OXNARD, Calif. - Here are a few thoughts from the film room in Oxnard after observing Monday’s practice:
• One of my favorite plays from practice was the interception that Bruce Carter made in the 1-on-1 period between the tight ends and running backs against the linebackers. Carter was matched up across from Phillip Tanner, who was to the left of Nick Stephens in the gun formation.
At the snap, Tanner swings wide to his left as Carter mirrors his steps to his right. Carter is 12 yards up the field before he turns to look for the ball. Tanner has a step on Carter, but Stephens is unable to get the ball far enough to the outside. Carter reading the ball is short, from an inside technique turns back to his right and reaching up with his right hand tips the ball to himself for the one handed interception while Tanner has to rally back to attempt to make a tackle. It was a beautiful play by Carter, who throughout this camp has been outstanding at playing the ball in the flat, but here he was challenged up the field and he came up big.
• It was Ronald Leary in his own words that said, "Missing practice sucks." He returned to the field after sitting out the first week of camp with a calf injury. Leary is in direct competition with Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau for a starting guard spot and was on his game when the offensive linemen began their 1-on-1 pass rush drill work with the defensive line.
Leary's first rep out of the box was against Landon Cohen, who isn't the tallest rusher but he does play with some power. He tried to take Leary on the outside but Leary's punch bought him space and it allowed him to work Cohen to the outside and away from the quarterback. His second rep was working on the twist game which has been a strength of this defensive line on the rush. Leary working with Travis Frederick was matched up against Sean Lissemore and Jerome Long. Long tried driving down inside to split Leary and Frederick but Leary was able to stand his ground and carry him all the way to Frederick passing him off. Lissemore then tries to loop around from his left to right, but is picked up by Leary who is waiting for the move. Leary stops Lissemore in his tracks with a solid punch to the chest as the twist is successfully picked up and the ball is away.
On his next rep in the two man game, Leary is working with Darrion Weems at tackle and is matched up against Jerome Long and George Selvie. On the snap, both Long and Selvie rush up the field without a twist. Leary sets on Long with a punch, then as he tries to spin to Leary's right, Leary adjusts with him and manages to work in front of him with no problem keeping him from the quarterback. During the drill, Leary showed little rust or issues as far as his power or mobility in the drill. It was a nice start to the day for him.
• In some highlights from the Team and Compete period, Ernie Sims continues to impress the coaches with his play and took some reps with the first defense at Sam linebacker in place of Justin Durant, who has been the starter since camp opened.
During some work in the Blue-White Scrimmage, Sims also worked with the ones, but in place of Bruce Carter at the Will. On his second play of the series, Sims met Murray in the hole while he tried to cut back and he caused a fumble. The recovery was made and this defense had created another turnover. Coming off his pick-six in the scrimmage, B.W. Webb also took some reps with the first nickel in place of Orlando Scandrick.
With his play early in camp, Scandrick appears to be the front runner for the job, but it was good to see Webb get the work. To end the Compete period, there was a nice throw by Romo to Terrence Williams on the outside near the goal line. On the play, Kiffin tries to run an inside blitz with Lee and Carter along with a twist on the front side with Hatcher and Ware. The line with Smith, Leary and Frederick sort it out but it's the blitz pickup on the inside by DeMarco Murray on Carter that buys the time for Romo to make the completion. It was really nice execution and coordination with Murray and the line.
Photos from Monday's afternoon practice >>