Dallas Cowboys: Todd's take

Todd Archer's practice observations

August, 4, 2011
** Allowed to practice for the first time during camp with the CBA settled, CB Bryan McCann returned punts and kickoffs. Still no sign of Dez Bryant on the punt return team. He could be just a situational guy on punt returns.

** Before the workout, TE Martellus Bennett practiced catching passes with one hand. The other day he mentioned how Tampa Bay’s Kellen Winslow does the same.

** The defense worked on defending Hail Mary plays during its teaching period. Interesting to see LBs DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer double-team a receiver at the line to delay the takeoff before they went to rush the passer.

** The first-team offense ended a two-minute drill without a touchdown when a blitz forced QB Tony Romo to throw the ball earlier than he wanted to WR Dez Bryant. Earlier in the drive, Bryant cut inside and failed to get out of bounds, which kept the clock running. As the play unfolded, Romo yelled to get out of bounds.

** DE Igor Olshansky had a tackle for loss on Lonyae Miller during the inside run portion of practice. With the additions of Marcus Spears, Kenyon Coleman and Jason Hatcher, Olshansky will have to make more plays like that.

** Romo’s prettiest throw of the day was on a comeback to the wide side of the field to Bryant that was just over the fingertips of Ware. He also had a nice check-off to Miles Austin in the slot when the receiver was able to slide away from CB Orlando Scandrick.

** The No. 1 offense had a bad stretch during a portion of team drills when three plays went like this: Victor Butler sack, mix-up with WR Kevin Ogletree and a dropped deep ball by Jesse Holley, who was practicing for the first time in camp, as well.

** Coleman showed some rust with an offside penalty, but he also showed some force when he shoved OT Sam Young to the ground on a pass rush move that forced an early Jon Kitna throw.

** S Collin Zych forced a fumble on Bennett, knocking the ball free just as Bennett started to turn up field. S Andrew Sendejo picked up the recovery.

** Kickers David Buehler and Dan Bailey made their “mayday” field goals from 44 and 51 yards, respectively, as the coaches put the players through end-of-game situations.

**S Danny McCray had a nice breakup of a pass in the end zone to Jason Witten in the two-minute drill. McCray worked on the first-team dime package.

Todd Archer's practice observations

August, 1, 2011

SAN ANTONIO -- ** In the morning workout, backup C Bill Nagy and QB Jon Kitna worked on the snap exchange after they had some issues Sunday. They did not appear to have any problems Monday. Phil Costa had a high shotgun snap to Tony Romo that disrupted the timing on a handoff.

** How strong is OT Tyron Smith’s punch? During individual drills with fellow offensive lineman, he was able to knock a spinning Nagy off balance.

** New coordinator Rob Ryan must love what he is getting from DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff. They have been disruptive every day. Ware forced a Romo throwaway and also chewed up a reverse to WR Manny Johnson. Ratliff thwarted a run by RB Felix Jones after bullying Costa into the backfield at the snap. Later, a Ratliff pressure led to a Ware interception.

**TE Martellus Bennett made a great leaping grab of a Romo throw near the sideline as CB Orlando Scandrick closed quickly. Bennett was able to rip the ball away from Scandrick and turn upfield for what could have been a touchdown in red-zone drills.

** Jones was upset with himself over a drop after Romo split LBs Sean Lee and Anthony Spencer. If he came up with the grab, the middle of the field was wide open for a big gain.

** Second-year NT Josh Brent was able to beat Nagy off the snap to get to Kitna before the quarterback could even hand the ball off. Brent has had a solid start to camp.

** He may have a difficult time making the team given the recent signings, but DE Sean Lissemore did a nice job disengaging from Tyron Smith to stop Jones for no gain.

** RBs Lonyae Miller and Phillip Tanner had some good runs early in practice. After Tanner stuck his foot in the ground and turned upfield on a run to the right, injured RB Tashard Choice yelled some encouraging words to the undrafted rookie.

**Undrafted WR Raymond Radway has impressed early in camp. He was able to come down with a touchdown catch of a perfectly thrown pass from Stephen McGee in 7-on-7 drills after the quarterback drew CB Josh Thomas to the inside, freeing up space high and near the pylon for Radway.

** RB DeMarco Murray, LB Bruce Carter and LB Keith Brooking went through a longer session of rehab with associate athletic trainer Britt Brown on Monday.

