SAN ANTONIO -- Had a chance after practice both in the morning and afternoon to watch and visit with offensive line coach Hudson Houck, who is working on the finer points of technique with Tyron Smith.
Houck said that Smith is a good learner and he wants to do things the right way. We all need to remember that Smith is just 20 years old and despite playing his college football at a national power, there are still many habits and techniques that he needs to work on.
On this day, Houck was working on a simple but important correction that involves the way that Smith kicks away from the line in pass protection and the placement of his feet -- mainly his left foot and the positioning of it when he gets into the engaging area of the defender. The correction that Houck was making is that Smith tends to slide his left toe out and roll on his heel, which throws his positioning off. Houck wants him to keep his foot straight as he slides back so he is better able to adjust on the rusher, thus putting him in a better position to engage and complete the block.
One observation that I had about Smith from the press box at practice was he needed to find a way to get away from the line quicker. He has done just that in the last few days.
Houck also praised him for the position that he is able to get into once he gets engaged.
On another side note, we in the media are always asking about the leaders on this team and who they are. A quiet man on this team has taken an interest in the development of Smith and that is Doug Free. Watch as this relationship grows through the season.
*Not worried about this player, but have some concern early in camp because he is struggling a little right now: rookie cornerback Joey Thomas.
When I studied Thomas on tape after the draft, thought he did some things very well with the way he played with his hands on the receivers and the upper body strength he showed. He didn’t play like a guy that was afraid of contact and was a willing and effective tackler. He played the boundary corner, which in football speak means he always played into the sideline and not the open side or the field. Ball skills were good, feet and quickness as well.
The first time I really noticed him in this camp was when Rob Ryan brought him on a slot blitz from the backside and Stephen McGee never saw him. He showed the quickness and speed to get home to make the play, which I observed on his college film.
Since that time, I have seen more correction from Dave Campo than I have seen praise. Thomas has been the victim of some breakdowns in coverage by not playing the correct techniques and being unsure how to execute them.
Last season in training camp, Bryan McCann was competitive against guys like Austin, Bryant and Roy Williams. He played solid technique and was productive in the preseason games. Joey Thomas has the talent, but he needs to make some plays to get himself back on track and keep Campo off his rear.
*If Jason Garrett is true to his word and he is going to do everything in his power to get his best 11 on the field at all times, he is going to have to find a place for nose tackle Josh Brent.
Fully understand that the Cowboys have Jay Ratliff and what he brings to the game each week. Ratliff is an offensive coordinator’s nightmare with the way he can create problems for guards. In the Ryan scheme, there is no telling where Ratliff will line up and that makes it even worse on offenses.
In Brent, the Cowboys have a powerful man that is difficult to stop once he gets on the move. His upper body strength and power allows him to get push in the middle in the passing game, but he also has a lateral game in his ability to control blockers and work outside the tackle box and help on the edges.
It didn’t matter who was trying to block Brent, it was met with the same result, a negative play. There is talk of using Brent more on the nose and moving Ratliff to end.
Again in this scheme, Ratliff is going to be moving around plenty. The advantage of having a player like Brent is that he can spell Ratliff the wear and tear that he takes throughout the season.
A fresh Ratliff in the fourth quarter is just what Rob Ryan needs for his defense. As Brent continues to grow, so does the need to find a way for Jason Garrett and his staff to playing him more. That’s a nice problem to have.