OXNARD, Calif. – Thursday's practice hardly qualified as a heavy workload. The pads don't go on until Saturday for the Cowboys, as coach Jason Garrett wants to let his players acclimate before gearing up.
Despite that, we've still had two chances to watch this team get situated – at a morning walkthrough and a light afternoon practice.
Here are some notes from my early impressions of the work:
- Thought it was interesting to see Anthony Hitchens line up at middle linebacker, with Kyle Wilber at the strong side in the morning practice -- but not surprising. Through the majority of OTAs and minicamps it was Jasper Brinkley filling in for Rolando McClain inside and Hitchens on the outside. But just listening to the coaches talk about Hitchens, the feeling was that he was always better suited to play either at Mike or Will due to his lack of length. The one thing that we all understand about Hitchens is that when he is asked to play, regardless of the position, he is super productive. You also might get the feeling that the coaches would like to see what they have in Damien Wilson, who ran with the second defense at strong side today.
- We need to figure out the practice plans for guys like Doug Free and Morris Claiborne, but it was good to see them both back on the field after working through some injuries that cut their seasons short just a year ago. Free was back at his normal right tackle spot and appeared to have no limitations in his movements. What I also noticed was that Darrion Weems, who lined up at right tackle for the entirety of OTAs and minicamps practices in place of Free, played left tackle next to La'el Collins -- which created a nice combination of power and athletic ability to that side. On the opposite side, rookie Laurence Gibson was paired with John Wetzel, who in my opinion just doesn't look natural or comfortable at guard. Knowing the toughness of Free, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if he fights the medical staff and jumps right back into full practices.
- We might see this change from practice to practice, but keep an eye on where Jack Crawford lines up. I know post-draft, Rod Marinelli was very high on the fact that Crawford could play all of the positions along the defensive line. In the morning practice, Crawford lined up at the under-tackle or three-technique with the second defense. Just watching him play lining up at tackle might be his best position where he can use his quickness shooting the gap. There was a snap where he was on the outside shoulder of Laurence Gibson and he beat him so fast that he had little time to react. With this coaching staff looking for a backup to Tyrone Crawford now with Jeremy Mincey holding out, this could be a solid fit.