OXNARD, Calif. – For the second time this week, the Cowboys have an off day.
We'll see two practices over the weekend, but for the time being we're stuck waiting for some more action.
In the meantime, though, there was plenty of stuff worth writing about from Thursday night's practice. Not everything has been pretty to this point in camp – it's never going to be. But I have to say, I have been impressed by the sheer effort level on both sides of the ball. These have been competitive practices, and that was no different on Thursday evening.
Here are my notes from the field:
- Lance Lenoir continues to make a case for a spot on this roster. He is practicing well and the coaches are rewarding him with more snaps with the first team. Lenoir made a spectacular reception during the goal line period tracking a ball that ended up above his head and pulling it down behind Anthony Brown. As the ball was coming down, I thought Brown was going to be able to rip it out of Lenoir's hands but he managed to get both feet down and cradle it into his body.
- Rod Smith is a large man that plays with little man feet. He put a serious move on Damien Wilson to buy some space in the red zone. Smith sold an outside move to Wilson and he bought it all the way. Once Smith felt Wilson's weight shift, he burst to the inside for an easy pitch and catch for Cooper Rush.
- Haven't got to talk about Duke Thomas much during this camp, but on Thursday he gave me a reason to. Thomas was able to go up with Marchie Murdock in the corner of the end zone and just as Murdock was securing the ball, Thomas pulled it out with his right hand, preventing the touchdown.
- I always judge cornerbacks by their ability to defend routes that break to the inside. Tavon Austin executed a beautiful slant release that put Byron Jones in a bad spot off the jump. Somehow, Jones rallied to get to Austin's hip and began to squeeze him when he saw the ball heading his direction. Staying off Austin's back, Jones was able to reach around him and knock the ball down with his right hand.
- Much better job by La'el Collins using his hands during the pass rush period. Where he has been having problems is they have been all over the place on the rusher and it has hurt him with his control. The offensive line is now learning how to take on rushers with a high/low hand technique, and I thought this was the first day where things came together for Collins in that regard.
- Marqueston Huff had a chance to get the defense off the field during 7-on-7 but just couldn't secure the interception from Cooper Rush. Huff played the ball well by driving underneath Blake Jarwin and put himself in position but just couldn't get the finish that he needed.
- Marquez White showed really good awareness of not getting sucked inside by all the routes in front of him. White stood his ground in the zone and when Rod Smith tried to leak out in the route, he was able to carry him up the sideline. Cooper Rush tried to come back late in his direction, but White was right there to knock the ball away from Smith as he was trying to bring it down.
- Nice vision and cut by Bo Scarbrough behind a block from Dustin Stanton to find some space in the second level. Scarbrough finished the run by lowering his right shoulder into Tre'von Johnson, knocking him to the ground as he continued the run. I expect that we will see more of those types of runs when we get into these games.
- Things had been sailing along nicely for Dan Bailey in camp, but Thursday he had a couple of misses. The first one I initially thought might have been a problem with the snap or hold but that just wasn't the case. Chris Jones put the ball down with the laces out. Bailey just came across it a little strong and pulled it left from the right hash. The second miss again was a good snap and hold but instead of pulling it, he hit it dead straight and it stayed right there outside the upright.
- Interesting that Trey Williams was working as the primary kickoff return man Thursday morning but was later released to make room for defensive end Joby Saint Fleur. With Williams out the mix that means we will likely see Jourdan Lewis and Tavon Austin take over the role until the staff figures out how they want to handle things going forward. Williams was also on the punt return group working with Austin and Duke Thomas.