OXNARD, Calif. – Our time in California is coming to a close, but the Cowboys' Wednesday practice was one of the most spirited we've seen in a while.
The team has one more practice before they settle into game prep for Saturday's preseason home opener against Minnesota. Before we worry about that, I wanted to take a longer look at Wednesday:
1. As expected, Tyler Patmon is getting the first shot as the slot corner working with Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Byron Jones is seeing action as a nickel linebacker, slot in the dime and some true safety with the second and third units. Even with the loss of Orlando Scandrick, I don't believe the plan for Jones has changed. They will continue to work him in all spots.
2. Interesting linebacker combination on the first defense, as they continue to work to find the right group. Andrew Gachkar was at the Mike, Sean Lee at Will and Kyle Wilber was back working at the Sam after spending a week working as the Mike. As much as I wanted to believe that Damien Wilson was going to be the starter at Sam, Wilber is likely to be the actual starter while they continue to work with Wilson.
3.The only starter on the offensive line that didn't practice on Wednesday was Zack Martin. Travis Frederick has been the only lineman that hasn't missed a practice during this camp and as mentioned before, he has been outstanding throughout. Of his linemates that returned to practice, Ronald Leary looked powerful and Doug Free was moving better on his injured foot.
4.It was a long time coming, but Dez Bryant was finally allowed to practice with the team on Wednesday and he didn't disappoint. If you would like some video evidence, make sure you check out Training Camp Live on DallasCowboys.com. Bryant was fantastic in the one-on-one portion of practice. It was also encouraging to see him run routes in the play-it-out period, as well. One of those routes that caught my eye was a "Slugo" (slant-go) against Morris Claiborne that, if Tony Romo had not been sacked by Nick Hayden, would have likely been six points.
5.A.J. Jenkins continues to make a late push for a roster spot on this club with another solid play during the final play-it-out period of practice. Jenkins found a soft spot in the zone between three defenders and sat down, presenting himself as a nice target for Romo to throw to. Jenkins made the catch falling backward as the ball hit him between the numbers.
6. Jason Witten continues to show that he is a difficult cover for a safety no matter where he is on the field. During the one-on-one period, Witten was able to get separation up the field against Barry Church -- who was in good position to defend but couldn't prevent Witten from making a nice adjusting catch. Later in the period, Witten took J.J. Wilcox up the field on a corner route that had Wilcox ending up on the ground for an easy reception on the play.
7. La'el Collins continues to get good work at guard while Zack Martin sits out. Collins was able to work both sides during practice, which is helping him get used to playing with Tyron Smith and Doug Free. For Collins it has been a little hit and miss during these practices, but that is to be expected for a rookie lineman getting his first experience. Collins' biggest adjustment has come with his pass set. When he tends to get in trouble is when he lunges at the rusher instead of just sitting down and being patient.
8.I am hoping that Darren McFadden was just protecting his shoulder and neck on blitz pickups. I know I have seen him more physical and playing with better technique than what he showed on a couple of opportunities during practice on Wednesday. I have always considered this one of his better traits.
9. It was a positive sign for the defense to get Terrell McClain back in the lineup on a full-time basis again. McClain had a nice up-the-field rush against John Wetzel, which showed his explosive quickness. McClain is back in the mix now with a group of young guys, such as Davon Coleman and Ken Bishop -- who have played pretty well throughout camp.
10. This was the first practice that I really noticed Ray Agnew as a lead blocker. Usually, Tyler Clutts is the one with those opportunities, but Agnew had a clearing block on Damien Wilson that allowed Darren McFadden to make a nice cut inside for some positive yards.
11. It's not often that Tony Romo really airs it out on a deep ball, but during the final play-it-out period, he launched one to Terrance Williams where I thought it was going to be a touchdown. Williams did a nice job of separating on the route from Brandon Carr but the pass was just a bit too long. What was encouraging about the throw by Romo was it was from the middle of the pocket and it had something on it -- the ball didn't float or flutter like we saw from him while dealing with his back problems.
12. This front office is happy with the depth they have at cornerback to handle the loss of Orlando Scandrick. But if they do make an addition, it will likely be in the form of a waiver claim during the two roster reductions that we have in the coming weeks. They have their eyes on a couple of players on other clubs.