OXNARD, Calif. – One of the most competitive drills each day in camp is when head coach Jason Garrett huddled the entire team around a specific 1-on-1 drill, calling out two players to the middle.
The aptly-named "Compete Drill" is something Ben Gardner has only observed in his short time with the club. But that changed this week when Garrett called out Gardner to face tackle Darrion Weems.
"That's fun. You always want that chance," Gardner said. "We do it every day but I had never been called out before. When it's your time, you just block everything out and do what you do."
What Gardner did was simply win his battle with Weems, yanking the offensive tackle off-balance to get past him. That's one of Gardner's few pass-rush moves, but when it comes to pass rushing, the "less is more" approach might be the best.
"You don't really need all that much to be successful," Gardner said. "You don't need a whole laundry list full of pass-rush moves you just need to be really good at what you do and just have two or three things that are your Go-To's and that's what you can do to be successful."
For Gardner, just making the 53-man roster will be a success, considering the level of competition that has been added this offseason with the drafting of Randy Gregory and signing Greg Hardy.
But Gardner, the seventh-round pick in 2014 from Stanford, said his talented teammates will actually help his chances of making it.
"You can't worry about who they bring in because that's the thing in the NFL," he said. "There are always guys coming for your job. All you can do is focus on what you do each day. It's great competition. We have a really awesome group here and push each other each day."[embeddedad0]
Gardner missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, which has made this year's camp more of a transition back to football.
"It's going good. Football isn't like riding a bike, so it takes a little while to knock the rust off and get used to striking a blow and using your hands," Gardner said. "Each day I'm feeling more and more comfortable. It's fun to be out here and competing."
And it's not just competing at defensive end, but sometimes inside at tackle. In the 1-on-1 pass-rush drills, Gardner plays end and tackle, something he did on a regular basis at Stanford.
"I'm comfortable rushing in there for sure," Gardner said about the tackle spot. "I played a lot of defensive tackle in college, I'm a bit smaller than I was then. If you play with the right technique, play low and use your feet and hands, it doesn't matter how big you are.
"I think Coach Marinelli does a good job to give us some freedom to show us what we can do along the whole defensive line. I feel like I grasp the mental part of the game pretty easily. It's just a matter of getting a certain technique down from the different spots. He does a good job of giving us a lot of reps."
And for a guy who missed all of last year, Gardner simply can't get enough of those.