A lot of has reported on how the new players preformed at the Cowboys Rookie Mini Camp but I wanted to take a moment to talk about the coaches. As a scout anytime you bring in new players there is always a fear of did you do the right thing to help these coaches be successful? The front office never wants to shove players down the coaches throats so there is always those first couple of practices where you are anxious that everything will run smoothly.
For this camp not only were there new players but new coaches as well. It was the scout's first opportunity to see them work first hand and this is something that they can carry with them when they get back on the road in August. The one advantage with this staff that is different from others with new coaches around the league, is that Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and Rich Bisaccia have all worked together before and Jason Garrett has experienced their work while he was a player in Tampa.
Here are some of my thoughts from the weekend:
- Much was made about the age of Monte Kiffin and the ability for him to handle the work load while in his 70's but I didn't see anything that led me to believe this is going to be an issue. What I noticed about Kiffin is that he likes to move from drill to drill at times pulling players out of the line and working with them on a one-on-one basis if he doesn't see something right. His sense of the surroundings is noticeable. Kiffin is also very active with the coaches on the field during the team periods. He is in constant communications with them after each play good or bad.
- I see why Rod Marinelli's defensive linemen have had success rushing the passers over the years because of the manner in which he coaches his techniques. Along with Leon Lett, this group was in constant motion going through their drills. The one area I really liked about Marinelli's teaching is how he is getting the rusher to disengage from all blocks with different pass rush moves all while going up the field. Feel pressure inside, spin to the outside. Linemen extends his hands slap them aside and get to the shoulder. It's all about quickness with Marinelli and how you get up the field. He doesn't have time for players that get tired. If he sees you playing without effort, he is all over you. There were several times during the practices where he had a few choice words for his guys.
- Where I chose to watch practice from during the weekend, there were plenty of opportunities to observe Gary Brown and his work with the running backs. The one trait that I was impressed with Brown, was his attention to detail. There are times where players get sloppy with their technique and they practice this way which means they play that way. Brown refuses to allow his backs to have a bad rep even when working against air. If the ball is to hit off the outside foot of the tackle or tight end, then that's where it's going to hit, not two yards outside or a yard inside. Brown was on the backs from the first handoff in camp about not crowding the quarterback on their path to the ball. Of all the coaches that yell instructions on the field, he is the one that you hear the loudest. He is the one coach that is always reminding his guys to "Finish…."
- I am very interested to see how Wes Phillips works with these tight ends this coming season. He has a Hall of Fame player in Witten who despite all his honors is one of the most coachable players I have ever been around in my career but he also now will work with James Hanna and rookie Gavin Escobar. When it's all said and done, the commitment of this coaching staff to take their "12" personnel group and build on it will be put not only on these tight ends but Phillips as well and how he is able to make this all work. One of the strengths of Phillips I believe is his experience and I don't mean that from years as a coach but how he has worked on different levels on this staff. One of the best coaches I have ever worked with was Andy Reid and he came up the same way as a coach, working with a couple of different offensive positions which gave him a big picture of the offense as a whole. I do like Phillips' path here and with what they are going to be asking these tight ends to do game plan wise, he will help these young tight ends develop and that will be key.
- Last season when the Cowboys spent time in San Diego working against the Chargers, it was the first time that I was able to see Rich Bisaccia on the field in a practice setting and I came away impressed then in the ways that he ran his practice. The one thing I have learned over the years is that special teams is just not about running down the field and trying to blow the ball carrier up. More than the other groups on the field, it's about putting your players in the best position to make plays. With Bisaccia I get this feeling in the way that the drills are instructed. Like Brown, I saw attention to detail with techniques that made sense. Situations like avoiding blocks on different levels and positioning yourself at the right depth to make a tackle. With special teams it's not always about how much but more importantly how well you play them. Being technique sound is generally what wins games in this league and just watch Rich Bisaccia at this camp, I get that feeling from him.
- Earlier I spoke of Wes Phillips and the effect that he will have on these young tight ends, I feel the same with Derek Dooley and his work with the receivers. You can say what you want about Dez Bryant and that he is a veteran but there is still so much more than he needs to continue to do to develop even more. His route running and overall understanding of the game was much better last season and his body of work showed that. This group still has players like Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and now Terrence Williams in the mix that are very early in their careers. In watching Dooley coach first and foremost, is that I see him as a teacher but that probably stems from the last several years as a head coach in college. I am sure there was a little rust of him coaching a position during a practice but he seemed to be the most understanding of his players as the practices went on. He was not afraid to correct a technique but he was also there to offer his words of encouragement when a play went well. He is a very detail minded coach and never let an opportunity pass by to offer that to his players.
- There was no question that offensive line assistant Frank Pollack hit the ground running when camp opened last Friday and some of his influences were felt early with the line. The majority of his coaching background was spent with the Houston Texans and their ability to run the zone scheme with mastery. Jason Garrett spoke on Friday after the morning practice about the club has run the zone scheme at various times during the season but now with Pollack in the building he can bring a different view point of how to make it really hum. After an individual period of play after play of working on technique with their steps and head [embedded_ad] placements directed by Pollack and Callahan, the first running play out of the blocks went zone to the right. On the play Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick and D.J. Hall all took hard steps, got into their blocks which allowed Kendial Lawrence to hit the crease getting right into the second level for a nice gain. As the camp progressed, there were signs where the blocking improved and for a team that struggled to successfully run the ball, his addition to the staff will be welcomed.