Calvin Watkins' practice report

August, 12, 2012
8/12/12
8:00
AM ET


OXNARD, Calif. -- The Cowboys conducted their last practice before Monday night's preseason opener at Oakland.

Some thoughts.

* This is how bad the kick return game was last season for the Cowboys: It was the first time since 1973 the Cowboys didn't have a single returner reach double-digits in returns. Last year, injuries and ineffective play were the problems. This is a new year. Lionel Smith, Tim Benford, Raymond Radway, Dwayne Harris, Felix Jones and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah could field kicks at Oakland. Returning kicks involves many things, including reading the holes, something Smith didn't do, which raised the ire of special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.

* It looks like Derrick Dockery is going to start at left guard at Oakland. He's doing a nice job of getting a push along the line of scrimmage and using his hands with the first team.

* This second version, no matter how limited, of Morris Claiborne is better than the first one. When we first saw Claiborne, he was getting beat deep by a variety of receivers. Not now so much. He's attacking the ball, as evident by his breakup of a pass to Kevin Ogletree in the end zone.

* Double coverage for Cole Bealsey? Say it ain't so. Yep, after Beasley beat a jam by Orlando Scandrick, safety Mana Silva picked him up quickly inside the red zone to prevent any throws coming his way.

* Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau is a big man and uses his frame well. At 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, he used his size to clear out linebacker Sean Lee (6-2, 245 pounds) on a dump off. Bernadeau displayed good foot work in pushing Lee out the way.

* Danny McCray is a noted special teams leader, but he wants to be known as a defensive safety. He recorded an interception off a Kyle Orton pass and deflected a pass intended for Dwayne Harris on the next play. Harris, however, should have caught the pass, but McCray did a good job in finishing the play.

* Victor Butler has responded well at outside linebacker with Anthony Spencer out with his injury. Butler read a screen play headed to Felix Jones and picked up a tackle for loss. Butler has done a nice job on the pass rush against tackle Tyron Smith. Butler will try swim moves, spins, and bull rushes against Smith. These battles are not as epic as DeMarcus Ware vs. Smith, but Butler is holding his own at times.

* Rookie linebacker Kyle Wilber had a sack and a tackle for loss Saturday afternoon. There have been plenty of discussions about how well defensive end Tyrone Crawford has looked. Wilber is also earning snaps with second teamers.

* Before practice, wide receiver Dez Bryant was getting stretched by Mike Woicik, the strength and conditioning coach, for about five minutes. Then as practices went on, Bryant was pulled and talked to the trainers. The Cowboys are doing the right there here after Bryant experienced some soreness in his left hamstring.

* Toward the end of practice, the Cowboys were running some Oakland Raiders plays with Stephen McGee at quarterback.

* The last play of the day resulted in a touchdown when Andre Holmes caught a Hail Mary pass in the end zone from Orton.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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