OXNARD, Calif. – The running back talk is going to dominate the conversation, but there are plenty of other notes from Monday's practice worth discussing.
Here are my top 12 impressions from the afternoon, headlined by a guy I'm guessing you'll all be eager to read about.
1) It was a much better day rushing the passer for Greg Hardy against Tyron Smith than what we have seen in the previous practices. In my own haste I might not have given Hardy enough time to regain those pass rush moves from the time that he was off last season. He was able to put more pressure on Smith technique-wise, and the results were improved. Hardy was working extremely hard to slap Smith's hands down and out of position, which allowed him to work the corner better. It was an effective tactic.
2) I like what Scott Linehan is doing with the running backs in space by stretching the field. With the way he is setting the formations, he is creating opportunities for the one-on-one matchups inside. With the defense in a Cover Two look (safeties on the hashes), Linehan opened the middle of the field even wider for Cole Beasley to catch a simple pass over the middle and take it for a sizable gain before the defense had a chance to react. Nice use of personnel and scheme by the offensive coordinator.
3) The offense is beginning to learn that running the ball away from Tyrone Crawford is a difficult assignment. It's not easy on the blockers, because they do not want to cut Crawford as he works toward the ball, but regardless of that, he still finds ways to beat those cut off blocks regularly. It is in these situations working up the field and finding the ball where Crawford is at his best.
4) Jack Crawford continues to thrive as that under-tackle on this defense and is making a solid case to be that first guy off the bench behind Tyrone Crawford. In the team run and play action period, Crawford managed to quickly defeat Ronald Leary off the snap before Leary even had a chance to react. This was not the first time where Crawford has put himself in a position to finish a play with a sack. He has become a nice rusher as well when it comes to the two-man games and his ability to apply pressure.
5) Much better day in coverage for Corey White after struggling to handle Cole Beasley in Sunday's scrimmage. The strength of White's game is in his ability to stay in position during the route and deny the ball. I saw more of that during the one-on-one period and he was able to carry it over into the team period. There wasn't that separation that we saw on Sunday, which caused him all kinds of problems.
6) Lache Seastrunk has the ability to rip off some serious chunk plays with the ball in his hands. With the offense backed up near its own end zone, Seastrunk took the handoff and with some outstanding blocking upfront by Laurence Gibson, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ray Agnew, was able to burst into the secondary untouched. What I have noticed about Seastrunk's style of running is that sees the hole well with his eyes and his balance will get him there.
7) With the limited number of backs due to injury, we have seen Tyler Clutts get more of an opportunity to be that single back in the offense. While he might not be the most ideal option carrying the ball in the open field, his knowledge of his assignments and physical toughness to step up and protect does not make him a bad option to play in certain third down situations as a pass protector. It's rare that you see him off balance or giving ground to a blitzer.
8) It was nice to see rookie Tim Scott have a solid day in coverage. To be quite honest, I am surprised it has taken this long after studying his college film before the draft. There were those days at North Carolina where he was dependable -- whether he lined up at corner or safety, he was going to find ways to make plays. Early on in camp here, that hasn't been the case. In college, he was much more of an aggressive player attacking the receiver and playing in position. On Monday that guy finally came to play.
9) I'm still pleased with what I am seeing from Davon Coleman with his attitude and finish. Where Coleman has excelled is during the team periods where he has had to play the whole scheme. His desire and technique have improved, which has resulted in more plays. With Nick Hayden on the sidelines with a rib injury, Coleman has the opportunity to work with the starters. Through his play it appears that he is serious about taking advantage of the situation where previously he might not have done that.
10) Andrew Gachkar has been a nice upgrade from what the team had with Cam Lawrence as that core special teamer and backup linebacker. With Gachkar you see more athletic traits as a linebacker, but you also notice his ability to finish plays. He puts himself in better positions, where with Lawrence that wasn't always the case. Gachkar will turn out to be a nice get for the Cowboys Pro Department from this offseason.
11) With the ability of several of these offensive linemen that can run and play in space, the screen package becomes a nice weapon. There were two separate occasions where Scott Linehan picked the perfect opportunity to catch the defense with a screen call and the connection just wasn't quite there. The best opportunity for a sizable gain went by the wayside when Gus Johnson got tangled up with La'el Collins and went to the ground on the play. I could only imagine seeing Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden or Lance Dunbar in that exact same situation and watching that call go out the gate.
12) I want to thank Nate Newton for pulling me into a picture with he and Michael Irvin before practice on Monday. I don't normally feel out of place, but with that one I really wasn't worthy to be there. Nevertheless it was a great honor to be standing with those two gentlemen. This is a pretty good gig.