Here are some thoughts from film room after a second look at the final practice between the Cowboys and Chargers:
The Cowboys were very lucky they didn't lose another receiver to injury during this practice when Quentin Jammer took a run at Dwayne Harris who could've very easily suffered a separated shoulder or worse.
The play started with Harris running out of the slot from the 5-yard line. Kevin Ogletree was on the outside with Jammer over the top of him. Romo dashes to the right as the line moves with him. Harris starts up the field then breaks down at the goal line, looking for the ball. Harris has cornerback Greg Gaston beat and catches the ball on the goal line. Jammer allows Ogletree to go by him and puts Harris in the cross hairs. Jammer lowers his right shoulder into Harris driving him off his feet.
If it was a game situation, it would've been a clean hit, but in a practice situation it was very cheap because Harris was not expecting it.
In the blitz period for the defense, there were a couple of things that I did notice. Sean Lee was outstanding each time Rob Ryan brought him on the inside blitz. There were two times when Lee timed his blitz perfectly, working the game inside with Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff. Lee has a great feel for how to come tight off those blocks to keep the linemen from getting off and handling him. Lee shows no wasted movement when he rushes from the inside. Everything is a direct path to the quarterback.
Barry Church had a nice play off the hash in two-deep coverage, helping Morris Claiborne carry Robert Meachem down the field. Meachem tried to go vertical, when Claiborne cut him off, then went shoulder-to-shoulder with him. Church, working the right hash, read the throw all the way, going up and knocking the ball away. After last season, when the safeties did not play the ball well in the air, both Church and Sensabaugh have really done a nice job of handling those situations where they have to show some range to defend the ball.
During the move-the-ball period, Rob Ryan showed some "46" defense like his father Buddy did for the Bears with the 1985 Super Bowl team, but instead of using a safety over the tight end, Ryan used linebacker Dan Connor and moved Church to take the spot of Bruce Carter at linebacker. The "46" is a hard defense to run the ball on because of how many men you have in the box. The Chargers didn't block Connor, and the result was a tackle on Ronnie Brown for no gain.
Jay Ratliff already looks in midseason form. There were several times where the Chargers tried to single and even double-team Ratliff at the point of attack, but were unable to get any movement on him. Ratliff looks bigger in the upper body, but more importantly he is able to anchor down on his foot, which was giving him so much trouble in the offseason. Speaking of nose tackles that were hard to block, Josh Brent was able to get off several blocks today and stand his ground on the inside running plays.
There were questions in my mind when the Cowboys drafted tight end James Hanna. Could he really develop as a tight end, not only as a blocker but as a consistent pass catcher as well? In blitz period, Garrett sent in what they call "02" personnel, which is three wide receivers, two tight ends and no backs. Hanna lined up wide left as a single receiver, with everyone else to the right side of the formation. At the snap of the ball, Hanna runs a slant and makes the catch from Kyle Orton with the cornerback driving on the route.
I will say this about Hanna, he is not only blocking better, but his hands have really improved since his last game at Oklahoma.
Running back Jamize Olawale has been a really nice story throughout this training camp in his effort to make the 53-man squad.
What Olawale lacks in experience at the position, he makes up with raw, hard-nosed toughness, but if he is going to make this team he is going to have to play special teams and develop some ability and awareness as a pass blocker. The one thing that running backs coach Skip Peete will not have on his roster is a running back that can't pass protect. In the blitz period Tuesday, Olawale missed two opportunities in pass protection to secure his man. If the center and guard have the down men, the running back is responsible for the looping linebacker. Olawale got just that look and didn't even adjust to the blitzer until it was too late. If you are going to play in this scheme you better find a way to be a complete back, or you will not be on the field.