IRVING, Texas – Five OTA practices are in the books, and we in the media have now been on hand for two of them.
I watched two hours of practice out on the fields at Valley Ranch, and these are my impressions from the second week of proceedings. Ten thoughts from practice:
- With Darren McFadden missing practice this week to attend to some personal business, Ezekiel Elliott was running with the first offense with Alfred Morris and Darius Jackson as the backups. All three of the backs had snaps where they pulled off some nice plays. Elliott took a swing pass in the flat from Romo for a large gain. Morris, on a zone play going to his right, found a crease and exploded into the second level before the defense had a chance to react. Jackson timed a screen pass well which allowed the blocking to set up in front of him and he was able to carry the ball into the end zone untouched.
- One player that I continue to notice during these practices, but who is not getting much acclaim, is Vince Mayle at wide receiver. I have yet to see him allow the ball to hit the ground when the quarterbacks have put it in his direction. He has made receptions one-handed and extending with two. Without the ball, he has found ways to get open and separate in his routes. His experience around the team last season is clearly paying off for him now.
- I have seen Jack Crawford, Ryan Russell and Charles Tapper line up on both the left and right sides at defensive end. Randy Gregory and Benson Mayowa have only lined up on the right side. This staff likely believes that Gregory and Mayowa lack the power to handle that left side when it comes to the running game. David Irving has returned to practice after missing last week and he has been receiving work on the left side only. There is a side of me that believes that Irving could be the starter on that side during the suspension of DeMarcus Lawrence.
- Chaz Green, who is in a battle for the swing offensive tackle spot, took snaps at left and right tackle and at guard as well. Where Green looked his best was on the left side as opposed to the right. His footwork and timing was better, and he just appeared more comfortable. This is his job to take over Charles Brown, who has had his share of struggles.
- Rookie cornerback, Arjen Colquhoun had a nice play in 9-on-9, knocking the ball away from Chris Brown in the end zone. Brown tried to get him to bite on a "Slug-Go" (Slant/Go) and it worked until Jameill Showers didn't get the ball out far enough and high enough for Brown to go get it. Colquhoun was able to rally back to make the play.
- There were some nice battles in the red zone between Jason Witten and Byron Jones. Neither player was willing to give an inch – but I guess that goes without saying. Witten was able to separate from him a couple of times, which is a good sign considering that we all believed that he might have lost a step to his game. That doesn't appear to be the case at all.
- Keep an eye on rookie offensive tackle Ryan Mack out of Memphis. He had a bad snap where he jumped offsides, but overall he has been solid. His technique and finish have been impressive in the two practices that I have had a chance to see. He is going to get plenty of work at training camp and these preseason games to develop. Mack has been lining up on the right side, but his movement skills could allow him to see some action on the other side.
- I'll be interested to see what the front office does to handle the injury to Maliek Collins. They could wait till OTAs are over and work out a veteran or two to see where that takes them. Nick Hayden is still on the street as is Jeremy Mincey, but those guys are likely long shots. The college crop of free agents is pretty picked over as well. By my count, the roster current has 7 guys that could line up at defensive tackle. During practice, they went with a rotation of 6 guys while Jack Crawford played on the outside. This scouting department has had a history of finding defensive linemen off the street and plugging them in with some success. They are likely to have to do that one more time.
Go behind the lens and check out some of our favorite shots from day five of OTAs at Valley Ranch.