OXNARD, Calif. – For a second-straight season, the Cowboys will have to cope with the loss of one of their best defenders to a season-ending injury.
Orlando Scandrick has been a big piece of this Dallas defense for several years now, so the work of finding an adequate replacement in the secondary won't be easy. In today's tape review, I want to take a look at the injury, as well as determine what the Cowboys will do moving forward.
That, as well as several other notes about a spirited Tuesday practice:
1. With the Orlando Scandrick injury, there are a couple of different ways that this defense will play in his absence. It is likely that Morris Claiborne will get the first shot to start, with Tyler Patmon and Byron Jones getting the next looks. If Claiborne struggles with the assignment, then Patmon could be the starter there -- but also handle the slot role with Jones on the outside. My feeling is they will likely keep Corey White on the left side behind Brandon Carr and save him for when the defense plays dime.
2. It was unfortunate looking back on the play in which Scandrick was injured and the way it happened. Scandrick was just reacting to what he saw developing on the route and was attempting to help J.J. Wilcox, who lost Lucky Whitehead up the field. Scandrick dropped his cover and arrived in an awkward position as Whitehead made the reception. His knee was likely injured when he planted his right foot but suffered further damage when Whitehead fell into it.
3. I finally saw a big day from Greg Hardy at practice on Tuesday. As good as he has been helping others find their way to the quarterback, he was getting their on his own. His pass rush appeared more in line to what I had scouted when he was with the Panthers. His technique was outstanding and his effort was relentless. In the blitz period, he was able to knock a pass down that would have been a sure catch by Cole Beasley on a slant. Hardy was able to beat Travis Frederick up the field and with perfect timing put his hand up to make the play.
4. We're starting to see Geoff Swaim get more work with the first offense in that role that James Hanna had as an inline blocker at the point of attack. There were several snaps where Swaim was along the line while Jason Witten played as the wing or "H." As I mentioned before, Swaim is more of a "get in the way" blocker than he is as guy that is going to get movement at the point. His effort and willingness to do the job are good, but there are moments where you see lack of technique and strength.
5. It appears that it's A.J. Jenkins' week to make plays for this receiving crew. It's been a trend for each of these receivers to have a few good practices and then a good game. Jenkins has finally shown up after three weeks of appearing as if he was the next man out the door. His one-handed catch during the blitz period was a thing of beauty. Jenkins ran the perfect route against Corey White, which got him the separation he needed to put himself in position to make the catch while falling backwards.
6. Tyrone Crawford was back at practice on Tuesday and was able to pick up right where he left off as that disruptive up-the-field defender. On back-to-back plays he was able to beat La'el Collins inside on a draw play -- then on the next play get around him on a pass where he never allowed Collins' hands to get to his body.
7. Lavar Edwards continues to make a case for a roster spot on this club. What is different about his game from the previous season it that he is playing with more explosive quickness. His first step is putting pressure on blockers to have to deal with him right now. There were snaps in the past where he wasn't as quick and confident but that has appeared to have changed for him. There is more upfield pressure, whether he is playing the run or pass.
8. I had a chance to do Training Camp Live with Nate Newton during practice on Tuesday, and it was interesting to hear him talk about the development of a couple of the offensive linemen during the one-on-one period and particularly rookie center Shane McDermott. When you study McDermott's game, there is nothing overly impressive with his power or quickness, but he continues to show a knack in maintaining leverage with positioning. McDermott is rarely knocked off his feet due to his ability to play with balance. He plays in control and has been very steady in the way he goes about his job.
9.This was the first practice that I could recall where Lance Dunbar received extensive work as a running back. We usually see Dunbar in different sub packages depending on down and distance, but on Tuesday he lined up more as a true running back and got those normal carries like we would see from Joseph Randle.
10.Have to say that this has been a disappointing training camp so far for Devin Street on the injury front. It appeared that after making a nice catch on a slant in the one-on-one drills, he suffered another ankle injury and in all likelihood will miss more time. To his credit he has tried to battle through his issues before, but for a guy that many -- including myself -- were expecting to see make that next big step in his development, we will continue to have to wait.
11.There is no question that Lucky Whitehead has a burst when he fields punts. The question is can you trust him enough to first field it? Whitehead had another drop in practice on Tuesday and he continues to appear like he is not totally comfortable in catching these punts and that has to be a concern for this staff when trying to plan how they are going to handle the responsibility.
12.I have faith that, with what Rod Marinelli and this defensive staff now have with a pass rush and the current players in the secondary, that they will find a suitable replacement for Orlando Scandrick. I am not trying to minimize the loss of Scandrick, but this team is now better equipped to handle this loss than they were two years ago. The linebackers stepped up last year when Sean Lee went down very early in the campaign. I fully expect that you will see the same from Jerome Henderson, Joe Baker and this secondary.