Here are 10 quick hits from the Cowboys first day in pads:
1. Joseph Randle is a blur hitting the holes. He may have spoken out of turn with the “meat on the bone” comment. But was not off base in thinking he will rip off more big gainers than DeMarco Murray behind the Cowboys offensive line. He certainly gets the line of scrimmage and into the secondary much faster than Murray.
2. The Cowboys held receiver Dez Bryant out of one-on-one drills as a precaution, but they didn’t waste time going deep to him. Tony Romo threw four go routes to Bryant in team and 7-on-7 drills. They connected on just one, beating cornerback Orlando Scandrick. But it was certainly an example of the Cowboys planning to stretch the field more with Bryant.
“That’s just getting into the mix of things,” Bryant said. “It felt good running after the ball like that. The 9-route is fun. It’s the best route of the game. The best route in the playbook.”
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Bryant added: “I was just knocking the rest off that’s all. You know I’m saying that as a joke though. It’s really no rust.”
3. Cornerback Morris Claiborne had a good first day. He didn’t go through one-on-one drills, as the team is being cautious in his return from knee surgery. But he made the best play of the day, a diving interception on a crossing route intended for Terrance Williams from Tony Romo. For a guy who claims he’s just trying to make the team, Claiborne made a solid impression.
4. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick, on the other hand, didn’t have a great day. He was burnt multiple times, including on the deep pass from Romo to Bryant. Williams also got the best of Scandrick on a go route during compete drill in front of the team.
5. Defensive end Greg Hardy got a rousing ovation, showing fans are willing to forgive him for his past issues. Guard Zack Martin did take him to the ground during one-on-one drills. But Hardy kept coming and will be a big part of the Cowboys rush when he returns from the four-game suspension. The most interesting development of the day happened on the last team drill when Hardy slid to the three-technique tackle spot next to defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford with second-year pro DeMarcus Lawrence and rookie Randy Gregory at ends.
“I have done guys like throughout my career,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “I had Julius Peppers like that. We try to matchup. He is a guy who can go inside and rush. And now that gives you Crawford and him inside and DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory outside to get our four best rushers on the field.”
6. Kicker Dan Bailey appears to be in mid-season form. He went six-for-six on field goals, connecting from 33, 37, 40, 35, 38 and 41 yards.
7. Rookie defensive end Randy Gregory was baptized by fire on the first day in pads as he had trouble not only getting by Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith but backup tackle Darrion Weems. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said Gregory will struggle early like most rookies as they realize the stuff they used in college won’t work at this level. But he said he like Gregory’s competitiveness and work ethic. He will just have to keep working on his craft.
8. Receiver Deontay Greenberry and Devin Street had good days catching the ball. Greenberry had a nice leaping catch in one-on-one drills against rookie first-round pick Byron Jones.
9. Tony Romo was “so so” in his first day back after sitting out Friday’s practice with a stye on his left eye. The good news is that Romo says his eye was all good. Of course, Romo’s average day was off set by the fact that he is practicing and ready to go in full pads with no real injury issues for the first time in three years.
10. In what was another major example of the changing of the guard in the front office, owner Jerry Jones sat in a tent and out of the way while vice president Stephen Jones took charge on the main stage at annual training camp opening ceremony with dignitaries from the city of Oxnard.
Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760