NFL Nation: Stephen Hodge
SAN ANTONIO -- The Cowboys only held one practice Friday, but it was a lengthy one and several players stood out. Wide receiver Roy Williams had his best practice by a long shot. He made several contested catches, and he and Tony Romo did a nice job of adjusting routes based on what the coverage dictated. I'm about to catch a flight back to Dallas, but here's a quick report of what took place on Day 3 of Camp Wade:
- Williams looked like a legitimate No. 1 receiver for the first time since he's arrived in Dallas. In team drills, second-year cornerback Orlando Scandrick tried to jam Williams at the line of scrimmage. Williams threw a forearm in Scandrick's direction and then made a nifty catch on the sideline. With each passing day, Williams looks much more comfortable in the Cowboys' offense. All the work that he put in with Romo in the offseason appears to be paying off. He's also bringing a lot of enthusiasm to practice, and there's some really nice give and take between the receivers and defensive backs right now. On a stutter-and-go route during 9-on-7 drills, Williams got some good separation on Scandrick. But I like the fact that Scandrick always wants to challenge Williams. He certainly doesn't shy away from the competition.
- Since some of you guys have asked about veteran linebacker Keith Brooking quite a bit, I decided to focus on him today. He looked solid in coverage, but what impressed me was the way he filled the gaps in the running game. When Felix Jones or Tashard Choice tried to cut back, Brooking was waiting on them. He appears to be a very instinctive player who has a good grasp of Wade Phillips' defense. Zach Thomas has been a great player in this league for a good while, but it's already obvious that Brooking is a better fit at inside linebacker. He and Bradie James seem to be doing a really nice job communicating, and that's made things relatively easy for them.
- Friday was a really rough day for Jon Kitna. He couldn't muster a lot of strength on the deep ball, and he just seemed to be pressing throughout the practice. Before today, he'd really been throwing the ball well. He just seemed loose with his throws all afternoon, and his timing with the receivers was off. Part of that's understandable since folks like Mike Jefferson and Kevin Ogletree don't always look certain about their routes.
- Wade Phillips continued to call out players for making mistakes in team drills. When Kyle Kosier had a false start, there was no hesitation in taking him out. Montrae Holland came jogging in, and Kosier had to go stand by offensive line coach Hudson Houck. Have I mentioned how worried you should be about the backup offensive linemen on this team?
- Alan Ball is an unheralded cornerback in his second year out of Illinois, but he constantly makes plays in practice. If a running backs comes through the hole a little bit high, Ball's waiting to smack them. He's also doing a really nice job of anticipating routes. I don't know if he'll make this roster, but he can certainly play in this league. He just looks so much more mature in recognizing plays in this camp.
- When he wants to, Flozell Adams can be a dominant left tackle. He gave the great DeMarcus Ware fits in one-on-one drills. But when the team lined up to run sprints at the end of practice, Adams ran out of steam before anyone and had to finish by walking.
- Tough day for rookie cornerback Mike Mickens. As my former colleague Tim MacMahon from DallasNews.com pointed out, Mickens was doing "lots of turning and chasing" in the afternoon session. He's obvioulsy got some ability, but he's biting on a lot of fakes right now. He's pressing a lit bit, but I think he'll settle down. I also think he could be a solid contributor on special teams.
- Love the energy that former Texas Tech defensive end Brandon Williams brings to practice, but the man has to get in the weight room. His bull-rush is pretty weak right now. But with his quickness and motor, he has a chance to be successful in this league.
- I've found someone that reserve offensive tackle Pat McQuistan can block. His name is Steve Octavien and he played at Nebraska. Octavien's a pretty active player, but he's pretty raw as a pass-rusher. McQuistan, who was completely overwhelmed for most of Thursday's sessions, was solid against the young Octavien.
- Romo hit tight end Jason Witten on a beautiful pass up the seam. He dropped the ball over linebacker DeMarcus Ware's outstetched arm, and Witten took off for a "touchdown."
- Non-football note. Do not read if you are offended by non-football opinions: I'm still trying to recover after the Rangers decided not to make a move at the deadline. Perhaps they got too caught up in pursuing Roy Halladay and forgot that the Pirates were willing to deal pretty much anyone on their "big-league" club. Zach Duke anyone? It's just hard for me to stomach that Jon Daniels didn't do something to help this team in a pennant race.
- Surreal moment of the day came when Redskins executive director of football operations Vinny Cerrato asked me a question about Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson on Cerrato's radio show on ESPN 980. Did anyone hear that back and forth? They dropped me in midsentence. I was in the middle of a fascinating discourse on the life and times of Robert Brewster.
- If I had to pick a camp MVP at this point in training camp, give me Tashard Choice. He's a complete back who is very instinctive. Much quicker than I realized.
- I wasn't really familiar with former Florida State safety Jerome Carter's work before today, but he put a vicious hit on a Cowboys running back who was running a bit high through a hole. The hit brought a strong reaction from the Alamodome faithful. What a sad building that is.
- Before I got bored and walked away, Jerry Jones talked about his new "Party Pass" program at Cowboys Stadium for at least 20 minutes. He kept talking about something called a "Magnum Lodge" that he and his daughter Charlotte were really proud of. Could some of my archite
ctural experts weigh in on this topic?
- I can't wait to return to San Antonio next week and watch my man Victor Butler out of Oregon State. Strong start to camp for this guy. And I'm rooting for Stephen Hodge because I liked watching him at TCU. But he better get on the field at some point. It's not helping his cause one bit to remain on the sideline right now. As a famous man once said, "you can't make the club in the tub."
- Patrick Crayton is quietly having a nice camp. He's got the best hands on the team and he caught a deep ball from Tony Romo during one-on-one drills. Pretty impressive day for him. And yes, I'm still intrigued by Jesse Holley from "Fourth and Long." He runs really precise routes, which helps compensate for his lack of burst. He's a 4.6 guy, according to a popular scout who was sitting next to me during practice.
- My flight is "now boarding." Let's talk again tomorrow.
Final Indianapolis 28 Cincinnati 42 Final Atlanta 21 Green Bay 22 Final Cleveland 26 New England 27 Final Oakland 27 New York 37 Final Detroit 20 Philadelphia 34 Final Miami 34 Pittsburgh 28 Final Buffalo 6 Tampa Bay 27 Final Kansas City 45 Washington 10 Final Minnesota 26 Baltimore 29 Final Tennessee 28 Denver 51 Final St. Louis 10 Arizona 30 Final New York 14 San Diego 37 Final Seattle 17 San Francisco 19 Final Carolina 13 New Orleans 31