Thoughts from Tuesday's afternoon practice here at training camp in Oxnard.
As I thought David Arkin got some reps at center today in the Blue practice. With the injuries to Bill Nagy, Kevin Kowalski and Mackenzy Bernadeau the squad is a little short inside. I have always felt like this was the best position for him so we will see how it works. He has some questionable snaps but that was to be expected. Talking to some members of the front office after practice, the plan is to roll with what they have but they do know who is on the street if need to make that move.
Miles Austin has had a couple of quiet days but did have a very nice slant catch yesterday against Orlando Scandrick in press coverage. Austin is moving well and doing good job of getting open but the ball hasn't gone his way. The route running has been fine and he really looks healthy. He was productive in the OTAs and mini camps so there is no reason to believe that he will get more opportunities coming his way.
Secondary coach Jerome Henderson is a big believer of defensive backs that can play multiple spots. Today in his base package, he had cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne switch sides. Carr lined up at the position he played for five years in Kansas City on the right side and Claiborne lined up at left. Claiborne in college was on the right side but today he looked comfortable on the left. On his first day of practice there were several times where he really struggled playing routes and getting in position to make plays. This afternoon, Claiborne once again gave up two routes to Bryant, one on a 4 (IN) and the other a 9 (FLY). On the 4, he was in much better position to defend but a great throw by Romo was the difference. We also saw cornerback Mario Butler get some work at safety in hope of trying to find him a spot on the team.
The transition of Tyron Smith from right to left tackle will not be without its moments of concern. Smith has really done a nice job of handling plays in the running game. He has come off the ball with power and has gotten movement at the point of attack. Where Smith has had his struggles is with the quickness of Hatcher and Ware off the corner as pass rushers. Both players have been explosive and in the case of Ware, he has gotten the corner on Smith two different times before he was able to kick out of his stance. In the true fashion of Smith, he was working on his technique after practice to try and get himself from the line quicker. Where Smith hurts the rusher is if he can get his hands on him. By getting in position quicker he can do just that.
Inside linebackers Bruce Carter and Dan Connor have been getting plenty of attention for their battle at inside linebacker but another player that has shown up is Orie Lemon. In the OTAs Lemon got a shot to get more reps with Connor being out. The last two afternoon practices, Lemon has shown the ability to quickly read on the move and get in position to not only make tackles in the running game but get his hands on passes. Today he carried John Phillips up the field staying on his hip, then driving on the ball when thrown. Yesterday, he was able to break on the ball when he read a HOT route again to Phillips driving from his inside linebacker spot to the outside to step in front of Phillips for the interception. Lemon has played with much more awareness in the scheme which has helped him make plays.