IRVING, Texas – The second week of Organized Team Activities saw some big changes for the Cowboys -- largely thanks to some players leaving the lineup with injuries, while others returned to the field.
Having had a chance to watch the fourth practice of this spring period, I jotted down some main thoughts, headlined by the return of a key member to the secondary.
- Morris Claiborne was back on the practice field after working just in individual drills last week. Claiborne lined up at right cornerback when the defense went to their nickel package and he did a nice job of working against Dez Bryant, handling him up the field. He was also in nice position to defend Bryant on the slant. If you want to take a further look at his day, checkout OTA Live on DallasCowboys.com
- In the continued search to find a replacement for the injured Sean Lee, Justin Durant was back on the practice field after missing the first week of practices. Durant lined up at middle linebacker with the first defense and appeared to be moving well. There were several balls that went to the edge and he was right there in position to make the play. Rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens ran with the twos and Orie Lemon with the threes. DeVonte Holloman continues to work with the training staff but appears to be ready to return to action soon.
- Last week, Mackenzy Bernadeau did not take any snaps with the first offense at left guard, but that all changed on Monday. Bernadeau worked between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick with some nice success. Bernadeau had been working some at center as well as splitting time with Tyronne Green, but it was Green that took all those reps while Bernadeau focused at guard.
- With no Gavin Escobar at practice, James Hanna took the majority of the reps as the second tight end in "12" personnel. Escobar missed Monday's practice with a thigh bruise that did not appear serious. In the Team Run Period, both Hanna and Witten did a nice job of securing the edge allowing the backs to have the opportunity to get the ball downhill quickly. Hanna also took his normal role on the punt team as the left tackle.
- Monday was the first practice where Zack Martin looked like a rookie. Martin has been spot on with the majority of his reps at these practices, but he busted a line stunt by the defense while working with Doug Free. You can tell pre-snap that Free is trying to alert him to the potential for some type of game but he failed to execute the block. Free took Terrell McClain to the outside, while Tyrone Crawford came inside with Martin badly out of position leaning to his right. Crawford was in the backfield clean and would have tackled Dunbar easily for a five yard loss off the draw action. [embedded_ad]
- With Nick Hayden missing practice, Ken Bishop filled in on the first defense at the one-technique and had a nice, solid practice. He was able to hold his own against Travis Frederick, Ronald Leary and Zack Martin. Bishop might not be the tallest guy, but this actually helps him playing inside because he is able to work under blockers and get down the line. He really has a nice feel for how to play with leverage. There were no snaps where he was out of position or washed out of the play. Another rookie to keep an eye on is Davon Coleman, who took some snaps at left defensive end much like he did at Arizona State. Coleman was filling in for Ben Gardner who was dealing with a quad strain. By the way, Coleman is wearing a new number, No. 60.
- On the injury front, receiver L'Damian Washington had his arm in a sling during practice. Washington sprained his shoulder last week and the hope is to have him ready for training camp. It was a shame that he didn't get to practice but this allowed Chris Boyd and Tim Benford to step up and make some nice plays. This was the first practice where Boyd looked comfortable and didn't appear rusty. He was able to make an adjusting catch with Jocquel Skinner coming right over the top of his head. Boyd concentrated on the ball and break away from Skinner once he secured the ball. Benford playing out of the slot made a nice catch on an out route in the 7-on-7 period. The receiver position is an interesting one because it appears that there are plenty of players for not many spots, so every rep really counts.