Dallas Cowboys: Brandon Underwood

Camp observations: Orlando Scandrick rebounds

August, 13, 2013
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OXNARD, Calif. – Getting kicked out of a practice for shoving an official is never a good thing, but how Orlando Scandrick reacted a day later was a positive.

Scandrick was as active as he has been in all of training camp. In team drills, he took on DeMarco Murray for a tackle and in the final situation of practice he knocked down a pass to rookie wide receiver Terrance Williams.

On to the observations:

** Williams had a productive day as well. In one-on-one he beast CB Brandon Underwood on a fade, leaping for the pass and getting his feet on the ground. He had a touchdown in the slot in team drills and beat the defense’s blitz with a quick throw on a skinny post.

** DE Jason Hatcher had two sacks in the first six plays of practice. The defense had four sacks (DeMarcus Ware, Toby Jackson) but was unable to come up with a takeaway during the practice.

** Rookie S Jeff Heath has quietly had a good camp but there are still rookie moments. He made a nice breakup on a Kyle Orton throw to TE Gavin Escobar, closing fast on the ball, but then on a Nick Stephens’ deep ball to Anthony Armstrong, he jumped too early and Armstrong was able to come down with an acrobatic reception.

** How competitive does it get during practice? In the blitz period the defense in unison hollered “short” after they stopped TE Jason Witten on a third-down pass. Was it short? The measurement would’ve been close, but the defense, led by Sean Lee, wasn’t relenting.

** LB Caleb McSurdy was throwing his weight around. He knocked TE James Hanna to the ground after a catch to the flat and did the same to RB Phillip Tanner.

** With James Nelson leaving practice early and Jermey Parnell and Demetress Bell not ready for team work, first-teamers Doug Free and Tyron Smith took turns with the second and third teams.

** Quarterbacks often tell their pass catchers where trouble is coming from where they throw the ball. Orton did a nice job of throwing a pass slightly behind TE Dante Rosario so he could turn to avoid an oncoming defender and not take a kill shot.

** LB Bruce Carter has been kind of quiet lately, but he was able to alter a Tony Romo throw to Witten on a corner route with a last-second jump in seven-on-seven drills.

** Romo went 13 of 21 in team and seven on seven drills. He missed on his last two passes, but that came after Jason Garrett ruled Williams was down at the 2 when he actually scored in situational work.

Camp observations: Offense rebounds

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
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OXNARD, Calif. – Jason Garrett said one of the best parts of Cowboys’ training camp so far has been back and forth race between the offense and defense each day, each period of practice, each play.

On Tuesday, the defense won. On Wednesday, the offense won.

On to the observations to find out:

**Tony Romo completed just 13 of 27 passes on Tuesday in team and seven on seven drills. He went six of seven on Wednesday in team drills. Why so few passes? The second half of practice was game plan work for Friday’s game against Oakland conducted without shoulder pads and helmets.

** Romo’s first pass of the day in 11 on 11 work was a deep ball down the left sideline to WR Dez Bryant, who beat CB Brandon Underwood for the big gain. Underwood was the third cornerback with CB Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr not practicing.

** Romo’s prettiest throw of the day came in situational work. He looked to his left to freeze S Barry Church just enough as TE Jason Witten worked LB Justin Durant wide to the right before coming back to the middle of the field. The throw as on the spot and Witten was able to knock down Church as he neared the goal line.

** On the next play, RB DeMarco Murray sprinted to his right for a touchdown but he nearly fumbled the exchange from Romo. The blocking was so good, that he was still able to score.

** Lance Dunbar and Ernie Sims got into a scrum Tuesday. On Wednesday Dunbar got some on-field revenge by side-stepping the linebacker on a pass to the flat, cutting back inside for a nice pickup.

** TE Gavin Escobar made a nice reception on a pass down the seam from QB Kyle Orton after getting behind LB Brandon Magee. He even hung on after taking a side-hit from CB Xavier Brewer.

** WR Miles Austin took a big hit from DE DeMarcus Ware, but was able to leave the first-team defense in his wake with the offense coming out of the end zone. He had a long gain on a deep crossing route from Romo, which was followed two plays later by a 40-plus yard pickup on a slant. LB Sean Lee was so upset about the misplay by the defense that he sprinted all the way down the field to chase Austin.

** In one-on-one red-zone work, WR Danny Coale looked as smooth as he has looked in his two seasons. Coming off a knee injury Coale is playing catchup. He was able to make a nice head and shoulder fake to the outside before cutting across the back of the end zone for a touchdown.

** CB Micah Pellerin was ready to matchup against Bryant in one-on-one work, but coach Jason Garrett called on Orlando Scandrick to fill in. Pellerin walked off upset, and Bryant came down with a fade route for a TD in the corner of the end zone.

Camp observations: Dez Bryant to rescue

July, 28, 2013
7/28/13
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OXNARD, Calif. -– If you’re attending training camp as a fan, you have to stay ready.

