Scout's Eye: Wilson's Progress, Hardy's Shift Among 12 Thoughts From Minicamp

IRVING, Texas – Twelve things that stood out from my first day of watching practice at the Cowboys' three-day minicamp.

  1. Rod Marinelli spoke post-practice on why he likes to take this time of the year and mix his defensive linemen around to see different combinations that he might have going into training camp. One of the most productive groups he had going was DeMarcus Lawrence at left end, Tyrone Crawford and Greg Hardy inside and Jeremy Mincey off the right side. Marinelli is not big on bringing extra rushers and with this group he just rushed four and that pressure forced Tony Romo to have to throw the ball away.
  1. With the way that Jason Garrett runs these practices you are always going to see players that compete every snap and practice the right way when it comes to protecting each other. There was a particular play that made me smile during the two-minute drill, and that was when Sean Lee was battling Jason Witten three yards away from the goal line. Witten was working inside on Lee, who was in position on the route -- which caused Romo to have to throw the ball high and to Witten's left. Witten made the catch, but as soon as he had the ball under control, Lee was there to wrap him up around the waist. Witten then lunged for the goal line, but Lee had none of it and jerked Witten straight back in an effort to prevent the score. On the play both Witten and Lee wound up on the ground in a pile both looking intently at the official for a signal.
  1. It was a productive day once again for Terrance Williams, who made three really nice catches down the field from Tony Romo. Two of the routes came from the outside and the third one from the slot. Williams is really doing a nice job of running his routes, finding space and finishing the play.
  1. It is amazing the feel that Lance Dunbar has when he is lined up as a receiver. Dunbar doesn't look uncomfortable at all and the routes that he is able to run looks natural and with flow. His ability to play in space has improved to the point where putting him outside or in the slot is not a bad option at all.
  1. Good opportunity for Deontay Greenberry to get a couple of snaps with the first offense as a vertical route runner. Greenberry took Brandon Carr down the field, but the veteran corner was able to maintain position, and, with Romo's pass short, knock the ball away. Greenberry and Antwan Goodley were the most noticeable of the rookie receivers on Tuesday.
  1. Jeff Heath was the first safety off the bench when J.J. Wilcox was unable to practice due to a foot injury -- which is not believed to be serious. Heath was working with Barry Church, but the play of the day made by a safety was Corey White on a crossing route against James Hanna. White was in man coverage and there was a moment of separation, but he was able to close the cushion on Hanna and knock the ball away.
  1. This was the first practice where I have seen Greg Hardy play as a left defensive end. I had seen him do it at Carolina, but not here with the Cowboys. Hardy has had some really fun battles against Tyron Smith, but this time he was matched up against Darrion Weems which had to be an eye-opening experience. Weems was able to hold his own for the most part, but there was one snap where Hardy got an explosive jump off the ball and Weems had no chance of slowing him down. This has been a common theme for Hardy in these practices.
  1. If you had a chance to watch MiniCamp LIVE on DallasCowboys.com from Wednesday, you would have seen David Helman and I focus on Darren McFadden and his return to the practice field after missing some practices with a sore hamstring. McFadden looked quick and decisive with the ball in his hands. There were no wasted steps or movements. He was in attack mode. It was more of what I expected from him when he was signed earlier in the year, and if he can continue to practice this way, he will give Joseph Randle a run for that starting job.
  1. With no Anthony Hitchens on the practice field, it was up to Jasper Brinkley to play the role as the Mike with the first defense and nickel linebacker next to Damien Wilson. Just watching Wilson play, and I don't believe this is because of the injuries to the other linebackers but I have a feeling that these defensive coaches are getting him ready for a larger role in the defense. He has that look of a player they are seeing if he can handle the workload both mentally and physically. I observed this same situation with Hitchens last season.
  1. Mackenzy Bernadeau and Shane McDermott are working with the second offense at center and guard. When Bernadeau takes his turn at center, McDermott is the guard and when McDermott lines up at center, then you see Bernadeau take the snaps at guard. McDermott was a natural center while in college at Miami, but the fact that he can line up and function as well as he has in these practices says a lot about his ability. He is going to get a ton of work in these preseason games with a good shot of hanging on with the practice squad.
  1. I haven't seen the plays from A.J. Jenkins that I thought I would have. His tape from the Chiefs was much better running routes and getting open. He just hasn't looked like a veteran player to this point that could help the team. These rookies have me more excited in what they could potentially bring over him.
  1. Thanks to my great teammate Nick Eatman for buying the crew lunch today – it hit the spot.   
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