OXNARD, Calif. – Before the fights began, there was already plenty of good film of Tuesday's Cowboys-Rams practice.
The fighting is pretty sufficiently covered on other parts of our website – not to mention elsewhere. So I figured I'd take a look at the tape and see what all the Cowboys gained out of their second joint practice, before the brawling.
Here are my notes:
1.I like what I saw from Darren McFadden in his first extensive work during the various team periods in which he took snaps. He looked decisive and committed to what he was handed from this Rams defense in the running game. He was in position to execute the check downs when needed and when asked to step up for pass protection, he was up to the task.
2. La'el Collins was once again filling in for Ronald Leary at left guard, and he appeared to have a 50-50 type of a practice. It's no easy task to have to deal with Aaron Donald and the variety of problems that he can cause, but overall it was a great experience for the rookie. Donald puts so much pressure on your technique that if you are the slightest bit off, he is going to take advantage -- and this is where I feel like Collins wasn't at his best. His biggest struggles were with his balance and power, which were two areas where he had been very good.
3.In the practice on Monday, the Rams were able to hit a vertical play down the field to Tavon Austin that resulted in a touchdown. During that same period on Tuesday, they went back to the same call but this time the Cowboys defense was ready for it. With Joel Ross in coverage and Jeff Heath playing over the top, Austin didn't get the separation and with both in position when the ball arrived, Ross was able to knock it out of Austin's hands. Also back in the pocket, Greg Hardy had beaten guard Demetrius Rhaney on his outside shoulder and was cleanly in position to sack Nick Foles before he let go of the ball.
4.Randy Gregory continues to turn heads with his ability. No matter who he works with on these twist stunts, he is going to find a way to get home on the rush. Gregory was paired with Greg Hardy on the first go-round in one-on-on and was successful coming down inside. Then later, with Jeremy Mincey, he beat Isaiah Battle with ease.
5.In the offseason I was talking to the defensive coaches about J.J. Wilcox and his knack for positioning himself at times to grab interceptions. During the ball movement period, Wilcox had managed to once again be in the right place at the right time in defending tight end Lance Kendricks. The route took place right in the middle of the field with Wilcox coming off the hash. He was able to read the play all the way and reacted nicely once the ball was thrown. Though Wilcox wasn't able to finish the play, it was encouraging to once again see him in a position to defend a play.
6.No matter the situation, Jason Witten is always going to be a difficult cover for any defensive scheme to have to deal with. The Rams tried to cover him with both linebackers and safeties during the practice, with the results being the same -- up the field receptions. Witten is so keen in where he needs to be to find space. Whether it's running a curl or working his route all the way across the field, he is going to make himself available for the ball.
7. One of the best catches of the day was Terrance Williams' grab over the top of Lamarcus Joyner during the one-on-one drills down in the red zone. With Joyner between himself and the ball, Williams manages to reach back and extend his hands over the top of Joyner, then pull the ball off the top of his helmet without Joyner even adjusting on the play.
8. It appears that all the offseason work for Tyler Patmon has been paying off. Patmon turned in a really nice effort during the practice on Tuesday, with the highlight of his day an interception during the red zone period. The Rams tried to exchange their receivers off the snap by crossing them to beat the man coverage, but Morris Claiborne and Patmon executed their technique perfectly to stay with their men. Patmon carried Steadman Bailey to the corner and when the ball went up, he was right there to make the interception to kill the drive.
9. Good to see Lance Dunbar getting the opportunity to carry the ball during these practices -- but bad that he allowed Maurice Alexander to punch the ball out of his hands while he was doing it. Dunbar did a nice job of finding space on the play, but the result was not what he or this coaching staff wanted it to be.
10.If Lucky Whitehead is going to continue to get shots with this first offense and build that trust with Tony Romo, he is going to need to be in the right spot. During the ball movement period of practice, Whitehead came inside on a crossing route with a safety on the other side of the field. It appeared that Whitehead lost his concentration and instead of continuing his route -- which Romo thought he was going to do -- he stopped. Romo threw the ball to the spot where he believed Whitehead was going to finish, but instead the result was an incomplete pass.
11. There were some snaps during the practice where the Rams had success running the ball against this Cowboys front when it went on the slant, and the coordination with the linebackers appeared to be off. The holes inside were much larger than what these defensive coaches would have liked to seen. This is an area I am sure that they will be able to clean up off the tape and in their practices.
12. If teams around the league are going to continue to hold these joint practices and have fight here is my suggestion to stopping them: don't practice as long. Pick two or three drills you want to feature each day and work on those. Have a team period and then a red zone one, then call it a day. The next day, pick two other drills. The longer the teams work together, the bigger problems you have. Players get tired and frustrated with each other and this is where the problems arise. Limit the amount of time along with the contact and the results will be better.