OXNARD, Calif. – Here are some random observations from the Cowboys' afternoon practice Saturday as they prepare for the Blue-White Scrimmage on Sunday.
I had been very critical of the way that this Cowboys defense had looked up until this point of camp. As a group the front seven had been taken care of by this offensive line and tight ends in regards to the running game. There had been problems of getting off blocks along with poor fits that left them exposed and open to some nice runs by the backs.
But on Saturday, it all came together for them in the first full on contact where the ball carriers were brought to the ground. Even on the first snap of the period where Joseph Randle found space behind Mackenzy Bernadeau and Tyron Smith, there were players flying to the ball. Bruce Carter and JJ Wilcox looked like two blurs attacking the line of scrimmage. Later in the drive, Kyle Wilber was able to put himself in position off a play action fake in coverage that would have been a sure touchdown to Jason Witten had Wilber not read his key and played his responsibility.
The only moment where this defense had an issue was with the second group on a nice scheme design by Scott Linehan that caught the defense in man coverage and picked Anthony Hitchens with Gavin Escobar which resulted in an easy touchdown for Tyler Clutts in the flat. As a whole, the period was a big win for the defense. What they had lacked in physical play in previous practices, this gave the defensive coaches some positive film to coach off that night.
Hanie Looking Sharp
With all the talk of the lack of practice time that Tony Romo has been receiving, the other quarterbacks have been picking up the slack and getting work. Saturday's practice was the first time that I had really noticed Caleb Hanie and his work since we have been here in Oxnard.
Hanie was throwing the one-on-one period between the running backs-tight ends-linebackers-safeties. With this group you get all kinds of different routes, run at all different level down the field. Hitting a running back going away or a tight end working to the flat can be a difficult throw. I thought that Hanie looked sharp in his ability to deliver the ball in a way where his teammates didn't have to work for it.
Even when they were covered, Hanie was right on the mark. His anticipation was outstanding along with his timing. There was velocity on his passes but when he had to dial it back, he was able to show some smart touch. It was a nice afternoon for the veteran quarterback.
Of the two newly signed defensive ends that were brought in camp on Friday, I noticed Kenneth Boatright more than I did Adewale Ojomo. Both worked into practice during the one-on-one pass rushing drills and it appears that Boatright just from the first glace has a little something to his game as a pass rusher. He looks bigger than the 254 pounds in which he is listed as. He has a rangy build and I liked the way that he came off the ball when working against the offensive tackles. Boatright showed an initial burst and some bend around the corner. He rushed like he had some flexibility to him. He wasn't a stiff moving player at all and when he had to go, he was on the move. You could see that he had some good training from his days with the Seahawks because you saw him using pass rush techniques as he was moving up the field.
Boatright showed nice body control and balance as well. Need to see how he will handle the run in the future but as a pass rusher he got my attention.
Bishop Turns Corner
It was nice [embedded_ad] to see the light finally come on for rookie Ken Bishop and he was able to practice in a way that I thought he would when he was drafted out of Northern Illinois. Up until this point he had not shown much his quickness or pass rush moves but Saturday that all changed. He has always been a powerful man and one of his main issues has been that all he has tried to do is play with that power and these offensive linemen had figured that out so they would just sit down on him. Bishop took a page out of Davon Coleman's book and instead of just rushing down the middle, he tried a spin move or two that was able to buy him some separation. There was a snap where Mackenzy Bernadeau tried to sit down on his and Bishop engaged him then spun quickly to his right leaving Bernadeau off balance and blocking air. On the next snap, he was able to quickly get to the outside shoulder of Travis Frederick which caught him by surprise and he was not able to adjust back quick enough to keep Bishop from getting to the spot. When the defensive linemen worked on the twist game, he and Coleman were outstanding playing with technique destroying the blocking scheme inside. Ken Bishop was built to play as a one technique in this defense and his practice on Saturday hop