Todd Archer's practice observations

July, 31, 2011

* Situational football is of mega importance and Jason Garrett had the players work on end-of-game or half situations in which the kicking team had to get on the field fast. Offensively, they had to either give themselves up in order to kill the clock late or call a quick timeout if one was available.

* One of the best parts of camp is when the two-minute drill arrives. The first- and second-team offenses won out. WR Dez Bryant was able to get 15 yards behind the defense for a touchdown catch from Tony Romo that had defensive coordinator Rob Ryan talking to Mike Jenkins. Rookie WR Dwayne Harris pocketed a Jon Kitna pass for a long TD as well after rookie CB Josh Thomas got lost in his assignment.

* Romo’s best throw of the day might have been a back-shoulder pass to WR Kevin Ogletree, who was being defended by Terence Newman. Earlier in camp, Romo’s back-shoulder throws were a little too far to the front shoulder as he continued to work on his timing and placement.

* Jenkins was able to intercept Romo for what would have been a pick-six on a stop route to Manny Johnson, but on the play FB Chris Gronkowski did a nice job of picking up a blitzing Kenwin Cummings.

* LB Victor Butler had a sack of Kitna and was able to force a holding penalty on TE Martin Rucker on a Frank Warren run. Butler has been much more active in this camp than his previous two.

* Kitna and Bill Nagy had several quarterback-center exchange issues in both sessions Sunday and one Nagy shotgun snap sailed over the head of the veteran quarterback. Kitna had the same issue two years ago with Cory Procter.

* TE Martellus Bennett was a little slow in getting up after making a leaping catch of a Romo throw after LB Bradie James landed on top of him. He did not miss any snaps.

* NT Jay Ratliff is leaner than in the past and his speed is rare. On a dumpoff to TE Jason Witten Ratliff was able to track down the Pro Bowler to negate what could have been a pretty good play. Ratliff has also blown up at least two screen plays early in camp by slipping past linemen.

* Working back from a calf strain, Tashard Choice spent time before practice catching passes off the Jugs machine.

* Rookie QB Zack Eskridge does not get many snaps, but he has to speed up his play calling. He waited too long to make a change at the line, which would have been a delay of game penalty, although he was able to complete the subsequent pass with a decent throw.

* UTSA football coach Larry Coker was in attendance at Sunday’s practice, as was Time Bandit captain Johnathan Hillstrand of “Deadliest Catch” fame. He took pictures with Romo, Miles Austin and Witten after practice.

* It is difficult to get a read on Stephen McGee because he is working with so many young players, but he had a nice out route to Manny Johnson along the sideline in 7-on-7 drills.

Todd Archer's practice observations

July, 30, 2011

* Every offensive end defensive linemen wore knee braces in the first full-pad practice of training camp. We will find out if they will be mandatory like they were when Bill Parcells was the coach.

* WR Dez Bryant knows how to make the crowd cheer. He was able to leap over CB Orlando Scandrick for a pass from QB Tony Romo down the sideline. However, on his first route in one-on-one drills he did not sell the first part of a double-move, allowing Mike Jenkins to come up with an interception.

* Make of this what you will: rookie K Dan Bailey worked with first-team snapper L.P. Ladouceur and holder Mat McBriar for the first time. Bailey has missed only one kick in the first three days of camp.

* WR Lyle Leong made a nice grab on a deep ball from Romo but the rookie made the mistake of leaping for the pass instead of running through the route to keep his speed.

* First-round pick Tyron Smith earned some dap from Doug Free after a healthy punch to OLB Victor Butler in one-on-one drills. Later he was over-extended on a rush but was able to get his arms out to push Butler by the quarterback.

* Unofficially, Romo went 13-of-20 in team and seven-on-seven drills. Jon Kitna was 12-of-15. Stephen McGee was 6-of-7.

* The work of OLB Victor Butler in coverage continues to be a bright spot. He had a nice interception of a throw from Romo to Bryant that was forced early after ILB Sean Lee doused RB Lonyae Miller on a rush to get pressure on the quarterback.

* Through three days of camp, NT Jay Ratliff’s quickness has been apparent in how he tracks down screen passes. He disrupted a screen to RB Felix Jones on the first play of team drills.

* TE Jason Witten got himself overextended on a running play, allowing OLB Anthony Spencer to slide by for what would have been a tackle of Felix Jones for a short gain.

