With the start of the second week of OTAs for the Cowboys, I wanted to take a look at what the team will be doing to get ready for training camp in Oxnard at the end of July.
You are always going to try and put work in with base packages and alignments but this week should be more about nickel and blitz packages, two minute schemes and goal line work. There is a ton of information that is being thrown at these players in meetings and then with on the field work. Receivers are fighting against press coverage, center and guards are passing twist stunts. Quarterbacks are learning where the ball goes to the tight ends on "HOT" routes, when there is a defensive back screaming off the slot.
Everyone likes to call these teaching sessions but if you watch the practices, the pace leads you to believe that these coaches expect the players to be on point whether it's first-year players or vets. You don't see much correction on the field. If there is a mistake, it's about running plays and carrying out assignments as quickly as possible.
These types of practices put a lot of pressure on players to perform. Guard David Arkin is getting a taste what it is like to have to push Jason Hatcher outside, then quickly adjust to Anthony Spencer coming around on the twist. It is Barry Church lined up next to Sean Lee at linebacker and not only reading the quarterback's eyes on his drop but not allowing DeMarco Murray to sneak in the flat for a safe pass. It's Raymond Radway looking inside for the snap of the ball with C.J. Wilson lined up two yards from him and using a swim move to buy himself separation to get into his route but not being able to come up with the ball on the in cut.
Couple of things I am going to watch today: can the wide receivers that no one are talking about continue building on good days. We all are talking about Ogletree, Holmes and Radway but with Danny Coale on the shelf until training camp, undrafted free agents Tim Benford and Cole Beasley are showing up in productive ways. Both have been solid route runners but explosive with the ball in their hands. Benford has been more of a down field threat while Beasley has caused the defense problems from the slot. Have to say that he has a nice feel how to work himself open. I don't think that either of these guys would be your third receiver but if Ogletree and Radway practiced like this, I would be more encouraged by the situation.
My eyes are also going to be with the offensive line and now that Kevin Kowalski is back at practice and what is going to be the combination at center and guard. Kowalski worked as a backup left guard Tuesday while Nagy handled the center duties. David Arkin has been running with the 1's at right guard. Ronald Leary has been his backup. Where this group has gotten some solid work has been in the area of blitz pickup. We all remember what happened last season with the inside three and the problems that group had with pickups. There have been some moments of struggle where they have not handled it cleanly but also some reps where the quarterbacks have had more than enough time to get rid of the ball.
One final thought, the one position that has looked the best as a group in my eyes has been the tight ends. Jason Witten and John Phillips have been outstanding in running routes and catching the ball on the move. Both really seem to be on the same page with these quarterbacks. I have noticed James Hanna in routes and Andrew Szczerba has shown soft hands with the ability to adjust to poorly thrown passes. Team still has its eye out for a blocker which would be the only adjustment I see.