OXNARD, Calif. – Twelve of my biggest impressions from watching the Cowboys' Wednesday afternoon practice, where we got a look at red zone offense and a competitive 7-on-7 period.
1) There are situations in football where technique is everything, because without it you have little chance to succeed. In the red zone one-on-one period, Brandon Carr played with perfect technique in facing Dez Bryant. He jammed Bryant and physically stayed in position to defend the ball, but he still came up on the short end of the play. As well as Carr played, it you knew that once that ball went into the air there was no doubt who was going to come down with it.
2) It appears that Tyron Smith and Ronald Leary are already in mid-season form on those backside cut off blocks. With the stretch play going right, both Smith and Leary had the defensive tackle and linebacker completely cut off from the play. It was a simple read for Joseph Randle, who took full advantage of the blocks cutting the ball back going untouched into the second level with no problem.
3) It was nice to see Devin Street have a productive day. His red zone touchdown catch over Byron Jones showed that he knows how to use his size to get open, but he had the awareness to adjust his body to finish the play. This is where I feel that Street has had the most issues in these practices and that was finishing plays.
4) Hard work continues to pay off for Tyrone Crawford and on Wednesday he was awarded for his effort with an interception. The offense tried to set up a screen going to the right, but Crawford was so fast up the field it forced Brandon Weeden to try and unload the ball low to avoid the loss. Except in this case Weeden's pass hit the foot of DeMarcus Lawrence, who was trailing Randle on the play, and it bounced right into the waiting hands of Crawford.
5) I mentioned the Devin Street touchdown earlier in my thoughts. On that very same play, there was an outstanding blitz pick up block by Gus Johnson on Andrew Gachkar. That block allowed Dustin Vaughan the time to get the ball to Street to score on the play.
6) When Sean Lee is on the field, there is usually going to be a turnover or two for the defense. In the 7-on-7 period, Joseph Randle ran a route where he set up over the top of the ball. Brandon Weeden made the correct read and delivered the ball to Randle -- right where it needed to be. On the play, Both Sean Lee and Barry Church drove on the play and managed to rip the ball from Randle's hands -- knocking it into the air and into the hands of J.J. Wilcox for the interception.
7) DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford are starting to develop a nice chemistry when it comes to rushing the passer when using the twist game. Crawford's power up the field has allowed Lawrence the ability to come around his pick on a direct path untouched to the quarterback.
8) Reggie Dunn might not be the largest receiver, but he continues to be impressive in the way that he manages to come down with the ball. Whether he has been asked to run those "9" routes up the field or the corner route in the 7-on-7, Dunn has been able to finish his plays with a certain flair.
9) Starting to see Byron Jones get more work at safety over these last few practices. I still believe that he is going to be a corner first, then a jack-of-all trades player later. Jones has also been used as a nickel linebacker, which once again points to his overall flexibility.
10) Ryan Russell has had his share of up-and-down practices, but the coaches are continuing to work on ways of finding a spot for him to play. Russell normally lines up as a defensive end, but on Wednesday he was taking some snaps as the under-tackle. Where Russell has had his struggles is in the way he has been coming off the ball. He hasn't shown the quickness nor the technique to be a real factor. His rushes tend to be the same -- upfield, no moves and get stuck.
11) Give Lucky Whitehead some credit in the way that he is picking up this offense. With all the blitzing this defense is doing, Whitehead was aware enough to realize that Orlando Scandrick was crossing his face on the slot blitz and he had to run his route "Hot" to help his quarterback. Whitehead worked four yards up the field and then turned to square up to Weeden who put the ball right between his numbers.
12) Stephen Jones was asked on Wednesday the time table on Darren McFadden might begin to practice. Jones said with confidence it should be soon. I hope that is the case.