. If it was a game situation, Martin would have cut that defender, instead he engaged Lee high, but Lee was so badly off balance there was nothing he could have done to prevent the injury.
- What stood out from Dez Bryant during this first practice when it came to his route running. We all know that teams like to play Bryant with a defender underneath and one over the top. To beat that first defender is the key for getting into the route and having success in making it work. There was a time where Bryant would physical try to beat up on the defender off the line, regroup, and then get into the route. What is different about Bryant’s game now is that he is using better foot work to get a clean release. By using his feet, he can quickly adjust off the line, but also maintain better body position as he goes up the field. He is not off balance and this will allow him to attack the safety on the move. This is a new wrinkle to his game that he and Derek Dooley have been working on in the offseason.
- No Kyle Orton, no big deal through one practice of OTAs. It was a positive day for Brandon Weeden when it came to throwing the ball and working with the first offense. When he can get to his fifth step in the pocket and plant his foot, he can let it fly. He showed nice accuracy and touch, whether throwing the ball over the top of Brandon Carr to Terrance Williams along the sideline or hitting Dez Bryant on the in cut. There were a snap or two where Weeden did a solid job of climbing the pocket and stepping up to make a throw. If there is a weakness to his game: the throws outside the pocket on waggles are not his strength. This was also a trait I noticed while studying his film for the Cleveland Browns. The more that he has to move, the harder it is for him to have to make an accurate throw but overall, it was not bad for his first time out for this coaching staff.
- There was a really nice battle between Tyron Smith and rookie DeMarcus Lawrence. Give Lawrence a great deal of credit because he did not wilt when it came to his matchup with Smith. What Lawrence learned quickly is that if you allow Smith to get his hands on you, the rush is over and there were a couple of times where this happened. Where Lawrence was able to make some headway against Smith was not so much with quick pass rush moves but some actual brute force. Lawrence stayed active and worked hard to fight up the upfield shoulder of Smith – then, when he became engaged, he was able to push Smith off balance, which caused him to become overextended and off balance. This made Smith have to reach for him as he went by him. What Lawrence is going to have to learn is that when you play the reach block, going back door on the blocker will usually not work because of how quickly the ball gets to the outside. But it was encouraging to see how well DeMarcus Lawrence was able to play with some power. It was a good day for him to learn.
- One defensive lineman that really showed up in the team periods, was tackle Terrell McClain. His quickness off the snap was impressive. When studying his play with the Texans, he was totally out of place playing as the nose in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. He’s projected to play the one-technique for the Dallas Cowboys, but with no Henry Melton, he took reps at the three-tech and was all over the place. The majority of the running plays for the offense were zone stretch plays, and there were several snaps where McClain was so quick off the snap that the offensive tackles had a hard time getting a hat on him. He was into the backfield and onto the ball. He still could be better as a one but he sure grabs attention as a three.
- Just when you think Jason Witten is slowing down as a player, think again. Over the years, we have come to appreciate what Witten has done as a pass-catching tight end, but the area of his game that he has developed since the Dallas Cowboys have gone with this zone run scheme, is his blocking. Matter of fact, one of the main reasons that the offense was able to run the ball better in 2013 was that Witten and the tight ends became better point of attack blockers. What Witten has become is more of a crafty blocker in getting it done with positioning of his body instead of brute strength and power. What has been interesting to watch is when Witten and Tyron Smith work together to handle the end and linebacker on the second level. They are in perfect step when they come off the ball together. The idea is to not allow any space between themselves and they do this very well. When you see the ball get to the outside clean, it usually has something to do with a block that Jason Witten has delivered.
- With George Selvie only working through drills in practice and not in team periods, it has given Tyrone Crawford the opportunity to get work on that left side at end. With Selvie in the mix, when Marinelli went to nickel, Crawford will slide down inside to the one next to Melton and DeMarcus Lawrence at the right end. So the “Rushmen” would line up Selvie, Crawford, Melton and Lawrence. The appeared to be no issues with Crawford and the achilles with his movement coming off the ball, taking on blocks or holding the point of attack. The trainers had him full-go and he responded very well. There were some snaps where his technique was a little rusty, but there were also times where he was in the backfield right off the snap. We will probably see him continue to shuffle between tackle and end, not just focusing on one spot. He can help at either well in this system.
- Coaches really liked what they saw from running back Ryan Williams. The only real poor snap he had — and this is going to be an issue for him — is that he missed in helping tackle John Wetzel against Ben Gardner which resulted in a sack. But when it came to finding the holes, making a cut and showing some juice, he was at his best. This zone blocking scheme seems to be a very good fit for him because it allows him to take the ball, use his vision and explode through the hole. There is some noticeable quickness to his game and he is one of those backs when you watch him run, you can feel him do it. He will attack the hole and he appears to be bigger than his listed size of 5-9, 207. You’ll like the running style and seeing him catch the ball, but running backs coach Gary Brown likes to say “What are you doing without the ball in your hands?” This is where he is going to need his most work.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Former Pro Scout