Here are 10 quick thoughts from practice on Tuesday:
1. Rookie cornerback Byron Jones is going to have a role in this defense. Right now the Cowboys are trying him all over the secondary. He played cornerback, dime and safety in practice the last two days. He is most comfortable at cornerback and he showed up big time in a compete drill before the entire team against Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant. Jones had a nice jam on Bryant off the line and he stayed with him down the field. A little bump by Bryant at the end of the route didn’t faze him and he leaped high to knock the ball away. Jones showed the strength, the length and the athleticism that the Cowboys coveted on draft day.
2. Lance Dunbar has not gotten the attention of Joseph Randle or Darren McFadden when talk turns to the possible replacements for DeMarco Murray. But it’s clear that Dunbar will be a big part of the offense and have an expanded role now that Murray is gone. He will handle the passing game on third down and in two minute situations. That was evident during a crisp two-minute drive in practice on Tuesday. Randle got a key first down on a pass out of the back field then he walked in untouched on a run for the score.
3. Tony Romo has been good but not spectacular through the first week of camp. But he was at his best during the two-minute drill on Tuesday, going 8-for-8 on the drive with key passes to Dez Bryant, Lance Dunbar and Jason Witten.
4. The offensive line handled the defensive line with ease during the two-minute drill. The pocket was clean and Romo had clear passing lanes.
5. The defensive line had the upper hand for most of the day until the two-minute drill. The defense was especially stingy during the run portion of team drills. Unlike past practices when running back Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar would sprint for big gainers through gaping holes, it was tough sledding for the ground game for much of the day. As a result there was less cursing from defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
6. Tight end Gavin Escobar bobbled and then dropped a pass that ended in the hands of safety Corey White for an interception. Escobar has to catch that ball.
7. The defense won the pass-rush compete drill with a 3-0 sweep. Defensive end Ben Gardner easily went by rookie guard La’el Collins. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence got the best of tackle Doug Free and defensive tackle Nick Hayden won over center/guard Mackenzy Bernadeau.
8. Rookie fourth-round pick Damien Wilson was at first-team weak-side LB to start team drills in place of Sean Lee. The Cowboys are continuing to be cautious with Lee. He has not been in team drills since the start of camp. But he did get some 7-on-7 work on Tuesday.
9. Defensive tackle Davon Coleman been very impressive the first few days of camp. He has been going against mostly backup offensive lineman and has yet to do against the team’s front line starters. But Coleman has been very active and tough to block.
10. Dustin Vaughn was the surprise of training camp last year when the Cowboys kept him as the third quarterback on the roster. Vaughn has not been as good so far in his second year and needs to pick it up if he hopes to stick again. The Cowboys may not have the luxury of keeping three quarterbacks, forfeiting an important roster spot. It’s interesting that fourth quarterback Jameill Showers is getting a look on special teams. If he can show enough athleticism to find a role on special teams then he can do some to the third quarterback duties in practice, solving two problems for the Cowboys.
Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760