OXNARD, Calif. – It's interesting the different things you see when you change vantage points. On Sunday, I watched the Cowboys' Blue-White Scrimmage from high above the practice fields, as I contributed to the broadcast of the practice.
Having had a chance to review it, there are all sorts of different conclusions I can come to when I've got a better angle on things. With that in mind, here are my top 12 impressions of Sunday's action.
1) In our preview of training camp for DallasCowboys.com, we were asked to list the camp MVP other than Dez Bryant. The response that I gave was for Greg Hardy -- but what I should have written was Cole Beasley. After having an opening practice that was less than stellar, Beasley has been on a tear. It has not mattered where he has lined up, he has embarrassed the man covering him. Without Dez Bryant in the lineup, Beasley has taken on the role of go-to guy. His route running has been textbook and his finish even better.
2) Barry Church continues to show improvement in coverage. His red zone snap in defending Gavin Escobar one-on-one was outstanding. Church never allowed Escobar to go vertical to grab the ball out of the air from Tony Romo. Church was physical off the line, which in turn killed the timing of the pass. Church was in such good position, he was able to knock the ball away with his off hand.
3) From my broadcast position of the scrimmage, I didn't feel that Joseph Randle scored on that over-the-top move on the goal line. When going back and studying the tape, I felt like my initial call was correct. Randle made a heck of an effort to get that ball home, but Kyle Wilber's play was even better. The middle of the line was stacked up by Davon Coleman, which allowed Wilber to slide over and as a reflex knock the ball out of Randle's hand. It was a heads-up play by Wilber that, if reviewed, would have most likely been overturned by the replay official and ruled a fumble.
4) It was good to once again see Morris Claiborne and Sean Lee get extensive work in the scrimmage. Both had a hand in a nice play where it appeared that Joseph Randle had captured the corner and was going to have a sizable gain, but Claiborne and Lee were right there to hold the play to no gain. Lee took on Zack Martin and Claiborne the same with La'el Collins. By both of those players forcing at the point, it allowed J.J. Wilcox and Anthony Hitchens to rally from the inside and make the tackle. It was exactly the way that the scheme needed to be played.
5) Really nice open field tackle by Robert Steeples on a fourth down reception by Deontay Greenberry on a quick screen. The play got the defense off the field to keep the offense from continuing their drive. If Steeples doesn't make that play, Greenberry would have easily secured the first down.
6) Ryan Russell continues to impress the coaches and front office with his play from the under-tackle spot along the defensive line. Russell showed up several times in the scrimmage, beating blocks one-on-one and when double-teamed. Russell had a pretty sack where, on the snap, he went with a head fake like he was going to twist stunt and when Ronald Patrick committed outside, he burst between Patrick and center Shane McDermott to the quarterback to finish.
7) With Ronald Leary sitting out practice with a sore back, La'el Collins once again got the call at left guard. Collins has been physical and powerful when he has had his opportunities, but during the scrimmage he showed he also has awareness. Tyron Smith was struggling with Randy Gregory to the point where Gregory managed to break free of him. Collins, uncovered, noticed the onrushing Gregory, adjusted back quickly to his left and shut him down before he reached Romo.
8) Thought it was a nice day for the running backs when it came to their assignments and finish on the blitz pickups. It was clear from the opening snap that Rod Marinelli was going to try and set the tone for the defense after what happened to his guys the previous practice in the red zone. Marinelli brought pressure the entire day by blitzing his linebackers and secondary personnel. Joseph Randle and Gus Johnson were up to the task by putting themselves in position throughout the practice -- which allowed the quarterbacks that extra second to get rid of the ball.
9) Reggie Dunn continues to impress me in the way that he is going about his job in this camp. Dunn continues to find ways to make plays, regardless of who he draws in coverage. For someone that is listed at 5-9 in height, he has played much bigger in these practices. He has been fearless in the way he has competed in his routes, but more importantly it's the way that he has finished which has grabbed my attention. It is rare to see a ball that has been thrown in his direction wind up on the ground. He has become a reliable target and extremely quarterback friendly.
10) Count me as one of those that is becoming a fan of Jameill Showers and his work. As a former scout I appreciate his athletic ability and willingness to do whatever is asked of him to help the club. What I did know about Showers was that he could really drive the ball as a passer. Where he will need to improve his game -- and this will come over time -- is that ability to not lock on his target right off the snap. In studying the tape, it was clear that the arm strength and power are there, but you could see that his eyes were right there on his man and that defenders were able to read the same thing driving on the ball.
11) With all the cornerbacks that have been dinged up during camp, keep an eye on rookie Joel Ross and the amount of work that he receives in these practices. Ross is not a tall, rangy type of a corner, but he does have thickness and the quickness to handle these receivers. He has shown up no matter who he has had to cover. Ross has been outstanding in not allowing receivers inside on routes, and he has also managed to keep himself in position when the ball is thrown down the field. He is very competitive when the ball is in the air and he has shown the ability to finish on plays.
12) I just wanted to say thanks for my teammates here at DallasCowboys.com and all the fans here at training camp that are always so nice to my family when they hang out with me for this week. It's a special feeling to know that you all care. You guys are the best.