Just a few observations from the OTAs for the Cowboys this morning:
- During the practice for the offensive line the most consistent fixture was Tyron Smith at left tackle and Nate Livings at left guard but the other positions saw various combinations such as Jermey Parnell at right tackle working with Ronald Leary at guard or Doug Free working with both Leary, David Arkin and at times even Kevin Kowalski. Of Free and Parnell, it appeared by my view that Free had a slightly better of the day overall but both players seemed to struggled at times against Anthony Spencer and his quickness. It's clear that Parnell is stronger than Free and was better at sitting down on his man. Free did a better job of working his man wide and to the outside. As this possess moves on both players are going to get plenty of chances to win this job.
- Rookie Travis Frederick took the majority of the snaps at center with Phil Costa and Ryan Cook serving as the backups. Frederick was much better in this practice handling the twist stunts in the blitz period than he was at the rookie mini-camp. Where Frederick had his struggles was sitting down on rushers like that used power against him. There was were a couple of times where he didn't adjust to the quickness and burst of Jason Hatcher and he was walked back. There was another play where Robert Callaway got the best of him with a power move. He also took a nice shot to the head when he went up onto the second level and ran head first into Sean Lee who stopped him in his tracks. What Frederick is going to have to learn against these veteran players is how to finish blocks.
- In the "12" personnel groups it appears that there is going to be a regular group that consists of James Hanna and Jason Witten, then there is "Big 12" where Gavin Escobar and Witten are part of the formation. In the regular group it appears that Witten plays inline as the "Y" and Hanna becomes the Wing or move guy. It was a little bit different for Escobar in this practice on the backside when he had to make the cut off block because the linebackers like Carter and Sims are just not going to stand in the same place. It was a good learning experience for him to go through this.
- Before this OTA, I was able to take a peek at a depth chart that had Matt Johnson and Barry Church as the starters at safety so I was looking forward to the pairing when practice opened. When the first defense took the field, it was Church and the veteran Will Allen that were together. When the second defense lined up, there was Johnson with Danny McCray and rookie J.J. Wilcox was working with the third group. Much like the offensive line, there were plenty of different pairings with Johnson getting a chance to run with Church after all. I liked what I saw from Johnson today for a couple of different reasons. His best trait and I remember this from his college film is his burst. There was one time where he was down in the box and they brought him off the edge on a blitz and he was on the ball in a hurry. He has a real feel for this. His pedal looked smooth and relaxed when he was playing deep. The main thing is that he looks ready to compete and I see that as a real plus.
- If you allow me to knee jerk on one practice of OTAs, please allow me to do it with Anthony Spencer. From my view, I thought he was the best defensive player on the field when they went against the first offense. There is something about him when it comes to putting his hand on the ground and getting up the field. There is explosiveness there that these coaches are going to take advantage of. He has a real understand of have to use pass rush moves as he is going up the field. No defensive linemen showed the quickness that he showed today. He is the type of rusher that leaves blockers reaching for him. He gives them no hitting surface and when a tackle can't get his hands on the rusher, he is going to allow pressure and that happened several times today.
- I liked what I observed from Ronald Leary today after one practice. He was able to carry some positive practices in the rookie mini-camp over to this one. His movement was good both run and pass but what I really noticed was his ability to punch with some pop. Ben Bass tried to loop around on the twist stunt and Leary was standing there waiting and shocked him to the ground. There were times where Leary was able to sit down on his man and not allow any type of push. Leary got looks at both the left and right guard spots and was productive on either side. Another good start for him.
- I am going to give you a name of a player that only his mother and father know that he is on the team but he caught my eye today. Defensive end Cameron Sheffield is not a household name but for one practice he played like we should all learn it. Sheffield played with really nice quickness and was difficult to block when on the move. His best move of the day was using a quick swim move to free himself on the rush, then another time knifed hard down inside getting in the backfield for a tackle for loss. In a scheme where quickness and getting up the field is key, Cameron Sheffield did his part to make the coaches stand up and take notice of him.
- I have been super critical of Orlando Scandrick this off season because I believe there is so much more to his game and today he showed that. I have always believed that Scandrick is one of the smartest cornerbacks I have ever been around but there are times where I believed that got him in trouble. There has never been a question in my mind about his skill set and when he can read a route, he can really drive on the ball. This morning Eric Rogers tried to run a curl with Scandrick playing as the right corner. When Rogers tried to make his break inside, Scandrick was there waiting on the ball. The only problem with the play was that he needed to finish with the interception but the ball bounced off his hands and feel incomplete. The play showed the type of ability he can play with and the coaches hope that they can see that more often.