2014 COWBOYS CAMP COVERAGE: The Boys Are Back in pads | Claiborne and Williams tempers flair | Cross-Training in the trenches

2014 COWBOYS CAMP COVERAGE - The Boys Are Back in pads - Claiborne and Williams tempers flair - Cross-Training in the trenches

Training Camp 1-on-1 Drills: Tempers flare between Claiborne & Williams | 12:33 | Day 1 of Dallas Cowboys in full pads, which brought out some heated battles between receivers vs. defensive backs. (Watch Video)

First padded practice leads to first camp scuffle | 1:30 | Dallas Cowboys teammates Terrance Williams and Morris Claiborne separated. Both players, Jason Witten, and Jerry Jones react after practice. (Watch | Listen)

BEFORE THE FACT: Dallas Cowboys prepare for first padded practice of camp | 1:00 | Listen to what some of the Dallas Cowboys players had to say about preparing to put the pads on for the first time on Saturday afternoon. (Watch | Listen)

OXNARD, CA – The common logic was that practice would get more intense when the Dallas Cowboys put their pads on Saturday afternoon, and it took a grand total of 45 minutes for that to prove true.

After a sleepy two days of walkthroughs to open 2014 training camp, the Cowboys exploded into a riveting afternoon practice, highlighted by a few intense exchanges between Morris Claiborne and Terrance Williams.

There has been no shortage of debate about Claiborne in recent months – namely, that 2014 is a crucial year for him to prove his value as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 draft. The young corner opened practice like he was well-aware of that fact, as he harassed Williams in some stingy man coverage during one-on-one reps.

“It just got a little bit competitive – he didn’t like the way I was touching him,” Claiborne said. “I don’t know what else I was supposed to do except let him run his route. It gets like that sometimes out here, but we’re still teammates, we’re still buddies.”

The sequence continued to escalate, as the pair continued to have words for each other after each rep. Claiborne even went as far as to demand another receiver go against him, calling for Dez Bryant to come across the field from the other side of the drill.

“I was caught up in the moment,” Claiborne said. “Me and Dez are usually going against each other, each and every snap, and he was working on the other side today – which I understand.”

For a moment, it looked like the first scuffle of training camp would come within the very first hour, as Williams made his unhappiness with Claiborne’s aggression known – from very close proximity. For his part, Williams agreed it was left on the practice field.

“Yeah. That’s still my friend. Football is football,” he said. “Whatever happens out here stays out here. He’s still my good friend. Nothing is going to change. I’m done with that.”

It made for some gripping, intense football – not to mention competitive, which is something Jason Witten said can only help a roster with so much youth.

“Any time you put pads on for the first time, you’re going to get tempers flaring and competitiveness coming out,” Witten said. “That’s good for your football team, especially ours. We need that. Coach Garrett said it Day 1, all positions are open. Let the best man win.”

Quick Hits:

  • Plenty of eyes were on Rolando McClain in his first full practice with the Dallas Cowboys. The plan was to ease him into the practice, and that appeared to be the case as he acclimated to the pace of practice. McClain went through the full array of position workouts, and he took part in the full-team portions of practice as a second-team linebacker.
  • Not to pile more hype on the already-hyped offensive line, but the Dallas Cowboys starting five blockers shined during one-one-one pass rush drills. Neither DeMarcus Lawrence nor Jeremy Mincey could gain ground on Tyron Smith, and Doug Free was impressive against the likes of George Selvie and Caesar Rayford. Travis Frederick stonewalled every lineman who went against him, and the guards shined, as well. Henry Melton beat Zack Martin on the first rep of the drill, but Martin rebounded nicely to hold his own against everyone else. Mackenzy Bernadeau was also solid to give the starting line a solid grade.
  • Tony Romo went through practice in full after sitting out yesterday. He went through his usual routine in individuals – however, he didn’t throw any passes during the Dallas Cowboys first team period. He returned to uncork some balls later in the practice, heaving one deep downfield to Bryant.
  • Rookie defensive end Ben Gardner became the first injury issue of training camp when he left the field with a shoulder injury about halfway through practice. Claiborne also exited drills toward the tail end of the day, but he said it was simply cramping and felt fine.

The Dallas Cowboys officially opened the 2014 Training Camp in Oxnard with a Kickoff Extravaganza, treating 4,279 fans to a performance by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, a routine from the Oxnard High School Silver Star Drum Line, a presentation of the colors by the Naval Base Ventura County and the singing of the National Anthem prior to practice. The total attendance thus far is 7,782.

