Here are some thoughts and observations after Tuesday's practice during Organized Team Activities:
- DeMarco Murray has worked his way back into practice and appears to be moving around well. There are traits that Murray has where I feel like he doesn't get enough credit for his game. DeMarco Murray in my view is a complete back. If I can expand on what I mean by that complete back, it is one that runs the ball well, shows solid, dependable hands and can blitz pickup or make adjustments in the blocking scheme to help in the protection. Where Murray doesn't get the credit he deserves is as a pass protector and you can see it when he is not in the lineup. As good as Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar and Kendial Lawrence have been at times, they do not have the understanding, awareness or skill level of Murray. In the blitz period, with the down and distance of first-and-10, Murray lines up off set to the left of Kyle Orton who is in the shotgun. At the snap, Kyle Wilber gets a heck of a jump on Tyron Smith, who is beaten off the ball badly. Murray sees what is happening, but instead of stepping up and getting in the way of Smith, stays wide which causes Wilber to have to pause. Smith then is able to adjust and along with Murray push Wilber to the outside. Orton feels the space, because Leary and Frederick have Hayden pinned inside, and is able to step up to make the throw. It was an outstanding, heads up play by Murray to not only help his tackle but give his quarterback a throwing lane, something these other young backs need to develop more.
- Solid day for Cole Beasley, who has been in the shadows of the conversations about Bryant, Williams and Harris during these sessions. Where you think Beasley would struggle would be in the red zone where he doesn't have much room to use his quickness, but he was outstanding in the one-on-one drills working himself open. There were several reps where he had his man on his heals making it hard for the defender to adjust to his routes. Beasley showed nice pace on his routes with little or no hesitation. Movements were quick and decisive. He in the blitz work, he was able to work inside out of the slot against Matt Johnson on a 3rd and 5 play, where he started up the field hard to the outside, then planted off his left foot which gave him direction and separation. Orton was able to read it all the way for an easy pitch and catch in front of Johnson. Beasley during these camps has been working both on the outside and inside out of the slot so that tells me that the offensive coaches are trying to find spots for him to be success.
- With defensive linemen like Ratliff and Hatcher rehabbing injuries or taking a break from practice, it has given a guy like Ben Bass more opportunity to work with the first defense. Bass showed up well today and was disruptive on several reps from his three technique spot. He and Tyrone Crawford both did a nice job of attacking David Arkin and Doug Free up the field in the blitz period. Bass is a much better player in this scheme because he can just worry about working that shoulder of the guard and not having to play two gap with his hands. Bass showed some explosiveness in the scheme when he and DeVonte Holloman worked a twist game with Holloman going to the outside and Bass diving down inside beating Kevin Kowalski up the field causing Nick Stephens to have to flush out of the pocket to his right and causing him to throw the ball wide. One of the nice traits of Bass is his athletic ability and movement skills. On one rep, Kiffin went with a "Fire Zone" blitz which required Bass to have to drop in coverage and he was able to carry tight end Gavin Escobar 15 yards down the field which was quite impressive.
- Justin Durant is an interesting player in that I believe he is one of those players that has the ability to line up in a couple of different spots and be effective. Since coming back to practice last week after showing signs of a sore hamstring earlier in the sessions, he has shown to be a nice fit in this defense. In his last stop in Detroit, he showed the ability to play on the strong side in this 4-3 scheme, use his hands to battle blocks and control blocks to make plays. For the Cowboys, he is not the athlete of Carter or Lee but I do like the way he can play as the Mike dropping in the zone and reacting to the ball in front of him. This [embedded_ad] morning, he was paired with Ernie Sims and there was a play in the nickel where James Hanna went on an inside route with receiver Anthony Amos crossing at the same level. Amos' route was designed to move the linebackers but this didn't bother Durant at all who was at nice depth, saw the ball and made the play. It was a good read by a veteran linebacker that is showing he can do more than just play as a Sam linebacker.
View photos from Tuesday's OTA practice.