Scout's Notebook: Defense Steps Up In First Practice Back From L.A.

OXNARD, Calif. – There's always a noticeable difference when you see a team get back from a preseason game. Most of the roster is just 48 hours removed from a physical football game, while plenty of other guys feel well-rested.

That was the case Monday, as many of the players who weren't active in Saturday's preseason game got after it in practice.

Here are five big notes from the afternoon:

  • Defense had a different feel to it in practice this afternoon -- especially across the line. Cedric Thornton and Terrell McClain were back in a full-time role. Benson Mayowa and Maliek Collins also returned but on a limited bases. I did have a chance to see Mayowa get some work post-practice with the offensive line and there was no question about him getting off the ball. His explosive quickness is there, along with that ability to get low to the ground and turn the corner. I believe we will continue to see Benson Mayowa come along slowly but for that first time out it was impressive to see him rush.
  • This offensive line usually doesn't have its problems picking up stunts, but during practice it happened a couple of times. One of the better-executed stunts involved Cedric Thornton, Shaneil Jenkins and Justin Durant. Thornton and Durant went hard inside to their left, attacking La'el Collins, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. There was such a push that it knocked Collins off balance and he could not recover. The move allowed Jenkins to come around with a free run at Tony Romo untouched -- which would have resulted in a huge hit in the middle of the pocket.
  • Dez Bryant continues to make amazing plays in these practices. Bryant ran a deep "In" as Romo fired a bullet up the field. Without breaking stride, Bryant extended his left hand and snatched the ball out of the air. Then, with body control, he was able to turn up the field and head to the end zone.
  • Byron Jones robbed Dak Prescott of a completion along the sideline on a well thrown "Out" to Geoff Swaim. Jones carried Swaim out of the slot, up the field and to the outside. Initially there was a little separation between Jones and Swaim on the break, but Jones didn't give up on the play. Driving hard downhill, Jones saw Swaim extend his hands to catch the ball -- but just as it arrived, he stuck his right hand over the top of Swaim's arm to knock it away. It was a beautifully timed play by Byron Jones that should have been a completion.
  • I think you would be hard pressed to find a linebacker that has more of a feel for how to play in the passing game than Sean Lee. Tony Romo took a gamble and tried to get the best of Lee to continue a drive during the Compete Period. Romo moved Alfred Morris from the inside to the outside in the attempt to give him an easy throw over the top of the ball for the first down. Morris was able to get to the spot as Romo threw the ball his direction. The ball hit Morris' hands just as Lee arrived at the same time. Lee is able to get his helmet on the ball, knocking it to the ground thus getting the defense off the field on the drive.    

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