And the Wheels Go Round — Practice Report, Tuesday, August 8th
By Rafael Vela No Comments
While some wide receiver guy rode an exercise bike on the far end of the practice fields, here’s a recap of the developing project on those fields.
The coaches gave three of the players fighting for roster spots some serious time with the first unit. Jason Fabini took all the snaps at right tackle, replacing Marc Colombo, who got those reps last week. Receiver Sam Hurd got another day with the first team as he continues his push for a spot. Finally Tyson Thompson got the reps with the first team, suggesting he might be edging ahead of Keylon Kincade in the battle for the third RB slot.
The Cowboys again donned full pads, after yesterday’s late shorts and shoulder pads session. Bill Parcells wanted to work on the running game and went right to work after the normal walk through, stretching and position drills. The offensive and defensive lines squared off, but in sets of two and three. The right tackles and tight ends would got against an end and OLB combo. The center and guards would attack a nose tackle and two ILBs. The left tackle and TE would do the same against right defensive ends and OLBs.
Parcells showed a carrot-and-buggywhip style with rookies Montavious Stanley and Jason Hatcher. When Andre Gurode got the better of him on one play, Parcells had the linemen go again one-on-one. When Gurode again pushed the rookie he was needled with the lines, “you’re not strong enough. You’re not strong enough. He’s gonna kill you.” When Hatcher showed a lukewarn pace against Flozell Adams and later some sloppy technique against Pat McQuistan, Parcells accusing Hatcher of “putting your lipstick all over him.”
In the following 11-on-11 running drill, Parcells offered some tough love when Stanley and Hatcher excelled, seeking each out and patting them on the back for good hustle and technique.
Overall, the running game continues to improve. The first team line won the line of scrimmage on most plays in the drill. Fabini was also singled out by name for praise, after sealing an outside lane for Marion Barber. Fabini has been very strong on off tackle and toss plays to his side. More consistent pass blocking would make him a contender for a starting spot.
After kickoff drills the team had an 11-on-11 passing drill in the middle of the field. Protection was better and Drew Bledsoe and Tony Romo showed improved accuracy on their throws, courtesy of the best protection I’ve seen so far. Bledsoe hit Glenn on a skinny post and Hurd on a square in. Romo hit just about everything and continues to show a real gunslinger’s attitude, pumping his fists and jumping up and down when things go right. His enthusiasm seems to feed his teammates, because his squads have probably had the most consistent movement this past week. He’s eager play and I’m eager to see him.
On the edges, Flozell Adams looks more and more settled. Fabini handled all speed rushes around the corner by Greg Ellis and Jay Ratliff. He has had a nagging tendency to lose rushers with good inside counter moves. This may be a lingering result of last year’s torn pectoral muscle. I didn’t see this harm him in the scrimmages but he was beaten by it once in a pass blocking drill. It’s something to follow.
Inside, Jay Ratliff looks more and more like the real thing. He’s getting under Marco Rivera’s skin with his shiftiness and power. Their standoffs finished one incendiary play. Bledsoe hit Hurd on a short crossing route and the rookie looked up early enough to duck under a Roy Williams lunge. The impact drew oohs even though Williams missed the killshot. At the same time, coaches and teammates were rushing to the line to separate Rivera and Ratliff, who were exchanging punches. Ratliff distracted Rivera so much that Parcells yelled at Rivera for getting sloppy with his technique later in the drill.
* McQuistan and Jason Hatcher seem to be pet projects. Parcells rides Hatcher hard when he gets beaten by McQuistan, then gives him some love when he wins the duel. Same with Tony Sparano and McQuistan. In the passing drill on consecutive plays McQuistan won and then Hatcher beat him. On the first, Sparano was running out to congratulate his guy and Parcells was running out next to him to give his guy hell. It was the opposite on the following play.
* A lot of inside blitzes today, from ILBs and safeties. The line picked it up too.
* The coaches have a horn that blows when they expect passes to be off. Romo beats it all the time. Bledsoe is always on the line, sometimes on time, sometimes a tad late. Henson is regularly over one second late getting his throws away.
* WR coach Todd Haley isn’t as loud as I remembered him, because he’s also working on the play scripts and helping with play calling. But he gave Anthony Fasano a good chewing for cutting his routes short today. The kid has talent but he’s on that up/down rookie learning curve.
* OG Stephen Peterman returned to practice and not a moment too soon. The window is closing on his his chance to make the team. He can’t use his rehab as an excuse any more.
* Parcells had the special teams working on returning free kicks after safeties today. Jason Hatcher lost sight of the ball, had it bounce off his leg and was immediately sent running to the fence by Parcells.
* In the late drills Dallas unveiled a 3-3-5 nickel package, with Greg Ellis, Jay Ratliff and Chris Canty manning the line.