* One play after getting chewed out by LB coach Matt Eberflus, Kenwin Cummings was able to blow up a running play by Frank Warren by disengaging with a guard.

* WR Manny Johnson was limping during 7-on-7 drills but after getting his ankle taped was able to make a nifty tip-grab of a McGee throw down the middle of the field.

* The first fight of training camp -- if you can call it that -- was between Ratliff and Phil Costa after the second-year center rushed to the defense of rookie OL David Arkin.

* Lee’s work must be monitored. With Keith Brooking out with a hamstring injury, Lee took over as the starter. He also took a lot of the snaps in the early part of practice that is devoted to the young players to catch them up on reps. He will wear himself out.

Todd Archer's practice observations

July, 29, 2011
* The second full practice of camp had fewer plays than Thursday’s workout. There were five sessions of team drills and one 7-on-7 for the first teams; four and one with the second and third teams. They ran more than 90 plays on Thursday. Unofficially, they were in the mid-60s on Friday.

* CB Orlando Scandrick had a terrific day. He had two pass breakups on successive snaps, with the best coming on a crossing route from Jon Kitna to Dez Bryant where he used his right hand to bat the pass away in a display of proper technique.

* LB Keith Brooking had two would-be interceptions and a pass breakup in the morning session and then stepped in front of Miles Austin on a slant route for a pick of Tony Romo. Unfortunately, that is when he strained his hamstring as he ran down the field with RB Lonyae Miller on the chase.

* DE Sean Lissemore came up with an acrobatic interception of a Romo pass that was tipped at the line by Jay Ratliff. That’s at least three batted balls for Ratliff in two days.

* Romo had a pretty throw on a long drag across the field to Miles Austin, who had a safety in coverage, and then he floated a waggle over a defender's hands to Jason Witten for a nice gain. Austin had a great outstretched grab of a Romo throw over the middle as he broke away from Scandrick.

* QB Stephen McGee took his first turns in full team drills and had WR Titus Ryan drop a perfectly-thrown pass on a dig route. McGee also had TE Jason Pociask bobble and drop a throw and WR Dwayne Harris slip on a break leading to an incompletion.

* Harris, however, showed good body control making a nice catch on a purposely low throw away from a defender from Jon Kitna.

* LB DeMarcus Ware was disruptive again. His quickness turned around OT Sam Young so quickly that Romo was forced to throw a check down to Miller much earlier than he wanted. He also snuffed out a reverse to WR Kevin Ogletree. On the first play of team drills, he pressured Romo on a screen.

Todd Archer's practice observations

July, 28, 2011
* Rob Ryan will be aggressive. In the morning walkthrough, he sent Mike Jenkins off the corner on a blitz and did the same with Terence Newman in the afternoon.

* Liked what I saw from rookie FB Shaun Chapas as a pass catcher, reaching out for one pass, but he needs to keep his feet moving when he engages as a blocker.

* Rookie WR Dwayne Harris had a "Welcome to the NFL" moment when a Tony Romo bullet on a slant went through his hands. Later, he was quick to grab a slant from Jon Kitna.

* At one point, all three inside linebackers -- Keith Brooking, Bradie James, Sean Lee -- were on the field at the same time.

* OLB Victor Butler struggled in coverage in his first two years, but he had two pass breakups in 7-on-7 drills on passes to TE John Phillips and Chapas. Butler also had a would-be sack.

* Romo’s final pass of the day came on a deep ball to Miles Austin while rolling to his right. Rookie safety Collin Zych let out a groan as he saw Austin run by him for what would have been a touchdown.

* Defensive linemen have been told to get their hands up in the passing lanes if they can’t get to the quarterback. Jay Ratliff batted down a ball, as did Sean Lissemore.

* Felix Jones took most of the first-team runs, but Tashard Choice took a handful as well. He showed nice patience on his first carry but not too much patience in getting through the hole, keeping a hand on his lead blocker as he ran.

* The Romo-to-Jason Witten combo looked just fine. Witten came up with a one-handed grab along the sideline while being blanketed by a defender.

** This just in: DeMarcus Ware can play. He snuffed out at least two reverses, a run up the middle and was a constant threat in the backfield, too.

** Savvy move by the coaches to run the first- and second-team linebackers and secondary at the same time to speed up the learning process considering the players missed the offseason. Ryan worked with the first team. Linebackers coach Matt Eberflus took the second team. Joe DeCamillis and Chris Boniol did the same during special teams drills.