Monday, August 16, 2010
Dallas Cowboys Observation Deck
By Matt Mosley
OXNARD, Calif. -- If not for offensive tackle Marc Colombo's injury at the end of practice Sunday afternoon, the day would've been all about tight end Martellus Bennett. The mercurial player with the balky ankle put on a show in front of a nice crowd, but the sight of Colombo being carted off the field with a knee injury stole the headlines. Some of the players on offense walked off the field dejectedly -- especially Colombo's fellow offensive linemen.
With Alex Barron recovering from an ankle sprain, the Cowboys are suddenly thin at the tackle spot. Rookie Sam Young, who's been impressive at times, replaced Colombo in Sunday's practice. Robert Brewster's also in the mix, but he's looked overmatched in two preseason games. Colombo's the emotional leader of this line, and the Cowboys need him to be ready for the opening game against the Redskins. But since we've already said a lot about the injury, let's take a look at what else happened once the Beast rolled into camp Sunday afternoon:
- I was surprised at how sloppy the offense looked three weeks into training camp. I'm told the quarterbacks were fairly sharp Sunday morning, but Tony Romo and Jon Kitna both struggled in the afternoon. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett responded by making his players stay after practice and walk through a series of plays. The offensive line gave up at least three faux sacks and there was a lot of confusion between the quarterbacks and receivers. Even the normally reliable Jason Witten-Romo combo was off. Bennett was the only player who really stood out on offense. Perhaps it's because he has fresh legs after so much time off during this camp. He was surrounded by reporters after practice, but he didn't seem as jovial as usual. Bennett seemed to be a little annoyed with the media, and there's no shame in that.
- Linebacker Keith Brooking has been excellent in pass coverage throughout camp. He had a good chance at an interception when Kitna threw a weak pass across the middle in team drills, but the ball glanced off his hands. Brooking sat out OTAs this offseason following knee surgery and I think that's made him fresher in this camp.
- Bennett made a beautiful adjustment to a ball that Romo threw behind him in 7-on-7 drills. He basically posted up a smaller defensive back and then snatched the ball with his hands instead of trying to cradle it, as he once did for Texas A&M on the rare occasions Dennis Franchione remembered he had a tight end.
- Free-agent rookie Bryan McCann out of SMU has not backed down from any of the Cowboys' top receivers. On an out route to Miles Austin, McCann poked the ball away with his right hand. You can tell that secondary coach Dave Campo's really excited about McCann.
- Tight end DajLeon Farr's only here because so many tight ends were injured, but he's making the most of his opportunity. He snagged a ball in team drills and showed a little speed after turning upfield.
- Young was pulled out of team drills following a false start. But when All-Pro nose tackle Jay Ratliff was called for jumping offside, he remained in the lineup.
- Roy Williams had a decent day. He made a nice catch on the sideline before cornerback Teddy Williams shoved him into a writer from the Associated Press. Teddy Williams may be one of the fastest players in the league, but I'm not sure there's a roster spot for him.
- The Wildcat formation is going to need a little work. At the end of practice, Tashard Choice took the snap and handed the ball to Felix Jones, who lateraled the ball to Romo. The quarterback then delivered a short pass to Jones for a minimal gain. Even though the play was handled ineptly, the crowd seemed somewhat pleased that Garrett attempted to entertain them.
- Cornerback Mike Jenkins closed hard on a Kitna pass, but he couldn't hold on for the interception.
- Cornerback Cletis Gordon missed Thursday's game with a neck strain, but he's returned to practice with a vengeance. ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon, who has seen every practice in camp, told me Gordon has nine interceptions since July 24. That's believed to be a new camp record dating back to the Bill Parcells era. My notes from those years are a little tough to read, but I believe Aaron Glenn had a 10-interception camp in 2003.
- Safety Gerald Sensabaugh intercepted a Kitna pass when the quarterback mistook Patrick Crayton for an NBA center. Romo apparently had the flu. Not sure what Kitna's excuse was Sunday.
- Terence Newman's having one of his best camps in years. He's deflecting a lot of passes and he just seems to be as technically sound as any defensive back on the roster. He's also doing a nice job of mentoring some of the young players. It's not easy to provide tips to folks who desperately want your job, but he doesn't seem to mind. Newman's been banged up in camp the past couple seasons, so he backed off his workouts a little bit this offseason.
- I had a nice visit with outside linebacker Anthony Spencer after practice. His growing confidence on the field has carried over to his interviews. He used to be painfully shy, but now he's engaging and seems to enjoy talking about his craft. He learned a lot from watching Greg Ellis and DeMarcus Ware, but he's now doing some "really creative" things on his own. Spencer's also a little more menacing with an unruly beard. Doesn't appear to be a lot of maintenance involved.
- Running backs coach Skip Peete spent a lot of time talking to me about the rotation Sunday afternoon. I'll roll out that conversation in a blog entry later today.
- The only practice Monday is at 5:15 p.m. ET. And if you're scoring at home, that's 2:15 local time. Thanks for making us either your first or second stop this morning.