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Sat. Practice Report: Mid-Pack WRs Have A Chance To Shine
OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys continued their 2013 training camp Saturday evening with one final practice before Sunday’s Blue and White Scrummage. This year, Jason Garrett’s new schedule gives even more time between the lighter morning walk-through and the afternoon practice.
Each night, DallasCowboys.com will feature the second practice of the day with the big news, the highs and lows and notable standouts.
Nothing frees up your wide receiver corps to show off like a little downtime for the starters. Miles Austin took the evening off on Friday after a week of camp, and Dez Bryant followed suit Saturday with a rest day to recuperate some nicks and scratches.
With the team’s top wide receivers alternating days off, several others have had a chance to show off. The top three of those have undoubtedly been Dwayne Harris, Terrance Williams and Anthony Armstrong.
Harris and Williams’ presence in the first team are near-givens, as the former is the team’s returning No. 3 wideout and the latter is a third-round draft pick. Armstrong, however, has used the opportunity to rise out of the pack of as many as eight receivers who don’t have secure jobs heading into the season.
“Whenever someone goes down, whether it’s injury or the coaches just decide to take him out, you have to be ready,” Armstrong said. “I hold myself to a high standard – I’ve done it before in this league – and I’m just trying to have a successful camp.”
Armstrong ran with the first team throughout full-team drills on Friday, and he received the nod, along with Harris and Austin, on Saturday during pass skeleton. It’s safe to say Armstrong made the most of the opportunity, as he hauled in several impressive catches and proved a reliable possession receiver.
“I just want to be consistent – stack good days on top of good days,” Armstrong said. “You can’t really go up and down. The more you press onward and upward, the better off you’re going to be.”
Austin, Williams and Harris formed the starting trio when the Cowboys concluded their late practice with a two-minute drill. Armstrong ran second-team along with Anthony Amos and Tim Benford while Coale Beasley, sidelined with a wrapped knee, sat out.
Armstrong said it becomes easier to get reps with a less congested receiver corps, though the competition is bound to ramp up as camp continues and more is expected from everyone.
“It’s so early in camp, you have so many numbers that it’s so spread out,” he said. “Once you get further into camp, when somebody goes down, it’s going to be very noticeable. When you’re down to seven or eight guys versus 10 or 12, it’s very noticeable.”
If this week is any indication, Armstrong has shown he knows how to take advantage of more playing time.
Austin wasn’t the only Cowboy who returned to practice after taking Friday off. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher also returned to full pads after taking it easy the day before. Hatcher was disruptive and vocal among the first-team defenders.
Conversely, several veterans took days off to rest up ahead of the Blue and White Scrimmage and the coming week. Bryant and Beasley attended practice but did not participate. The same goes for defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who took a vet day.
Dan Bailey was at practice, but he did not take any kicks during the team’s customary two minute drill. Spencer Benton, who is battling for the punter job, handled those duties. It didn’t go so well, as Benton missed on several kicks, though he did hit one game-winner.
Being a weekend, the crowd for Saturday’s practice was one of the largest of camp, an attendance of 5,411.
Jason Garrett noted during his Saturday press conference that rookie running back Joseph Randle was slightly behind as a result of not being available for OTA’s and minicamp. Both Randle and Kendial Lawrence got extensive work during Saturday’s Blue Period practice of rookies, and Randle had several carries during full-team drills.
Armstrong, Harris, Williams, B.W. Webb and Randle were among those who stayed behind 15 minutes after practice ended to field punts.
Nick Stephens worked primarily as the third-team quarterback during drills Saturday, one day after Alex Tanney got a chance at that job.
DeMarco Murray: Murray is one physical runner, not that anyone needed to be reminded. The Cowboys’ first-teamer had a number of incredibly physical runs during full-team drills and two minute drill. Perhaps the best was when Murray broke off tackle and stiff-armed newcomer defensive end George Selvie, knocking the 270-pounder to the ground. Murray also jawed plenty with middle linebacker Sean Lee, as the two made hard contact several times on the day.
Jason Hatcher: The big man announced his presence immediately upon returning from a rest day Friday. In individual drills, Hatcher tore right through several different guard and center combinations in a drill designed to have the interior linemen working together. In full-team drills he collapsed the pocket several times. Hatcher took charge of the defensive line in light of Ware’s absence, admonishing his linemen loudly for every good gain on the ground.
Travis Frederick: It’s hard to point to any single play that a center makes in the course of a practice. Frederick has looked good in picking up the majority of his assignments without too many mistakes, but the thing that stands out is the comfort and command with which the rookie makes calls and runs the huddle. Maybe it’s the beard, but Frederick does not look like a player going through his first week of training camp when he rallies the offense, or when he talks about his work with Tony Romo after practice.
Play of the Day:
With Bryant sitting out of practice for the time being, Austin took it upon himself to make the most noticeable catch of the afternoon. In full-team drills, Romo drove the offense into the red zone before a run play and a swing pass were stopped for short gains. In a three wide receiver set, Romo sent Austin down the seam from the slot on his right-hand side. Romo dropped a pretty ball over Austin’s back shoulder, threading the needle between Lee and safety Will Allen. Austin jumped and made the catch, stamping both feet down along the back of the end zone before falling out of bounds. For at least 30 seconds after the crowd’s applause had died down, Allen insisted to the referees that Austin had juggled the ball and that the score shouldn’t stand. It didn’t do him any good.
Returned to Practice:
DT Jason Hatcher (rest)
WR Miles Austin (rest)
DE/DT Ben Bass (ankle)
WR Cole Beasley (knee)
C/G Ryan Cook (back)
WR Dez Bryant (rest)
OT Jermey Parnell (hamstring)
DE Anthony Spencer (knee)
WR Danny Coale (knee swelling)
DT Ikponmwosa Igbinosun (ankle)
TE James Hanna (hamstring)
DE Tyrone Crawford (Achilles)
DT Jay Ratliff (hamstring)
G Mackenzy Bernadeau (hamstring)
LS L.P. Ladouceur (calf)
OT Demetress Bell (conditioning)
Signed T Demetress Bell, QB Alex Tanney and Lavasier Tuinei. Placed G Mackenzy Bernadeau and DT Jay Ratliff on the active/physically unable to perform list and placed the following players on the active/non-football injury list: T Demetress Bell, C/G Ryan Cook, LS Louis-Philippe Ladouceur, G Ronald Leary, G Nate Livings and WR Lavasier Tuinei.
C/G Ryan Cook passed his physical and returned to practice.
Released WR Lavasier Tuinei. Signed DT Landon Cohen and DE George Selvie.
July 26 – G Nate Livings passed his physical and returned to practice.
Sunday, July 28
12:00 p.m. (PDT) Coach Garrett press conference
2:30 p.m. (PDT) Blue-White Scrimmage
Monday, July 29
10:30 a.m. (PDT) Walk-Thru
12:00 p.m. (PDT) Coach Garrett press conference
4:00 p.m. (PDT) Practice