OXNARD, Calif. – You might have heard, but it was a nice day for the defense out here on Tuesday evening.
The Cowboys' defenders got after it pretty good with their offensive counterparts, and we were able to see some pretty fun developments. At all three levels of the defense, we saw some nice performances. It will be interesting to see how the offense responds in the next two practices of this week.
For now, lets sit back and give the defense its due in these notes:
- I thought this was the most consistent practice for Chidobe Awuzie from start to finish. The offense tried to test him on some double moves but he was on top of his game. One of his best plays of the day was carrying Allen Hurns from a tight formation with short motion. By putting Hurns on the move, it allowed him to get a running start on Awuzie, who was playing in off coverage. Awuzie actually got a late jump on Hurns, which put him in a tough spot. As Dak Prescott delivered the ball, Awuzie was able to close the gap and knock the ball away from Hurns with his right hand. It was a well-executed defensive play by Awuzie.
- Byron Jones continues to have good practices at cornerback. Jones lined up in press coverage against the speedy Deonte Thompson and totally shut him down off the line. Thompson fought to try and get up the field, but Jones wouldn't let him go. Prescott thought he still had a chance to his side to make the throw, but there was just no window. It was such good coverage that Thompson didn't even bother to put his hands up as the ball sailed past him.
- This defense works on creating turnovers and rookie Leighton Vander Esch was more than happy to help out. Blake Jarwin caught a five-yard pass and was heading up the field. Vander Esch drove on Jarwin and with his left hand, he was able to rip it out into the air where Justin March-Lillard was right there to catch it and return it for the touchdown.
- Nice quick move by Jihad Ward to set up Connor Williams in the pass rush drill. Ward was on the outside of Williams' left shoulder, making him think he was going to rush to that side. When Williams kicked wide to face him, Ward adjusted the other way to leave Williams off balance and reaching for him. As athletic as Williams is, he couldn't recover to get in front of him.
- How good is DeMarcus Lawrence? La'el Collins knocked him off balance and was going in for the kill. Somehow, Lawrence regained his balance and managed to duck underneath Collins' extended arms, leaving him grasping for air. Lawrence has had plenty of great escape moves but that one might have been his best.
- It is probably early to say this, but I was expecting more from Kony Ealy. He just hasn't been that same explosive player that we've seen in the past. His steps have been small and he really isn't capturing the edge. Tackles have been able to control him with more consistency and that's a problem for him.
- Great touch by Mike White to get the ball over the top of Leighton Vander Esch to David Wells along the sideline. What was even more impressive about the play was that Wells managed to bring the ball down with one hand and get both feet down to make the reception. When the ball came down, I thought Wells had no chance, but he made a heck of a play.
- Dorance Armstrong has had a good camp so far. He has been lining up primarily on the right side, but Rod Marinelli thought he'd take a look at him on the left side on Tuesday. I liked what I saw from him -- especially when they put him on the move using him on twist stunts. He has feel for how to work through those gaps and cracks to get to the quarterback. Armstrong had several good rushes where he has shown some nice juice getting off the snap.
- One of my Top 10 players from OTAs, Austin Larkin, will likely not get credit for a sack in the two-minute drill because he's not allowed to hit the quarterback. But Larkin beat Cam Fleming clean around the edge with Fleming unable to even land a hand on him. Keep an eye on Larkin when we get into these preseason games and he has a chance to rush late in them. His speed and quickness are impressive.
- I don't think I have ever seen a coach talk as much smack in a practice as Kris Richard did today. It started in the two-on-two drill where there are two defensive backs against two receivers. Each time a ball was knocked down, Richard was yelling and waving his hands "incomplete" in the direction of the receivers. The more plays they made, the louder he got. It was the type of day which made me miss Dez Bryant, because he and Richard would have gone at it -- no question.