Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten Talks About First Joint Practice With The Rams
Zack Martin couldn’t help but make a joke Sunday. He’d heard the question about a dozen times when an intrepid TV reporter repeated it yet again.
The redundant question followed along the lines of ... did you know the Rams — the team you’re scrimmaging Monday and Tuesday — have a good defensive line?
“You know, I haven’t heard that,” Martin said, chuckling.
Martin then went on to give his PR savvy line, saying the O-line gets a great test every day against the Cowboys’ D-line but welcomed the upcoming challenge against the Rams.
“They have an unbelievable front and a great defense,” Martin said. “We’ve been in camp a while now, so it’ll be nice to get a fresh group out there.”
Or, as offensive line coach Frank Pollack put it: “As they say, new blood, fresh meat will liven you up a little bit. You get tired of banging on each other, so it’ll be great work for us. They’re a dang good front in St. Louis.”
The highly touted competition lost a little sizzle with Cowboys All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith out with a biceps injury and left guard Ronald Leary sidelined with a back injury.
But it still featured plenty of talent with a seemingly endless list of first-round picks. The Cowboys still had center Travis Frederick and right guard Martin on the field, as well as right tackle Doug Free.
And the Rams had their starting line out there — all first-round picks — with Chris Long and Robert Quinn on the ends, and Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers inside.
How’d the Cowboys’ O-line fare in executive vice president Stephen Jones’ mind?
“I think they did a good job from what I could see right off the bat,” Jones said. “They obviously won some and I think we won some, but you’re not going to see much better than that crew right there. Aaron Donald is obviously a really top young football player, then you have Long and [Quinn] coming off the edges, and then Brockers and Fairley ... the list goes on.
“They’ve got a real nice defensive line, so it’ll be really nice to get in the film room and see how our guys stacked up with them when you really dig deep and look at it.”
The Rams’ line certainly looked impressive in the first round of team drills. Quinn beat rookie La’el Collins, who started in place of Leary, to stop Joseph Randle on a running play to open the series.
Then Ethan Westbrooks intercepted a screen pass by Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who had a hard-charging and unblocked Alec Ogletree coming at him. Romo hadn’t thrown an interception in 98 throws at training camp.
But the Cowboys’ O-line had its moments, too. They gave Randle large enough holes to break a couple lengthy runs, and Romo had enough time to make a few nice pass plays — such as finding Cole Beasley who made a nice outside move.
“It was a good challenge and we’ll see how it turned out [on film],” Jones said.
In the end, this two-day scrimmage will become a solid gauge as to where the Cowboys’ offensive line is at. It is the strength of this team, and that’s not something taken lightly.
The Cowboys made it a point of emphasis to build an elite O-line ever since drafting Smith with their first-round pick in 2011. They went on to use first-round picks in 2013 (Frederick) and 2014 (Martin), as well as sign an undrafted first-round talent (Collins) this year.
The group has become known for its herd mentality, traveling just about everywhere as a unit. They enter the practice field together, they eat together and they spend time off the field together.
“We know how the offensive line works and how it’s a position that you have to have five guys together all the time,” Martin said early on in camp. “If one of us screws up, we all screw up. We just try to do everything together as much as possible.
“No one has ever said, ‘Hey, wait for everyone.’ It just kind of happens. I just think it goes with the importance of doing things together.”
It’s something that’s welcomed by the Cowboys, of course, and the unit is sure to grow even more after this two-day joint practice against the Rams’ elite D-line.
“They continue to grow every day,” Jones said. “The amazing thing about the offensive line is that they also bring the young guys along. They bring a guy like La’el Collins, grab him by the arm and say, ‘Let’s go.’
“They’re not only some of the best football players in the game, but they’re also leaders on the football team, too. They set the tempo.”
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760