While holding his son, a father was able to hold on to a Tony Romo throw, but unfortunately the boy took part of the catch off the face. Security took the football back, but Dez Bryant came to the rescue, offering the boy an elbow sleeve. Later a ball was given to the boy.

Bryant, who did not practice because of a sore hip, was in a giving mood. He later gave a fan a pair of his cleats.

Other notes:
  • The first three team plays of practice are competitive situations. A winner is declared after each play. The offense won two of three Saturday, highlighted by a Tony Romo touchdown throw in the middle of the end zone to TE Jason Witten just as S Barry Church was coming for the hit.
  • With DeMarcus Ware getting a day of rest, Kyle Wilber was a starting defensive end. He had a couple of sacks and was difficult for any linemen to block. With Ben Bass (ankle) not practicing, Cameron Sheffield started on the other side.
  • Romo completed 11 of 17 passes in team and 7-on-7 drills with two touchdowns. Kyle Orton went 8-for-12 with a touchdown.
  • Orton’s best throw was a TD throw to WR Jared Green, who was able to tap his feet inbounds. The throw came through a tight window between a safety and a linebacker just as Green made his cut.
  • LB Ernie Sims has had a good start to camp. He stopped RB Phillip Tanner on a third-down play, meeting the runner in the hole and dropping him immediately.
  • No detail is too fine. The wide receivers worked on chopping the defenders’ hands as they attempted to shove them off the line. Jason Garrett told Terrance Williams, “be violent with that hand,” to which the rookie responded, “Yes, sir.”
  • Another interesting drill was a series of two-on-two games between corners and safeties working on bunch formations. It favored the offense, but the defenders mostly did good job communicating the pass off.
  • Dan Bailey did not take any of the field goal attempts in situational drills. That went to Spencer Barton. During practice the Cowboys worked on fake field goals and pooch punts. Bailey did a good job pinning the punts deep.
  • CB Brandon Underwood nearly had his first interception of camp. Instead, it was a pass break up as he ripped the ball away from WR Eric Rogers in the end zone.
  • Remember when Wade Phillips proclaimed the Cowboys the best walk-through team in the NFL a few years ago? They weren’t that good on Saturday morning. The offense had three false starts. Repeat those words. In a walk-through they couldn’t get the snap right.

Camp observations: Tony Romo, Dez Bryant

July, 22, 2013
7/22/13
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OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys opened training camp practices Sunday afternoon with a brief welcome celebration that included performances by the team’s cheerleaders, but a planned skydiving skit was scrapped because of the overcast weather.

Instead, Rowdy handed the game ball to the Oxnard mayor to get things going.

And now on to far more important details:

  • Tony Romo's first completion of the practice went to WR Dez Bryant on an underneath route after Bryant beat CB Brandon Carr to the spot. Carr rebounded on the next play by knocking away a Romo throw to WR Terrance Williams.

  • The structure of practice has changed with the new coaches. The main special teams drills are now run in the middle of the workout instead of at the beginning. The first part of practice is for rookies and selected veterans, with the full team getting together after 30 minutes.

  • New defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is stressing turnovers. In the morning walkthrough, S Matt Johnson and LB Ernie Sims came up with interceptions. LB Sean Lee intercepted Romo on a tipped ball in the afternoon and S Barry Church and CB Brandon Underwood had fumble recoveries on back to back plays in the afternoon.

  • C Travis Frederick had one poor exchange with Romo on the day but was clean otherwise. What the rookie needs to work on his staying off the ground. He was looking up way to often after getting knocked off balance. The obvious danger is injury to teammates during practice.

  • With Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary missing practice, the starting offensive line was (left to right) Tyron Smith, Kevin Kowalski, Frederick, David Arkin and Doug Free.

  • Jason Garrett did something he probably hasn’t done since 2004 as a player: take snaps at quarterback. He worked as the scout-team QB vs. the defense in on-air drills in the afternoon and completed all four passes. His best throw came on a screen to CB Morris Claiborne, who was a receiver on the play.

  • DE DeMarcus Ware looked like, well, Ware, even at a new position. The most impressive play? He nearly batted down a screen pass to DeMarco Murray at the line of scrimmage and then was able to track down the running back from behind.

  • WR Dwayne Harris had a poor moment in the morning walkthrough when he ran the wrong route, earning an "Are you kidding me?” from Garrett. In the afternoon he was able to break free on a bubble screen, zig-zagging his way through the defense.

  • QB Kyle Orton was sharper in his first training camp practice than he was in the minicamp when he was taking the first-team snaps in Romo’s absence. He was able to place a pass just over Johnson to Harris on the sideline and do the same to LB DeVonte Holloman on a throw to Cole Beasley.

  • Holloman made an athletic interception of Orton earlier, dropping in coverage and leaping to come down with the pick in front of TE Andre Smith.

  • RB Lance Dunbar was particularly sharp. In team run drills, Dunbar was able to zip through the first-team defense on his first carry and then jitter through traffic on his second. He took the second-team work behind Murray with Phillip Tanner getting the next look. Rookie Joseph Randle was the fourth back in his first practice since the draft because of a thumb injury.
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