Notable Standouts:

  • Davon Coleman – The undrafted rookie defensive tackle couldn’t be blocked when the team went to one-on-one individual drills. He gave the opposing backup interior linemen absolute fits with his quickness, and they could barely get their hands on him before he was upfield.
  • Chris Boyd – Boyd made the first big play of camp, as minicamp standout corner Tyler Patmon was in good coverage on him down the left sideline but couldn’t break up the pass on a streak. Boyd extended and made the play. Unfortunately, later on Boyd was wide open on a double move that left his man in the dust, but he couldn’t hang on to the pass.
  • Tyron Smith – There might not be a player who’s made as drastic an improvement from this point last year until now as Smith. DeMarcus Ware would give Smith fits at camp last year, and now there’s no one who can even try to get by the left tackle, who was perfect during individual drills.

Play of the Day:

Jermey Parnell had the dubious distinction of being victimized – worse than anyone else – during individual pass rush drills. The No. 3 tackle lined up opposite Tyrone Crawford, and nothing was the same after that. Crawford bull rushed Parnell from the outside and steamrolled him, knocking the big guy onto his back to the delight of the crowd.

Injury Report:

Left Practice Returned to Practice Missed Practice
DE Ben Gardner (shoulder) LB Rolando McClain  DE Anthony Spencer (knee)
OG Ronald Leary (hamstring)
DT Amobi Okoye (illness)
CB Brandon Carr (personal matter)

Upcoming Schedule:

Sunday, July 27

2:00 p.m. (PDT)                   Coach Jason Garrett press conference

3:45 p.m. (PDT)                   Practice

Monday, July 28

Players Day Off                   No Availability

Tuesday, July 29                

10:30 a.m. (PDT)                Walk-Thru

12:00 p.m. (PDT)                Coach Jason Garrett Press Conference

3:45 p.m. (PDT)                  Practice

RELATED SCOUTING REPORT: Standouts from Saturday’s practice

OXNARD, CA – There are many more practices left to study before the Dallas Cowboys break camp here, but I wanted to share some early impressions from their first padded practice. Several players showed up on tape – some for the right kind of reasons, and some for the wrong kind.

  • Devin Street had a strong start in his work against the defensive backs. This club is looking for a guy that can step into that fourth position, with Bryant, Williams and Beasley manning the top three spots. In the one-on-one drills, Street was able to show initial quickness and a burst off the line to gain separation. I like what I observed from his stem speed and the top of the routes mechanics. He wasn’t all over the place in his routes. You could see that he had a plan and he was doing a nice job of executing it. He protected the ball with his body, but if I did have a concern, I would have liked to have seen him extended better for the ball on his vertical route. By not doing so, it allowed the corner to knock the ball away from him where he could have made the catch.
  • A linebacker that showed up when the pads came on was Kyle Wilber. For a player that, at this time last season, didn’t appear to have a spot on the defense that suited his game, Wilber has found a home as an outside linebacker for Rod Marinelli. I like the way he played with body control and balanced both run and pass. When he took on Tyler Clutts at the point of attack, he didn’t shy away from the contact or turn his body to avoid. Instead, he was square to the line and forced the ball back inside to his teammates to make the play. It appears that the coaches are going to use him in this scheme with his hand on the ground as a rusher, as well. In the one-on-one pass rush drills and during the Team Period, he was a handful for the tackles to have to deal with. I believe that the strength of Wilber’s game is his ability to play with range and a burst.
  • Tyrone Crawford appears to have put his injury history behind him at this camp and has really hit the ground running. He was outstanding with the pads on. You can see when you watch him play that his lateral speed and burst have really improved. There is more foot quickness to his game, and he is no longer a lumbering style of linemen. He has always had the effort, motor and pursuit but there is quickness to it. His hand use as a rusher and playing blocks in the running game was spot on. His upper body strength and power was on displaying when he took his two hands and shoved them in the middle of Jermey Parnell’s chest in the pass rush drill and knocked him flat on his back. Crawford might not have an idea where he is going to play scheme-wise in this defense, but if he continues to put days together like he did today this staff will find places for him to play on Sunday in the regular season.
  • If there was a position that I was not impressed with, it had to be the start for offensive tackles Jermey Parnell and Darrion Weems. I mentioned Parnell’s encounter with Crawford, but that was not the only struggle he had during the day. I thought his initial quickness off the snap was solid but his contact balance and body control was really off. There were snaps where he was too high and straight legged which didn’t allow him to adjust to handle the rusher. While his feet and body position was off, so was his hand use. On the other end of the spectrum, Tyron Smith was perfect in that regard. I have seen Parnell play better, but keep an eye on those areas I was talking about. Like Parnell, Weems struggled with some of the same issues when it came to his balance and positioning, but his was due mainly to over extension. The quickness out of the stance was a strength — but it was after that is where he broke down. The wider he kicked to engage his man, the wider his base became and that put him in a position where he could not adjust back inside to the rusher. Anything inside movement put him in a terrible blocking position and an example of that was the snap he took against rookie DeMarcus Lawrence, who just shot inside with a quick swim move, leaving Weems over the tops of his feet. In both cases for Jeremy Parnell and Darrion Weems, these are correctable technique problems but they were not ones that I had expected to see from two players trying to put trust in the minds of the front office and coaches.

