OXNARD, Calif. – Here are my notes from the Cowboys' Wednesday afternoon practice.
- When situations get tough and tight down in the red zone, it's nice to have a corner that knows how to play coverage when stops are critical. With the ball sitting on their own 4-yard line, Orlando Scandrick was able to make a play on Cole Beasley that kept the offense out of the end zone. Instead of lining up in his normal spot in the slot, Beasley was wide to the left -- which required Scandrick to go with him. From my spot in the end zone, it appeared that Tony Romo wanted to go to his right with Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams working a combination route. The route wasn't clean and Romo quickly came back to his left to find Beasley attempting to work inside on Scandrick -- except he wasn't going to allow him to the spot. Nevertheless, Romo fired the ball in Beasley's direction, but Scandrick was right there to get his left hand inside to knock the ball away.
- Didn't feel like it was the best day for the pass protection on the first offense during the Team Blitz period. There were two separate occasions where defensive pressure was able to prevent Tony Romo from attempting a pass. The second sack of the period came on four-man pressure when David Irving got such a jump off the ball that he was in the middle of Doug Free, and before he knew it, drove him into Romo's lap. It was the first extensive action that we have seen from Irving working with the first defense in these practice and throughout the practice, he took full advantage of the opportunity.
- There have been plenty of positive things about Andy Jones and his quest to make this roster. But if he's going to play for Derek Dooley, he had better learn how to block. Jones had an opportunity to show the coaching staff his willingness to handle those tough jobs, much like we used to see from Dwayne Harris when he was at the point of attack. Jones was brought in motion with the intention of handling Barry Church off the edge. As the ball was handed to Alfred Morris, Jones was late off the ball and never laid a hand on Church -- who was able to fire inside and nearly tackle Morris for a safety. Hopefully, the next time that Andy Jones is put in that situation, he is able to execute his responsibilities better than what he showed during this practice.
- Tony Romo continues to find ways to get the ball to Dez Bryant in space. Bryant, working against Anthony Brown drove so hard off the ball that it caused Brown to keep his hips open thinking that Bryant is running a "9" or "go" route up the field. Once Bryant felt the position he had on Brown, he broke hard across the field. Romo put the ball on Bryant at eye level which kept him on the dead sprint. Jeff Heath was in the middle of the field and was in position to drive on the ball, but he wasn't able to close the ground quick enough to make a play. Bryant was able to use a stiff arm on Heath to gain separation and turn the corner on the speedy Brown.
- I believe it has been a real learning experience for both Rod Smith and Keith Smith lining up at fullback. There were times in this practice where they flat missed their men or never got into position to make the necessary block. I see a more aggressive player in Keith Smith and his willingness to execute the block, so that gives me some hope -- but I just don't think that's good enough. These preseason games should tell us a great deal about whether the learning curve for Rod Smith and Keith Smith is just too much. If the coaching staff wants a real fullback, then they just might have to wait see who shows up on that waiver wire here in the next three weeks.