Cowboys Camp Report, Day Four: the Offense Baits the Trap

Neither rain, nor cold rain, nor injuries could keep the Dallas Cowboys from their appointed practice today. Friday brought thunder, a strong breeze and a surprise rain shower to the first 30 minutes of practice Friday afternoon. The team worked through it, and showed some run game wrinkles which could offer benefits during the regular season.

The Cowboys continued to drill spread sets a lot, building on Wednesday’s session, which segued from lots of two-tight end sets to three receiver looks.

Today, the offensive line worked extensively on trap plays. These are angle blocked plays which leave a play-side defender unblocked. Either a tackle or an end is shown a clear path at the running back or quarterback; he’s lured into a trap, where a backside guard or tackle will pull down the line and blow him out of the way, creating a nice seam for the back to exploit.

Trap plays are run by line with more mobile linemen, and traps have not been a big part of recent Cowboys running attacks. In the unit session, Bill Callahan had left guard David Arkin pull right and take out an end. He also drilled a play where right tackle Doug Free pulled inside and took out a defensive tackle. Callahan also showed a third where Arkin pushed a stunting man inside while left tackle Tyron Smith released his end upfield and then led the back into the running lane.

All three plays were practiced against four-man fronts. The plays are designed to exploit hyper-aggressive front fours who think pass rush first and run second.

Where do the Cowboys face fronts like that, I wonder?

The plays worked when the team ran full scrimmages later in practice. For the first time this camp, the offense created multipe explosive running plays in one day.  And this was with the backup guards.


— Why the Cowboys need to sign Montrae Holland, reason 64. When the first team offense worked today, David Arkin worked at left guard and Ronald Leary at right guard. When the second team unit played, Leary was left guard and Arkin the center.

Arkin and Leary are the only healthy interior linemen on the team right now and they’re going to wear out in the next two weeks if fresh bodies are not brought in to spell them.

— Andre Holmes finally took the field today. He’s enormous, and caught a long pass over Brandon Carr over the right sideline (it appeared to be out of bounds, but his size helps him tredendously. Can he work more than go routes and posts? We’ll have to see.

— The Bill Callahan effect: How can you tell Bill Callahan and his assistant offensive line coach have had a positive effect? Four days in and backup LT Jermey Parnell looks better than he ever did last year. He’s smoother in his pass drops, and more sure and accurate with his punches. He handled Adrian Hamilton and everybody else who matched up with him in the one-on-one drills.

He’s also much bigger too.

Even Pat McQuistan looks better at right tackle.

Callahan is getting a lot of help from assistant line coach Wes Phillips. (Yep, he’s Wade’s son.) The first two days they split duties, with Callahan taking the left side of the line and Phillips the right. Today, they worked inside out; Callahan handled the tackles and Phillips the centers and guards. Phillips worked his guys on stopping inside spin moves, by using short and rapid punch-outs to the d-lineman’s trunk. The goal is to maintain separation and keep the rusher from getting wide or inside the blocker’s body:

These are the types of micro-drills that were not seen last year or in any recent years.

— The receivers worked hard on catching the ball over the shoulder this afternoon. The unit will work on a specific patter or two every day of camp. Some days they will work the stop-fade. On others the sideline.

— Rookie DE Tyrone Crawford left the field early, but did not appear to be laboring.

— Profile schmofile: The defensive coaches worked massive Clifton Geathers as a slant nose tackle. He worked this slot in both three and four man fronts. This is a position Joe Greene popularized for the Steel Curtain Steelers in the ’70s. The tackle lines up at a 45-degree angle towards one of the center’s earholes. He tries to shoot the guard-center gap and at worst ties up two blockers, leaving the inside ‘backer behind him free.

Some fans quesiton Dallas playing an undersized nose in Jay Ratliff. Today, they played a tall, “high cut” nose in the 6’7″ Geathers.

— I have still not seen rookie TE James Hanna drop a pass. That helps his odds of making the team. Drops were his problem in college and he’s clearly worked on his hands this summer.

— You only coach up players who interest you: the linebackers and safeties squared off against the backs and tight ends in a middle field pass catching drill. Some notes:

  • Jason Witten is the king. It does not matter who covers him, the man finds a way to get just enough separation to catch the ball. He embarrassed Brodney Pool on one deep combo route.
  • Barry Church continues his strong camp. He was the closest to stopping Witten and drives hard on all passes thrown in his direction.
  • Adrian Hamilton is working hard on his drops and coverage but guessed once and got an earful from Rob Ryan, who spent a lot of time with the rookie afterwards. As they say, they only yell at you if they feel you are worth coaching.
  • Orie Lemon made another stop in this drill and another in the first 11-on-11 of the day. He’s one of the stongest bubble candidates one week into the new year. His special teams play will tell.

— Felix Jones returned to action today and looked lightning fast in the passing drills. He blew past all the linebackers and safeties with ease. Forget about the conditioning drill. He’s the number two running back, without a doubt.

Adrian Hamilton finishes a punt coverage exercise
(All photos by Steven Van Over. Copyright reserved)

Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Senior Analyst Cowboys at Sports Talk Line
Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for
Rafael Vela

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  • daledoe

    32 teams had multiple chances to take him and didn’t consider him good enough. IMO he’s exceeded expectations. He’s become a successful role player and that’s great. Becoming a starter would be a heck of a gift. A bust? No way!

  • daledoe

    I love hearing about coaches coaching instead of supervising drills.

  • AustonianAggie

    LBs should be a real asset this year. Is Hamilton battling Albright for a roster spot? They’re both prospects I really like at OLB.

  • pkinsa

    What is the story with Beasley leaving the team?

  • Krazy Cowboy

    Carr Finally got caught on deep but it was outta bounds,much luv to Holmes our true number3WR

  • Blue Eyed Devil

    Exciting! I love trap plays. I don’t know if they’re the most effective running play but I give a fist pump every time I see an DE blind-sided by a left tackle and pancaked. Super happy to see more of them in the Cowboys lineup.

    The Callahan signing will hopefully supercharge our running game. I used to watch Jets games in 2009 just to enjoy their running game, I found the Schottenheimer/Callahan run doctrine with the Jets to be fantastic.

  • Este

    Felix Jones returned to action today and looked lightning past in the passing drills. “Lightning past” was that a Freudian slip.

  • jarhead

    barry church must demonstrate the ability to track the deep ball, or he is bust….
    lets see him against #1s in week 3 of pre-season, when teams play starters for extended periods.
    he holds up there…..well, he may be onto something.
    he’s got to prevent deep balls though. Pat Watkins picked everything in his first camp.
    they started the 5th rounder based on that huge camp, and he melted down when he got beat deep.

    • jgdsz

      How is a UDFA a bust? I’m a huge fan of him and his worst play last year was when he was part of the 3 that Megatron outjumped for a TD…but I mean that’s also because it’s Megatron

  • Bluefin

    I’m very happy reading about James Hanna not having any drops so far in training camp. The Dallas media was pretty quick to barbeque the Sooner for having stone hands early on in the rookie mini-camp.

    I read another report that lauded John Phillips for looking like a Jason Witten clone. I remember that Phillips studied everything Witten did back in 2009 hoping to find ways to improve his own game.

    At the same time, Martellus Bennett was busy telling reporters he couldn’t do things the Witten way because they were different players with their own styles.

    Rafael, has Phillips impressed you one way or the other so far?

    I know he doesn’t have Bennett’s physical ability, but he should be more consistent with assignments and a better passing game option, IMO.

  • Jose Salas

    Great to know that Witten is still the king!.
    Great job Raf! Keep up the good work.