IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys' second day of OTAs is finished, and we in the media won't have another opportunity to watch until next week.
Fortunately, we've got more than enough content to last us until next time, as there's no shortage of interesting talking points with this team. Here are my 12 biggest impressions from watching the second day of practice.
1) It was nice to see Sean Lee and Morris Claiborne out working on the field despite the fact it was only during the individual period. What I liked about their work on Wednesday was that neither appeared to be favoring their injuries at all. Their confidence was strong in their ability to plant their foot in the turf and they were going to be able to redirect without any issues. Lee will be at full-go for team work in the coming weeks, while Claiborne will continue to work with Britt Brown on the side to strengthen his knee. But it appears the thought of him starting the season on the Physically Unable to Perform List is less likely than first believed.
2) I will give Randy Gregory a tip of the cap this afternoon for his work against Tyron Smith, which is no easy task. I had heard through the grapevine on Tuesday that Gregory had some quality rushes and he was able to carry that over today. Gregory didn't win every battle with Smith, but where he did have success is not allowing Smith to beat him down with his punch. Gregory was smart because he knew if Smith got his hands on him, it was over. Gregory was able to take Smith wide, then he worked back inside with an arm-over move that left Smith reaching for him -- which gave him a clear path to Romo. It is rare that you see Smith in this position, but to the rookie's credit, he didn't attempt the same rush over and over, which put himself in position to create some pressure. It was good work for both players.
3) Joseph Randle took the snaps with the first offense to open practice, but each back got the opportunity to show what they had with the group. If you watch our OTA Live on DallasCowboys.com, the one back that will jump out at you during the team period is Ryan Williams. Williams did not practice on Tuesday, but he took full advantage of the snaps he got on Wednesday. Williams' best trait is his ability to explode, and he was able to display that for all to see. What I have learned about watching him play is that it doesn't take much to get him in the open field and into the second level. He was impressive.
4)Byron Jones didn't get any work at safety, but he did see some snaps at both left and right corner and he played out of the slot as well -- which this was something I didn't see him do while in college. In his work against Cole Beasley in the slot, he was right where it needed to be technique-wise.
5) La'el Collins is listed as an offensive linemen on the roster, which tells me that these coaches are going to use him at several different spots. Right now he is playing at tackle, which, in my opinion, will be the hardest for him to learn in this league. I understand that he played in the SEC against some outstanding rushers, but the NFL is a different story. He is going to have to learn how to get out of his stance quicker in order to put him in better position to grab that block. DeMarcus Lawrence gave him some trouble, but that's to be expected so early in the going. Watching Tyron Smith every day will help him get an understanding of what he needs to do to have success. I am interested to see how he looks as a guard.
6) Without Rolando McClain, Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens in the lineup, Jasper Brinkley and Damien Wilson were the Cowboys' nickel linebackers. I'm a big fan of what Wilson can bring to this defense -- not only against the run as a run-hit linebacker, but how he can match up in coverage. As an athlete, he is difficult for running backs to escape from. He has quickness and movement skills, which helps him in space.
7) Thought it was a much better day for Chaz Green than what he showed during rookie minicamp several weeks ago. Green was able to line up at both tackle spots, but he also played some guard as well. His conditioning was much improved and his technique was not all over the place. I thought he had some nice battles with Ben Gardner, who was on his game as well.
8) I mentioned earlier the explosiveness of Ryan Williams and what he was able to show, but I also saw that same trait from Lucky Whitehead -- who took a simple screen pass from Brandon Weeden and turned it into a 20-yard gain. What was unique about the play is that Whitehead was up the field before the defense had a chance to react. This is what you are going to get from him – you had better get tacklers to him before he has a chance to get up the field. What I also like about his game is his ability to finish runs. He is a smaller Dez Bryant in that he is going to twist and turn to get every yard he can.
9) Mackenzy Bernadeau is listed on the roster as a guard but he took all of his snaps at center. My feeling is that he is going to concentrate playing center first this year and if they need him to play guard he can. Last year it was just the opposite.
10) Dustin Vaughan had some nice check down routes during practice where he made a quick decision and was able to put the ball right where it needed to be. There were a couple of passes where Vaughan threw a little high and was not as accurate as he needed to be. There was one snap where he threw the ball high to Geoff Swaim and it bounced off his hands and was almost intercepted. After the play you could see Scott Linehan put his hands in front of his chest telling Vaughan that he needs to put the ball there to give his receiver a chance.
11)Keep an eye on rookie receiver Nick Harwell. This kid might not be the quickest or the fastest down the field but he knows how to run routes, battle for space and put himself in position to catch the ball. Each time that I have had the opportunity to watch him practice, he has made a play or two where he has done a nice job of snatching the ball on the move. He looks further along right now than the other rookie receivers.
12) I was called a "hater" today. Hope you folks don't hate my breakdown.