(Editor's Note: 90 players are striving for a roster spot over the next month. In an effort to keep up with all of them, Bryan Broaddus is going to write a report on three different players after every practice. From the team's most prominent players to its no-name camp bodies, this is a place to read about what's going on across the Cowboys' roster.)
OXNARD, Calif. – As we continue to grind toward the first preseason game, here's another three players I had my eye on at the Cowboys' Wednesday afternoon practice:
DeMarcus Lawrence DE
If DeMarcus Lawrence wasn't suspended for the first four games of the season, I would be willing to wager that he would start at right defensive end and the coaches would figure out who to play on the left side. Of all the defensive linemen in this camp, Lawrence has been the one that has been the most difficult to block. I have yet to see anyone consistently put Tyron Smith off balance the way that he has with his rush. Lawrence has been able to do this with a combination of power and agility. I am not seeing the same rush from him. He has been able to mix it to the point where Smith is having trouble getting a real gauge on what he's going to do next. Lawrence has also been efficient working with teammates on line games and stunts. There have been several snaps where he and Jack Crawford worked together to get the other home on a rush. Just from what I've seen to this point, this suspension is going to hurt the defense more than what they're losing with Rolando McClain or Randy Gregory.
Gavin Escobar TE
I have to admit that I didn't expect to see Gavin Escobar on the field at any point during training camp and not likely until October of this season. I mentioned in some early camp observations that I thought he was moving around better than what I had seen pre-injury. He appears to have more flexibility to his game and it has helped him in a couple of different areas -- but mainly in his route running. Escobar is not as tight, and it has allowed him to get up the field. He executed a pretty corner route during 7-on-7 reps that he normally would not have been able to pull off with his lack of flexibility. He was exactly where Tony Romo needed him to be, and he was rewarded for his effort with a perfectly thrown ball. His blocking still lacks the power to be effective, but the desire along with the technique has improved. The coaches are starting to once again test him in certain situations in order to see where he could fit into their scheme plans.
Doug Free OT
To this point in camp, it's been pretty workmanlike for Doug Free and what I've seen from him. He's never going to be up or down but very steady with his technique and effort. With him it has always been about footwork and positioning. He's not going to overpower his opponent and there are going to be times where he gets overpowered. Free had a difficult battle with David Irving during practice on Wednesday. There were several snaps where Irving's reach put Free in situations where he was playing backward and on his heels. It's Free's responsibility as a tackle to set the width of the pocket, but Irving was able to break him down to the point where Free was collapsing in the pocket. Where Free usually has his struggles is when he faces an opponent that plays with power and forces him to have to sit down. When Free has to deal with an athletic rusher, he is a much better blocker because he can work his man wide. Irving was able to take advantage of Free, making him have to deal with power.