FRISCO, Texas – One more day of practice before we go to Houston, one more notebook.
Here are some observations from what we saw Tuesday as the Cowboys went through their practice routine at The Star. Now, it's worth pointing out: Thursday night's game against the Texans is going to look a bit different from this. It's unlikely we'll see many starters on the field in Houston, but they got plenty of work Tuesday as they get ready for Week 1.
Here are my notes:
· If you're curious how this defense would line up if Byron Jones went out of the lineup, it appears that Anthony Brown would take his spot at right cornerback and Jourdan Lewis would play in the slot if they went to their nickel package. With Jones on the field, Brown generally plays in the slot, so it's interesting that the staff is playing him on the outside and Lewis playing inside.
· Zack Martin was back at practice and it wasn't in a limited role. On his first play out of the blocks, Martin was asked to work to the second level, pivot on his left knee and peel back inside to seal the edge while Tavon Austin ran a reverse. Martin appeared to move with no limitations throughout the practice and as he predicted should be a go for the opening game against the Panthers.
· Chaz Green and Cameron Fleming split snaps at left tackle as Tyron Smith continues to rest his hamstring. I have to admit that it was a bit of a surprise that Fleming didn't take all the snaps with the first unit, which tells me that the staff is still looking at Green as a possibility for a roster spot.
· When the first defense hit the field, it was Tyree Robinson paired with Jeff Heath at safety. Marqueston Huff had a rough game against the Cardinals, so the coaching staff is likely going to give Robinson the opportunity to see how he would react while working with the first unit.
· I asked Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli about a lighter Tyrone Crawford being a better under-tackle. Both agreed that the weight loss should help him be a quicker player, which is a trait necessary for the position. Marinelli was quick to add that he felt like despite being lighter, Crawford still maintained his overall strength.
· Taco Charlton got some run with the first unit at right defensive end. Randy Gregory has been getting plenty of work at that spot in the previous practices. Charlton has primarily been on the left side, which is more of a natural fit for him. Charlton has made progress from his first season in the league and appears to be better equipped to help in the rotation.
· Justin March-Lillard was working with the first unit during the Blitz Period of practice for Sean Lee. Generally, we see Joe Thomas in that spot and will be a capable backup if something would happen to Lee. March-Lillard has been productive as well and will likely hold down the final spot for the linebackers on the roster.
· The one trait I noticed when studying Deonte Thompson was his ability to separate down the field. Thompson had his best practice by far in camp since coming back from the Achilles soreness. On one particular play, Thompson was able to beat Chidobe Awuzie off the line and keep his route wide enough so Jeff Heath couldn't get over to make the deep cover. Thompson tracked the well-thrown pass from Dak Prescott right into his hands for the reception. Awuzie was in good position but just couldn't reach the ball due to where it was placed.
· Maliek Collins was able to jump into practice, taking part in the Blitz Period. Collins lined up at the under-tackle with Brian Price at the nose. It was the first real action that Collins had seen this camp. It was a positive sign to see him working on some twist stunts where redirection was involved and just from the initial view it appeared that everything movement-wise was good. The real test will come when the squad is in pads and he has to fight pressure from a blocker.
· Terrance Williams continues to find sneaky ways to get open in zone coverage. Williams, running a route from the slot, ran a well-executed curl inside of Jourdan Lewis. Lewis never felt Williams in the area and was kicking himself when Williams came back downhill to snag the ball from Prescott.