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Pro Football Analyst/Former NFL Scout

RELATED: Cross-Training and position switches for depth continue

OXNARD, CA – Here are a few observations from the last day of light work, before the pads go on tomorrow.

The one thing Bill Callahan and Frank Pollack have not been afraid of while they have been the offensive line coaches here is playing their lineman at different positions during practice. Last year at this time, remember how Doug Free had some days where he took a rep or two at right guard and there was some consideration by the front office to keep him there until Brian Waters signed at the end of camp.

Callahan and Pollack are now at it again by moving Mackenzy Bernadeau from running with the first offense at left guard to playing center with the twos. In both practices, rookie Zack Martin, who has played the majority of snaps at right guard, received some work at center as well. Martin had been working in the pre-practices during center and quarterback exchange to get a feel for the position.

To Martin’s credit, he was not bad with his technique on the zone running plays, but he needs to become a little quicker getting into his block once the exchange is made, but this is something that should come with time the more comfortable he becomes.

You have to like Bruce Carter so far in these early practices. He is playing like a player that has a much better understanding of what his responsibilities are and what technique he has to execute in order to be successful.

There were clearly times last season where he was lost, not only dealing with the pass but also having to play against the run. It appears just watching the scheme that they are playing him behind the under-tackle or the three-technique, and it has protected him. It has allowed him to flow to the ball better, which has always been a strength of his.

Even in pass coverage, it doesn’t appear that he is guessing what he needs to fit. A good example of this was in the Team Blitz Period, where the offense tried to fool him with flow away to his right, then sneaking Jason Witten into the flat. Carter made a quick, aggressive move to his right, with his eyes on Brandon Weeden. When Weeden pulled the ball from DeMarco Murray, Carter was right on Witten and in outstanding position to make the tackle for no gain.

Another thing to look forward to from Carter this season is being used as a blitzer, both inside and out. There have been several snaps already this camp where Rod Marinelli has brought him to be disruptive.

In these first four practices on the defensive side of the ball, the coaches have been consistent with the combinations along the defensive line that we observed during the OTA and minicamp practices. The only exception is that Henry Melton is the starter at the three for Terrell McClain.

Nick Hayden is still the starter at the one-technique. McClain remains at the three with the second group and he continues to be paired with rookie Ken Bishop. Ben Bass and Davon Coleman make up the final group inside. Bass is at the three and Coleman the one.

On the outside, George Selvie is the starter at left end with Tyrone Crawford as his backup, and Selvie appears to be moving better than he did during those practices in the spring. The rotation behind Crawford has been Caesar Rayford, then Ben Gardner.

On the right side, Jeremy Mincey is the starter with DeMarcus Lawrence backing him up. Behind Lawrence have been Martez Wilson and Dartwan Bush. The more practices we have here during camp, the more we will see these coaches shuffle the combinations to try and build some further depth at other positions on the front.

There has been a great deal said and written about the situation with Rolando McClain and what might come from it. It made me think about the days that I worked in the scouting department here in Dallas.

I have been around Jerry Jones since 1999 and sat in plenty of personnel meetings with him discussing troubled players both in the college ranks and free agents on the NFL streets. The one thing I really respected about him was his willingness to take in all the information about those types of players and make a decision.

Right or wrong, as scouts we always had the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons about having a player with legal troubles on our roster. When I listened to Jones talk about how he felt with Rolando McClain, I had never seen him so confident about trying to make this particular player work. There is no question in my mind McClain is the most talented linebacker on this roster that could fill in for Sean Lee.

It was not a mistake where he was drafted, but if you need further proof, check out the team the Dallas Cowboys had to trade with to get his rights, the Baltimore Ravens. I believe we all respect the job that Ozzie Newsome has done over the years with that club. Jerry Jones and the Cowboys are going to see this one through, trust me on this.

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Pro Football Analyst/Former NFL Scout

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