Cowboys Camp Report, August 7: Teach Slowly, Hit Hard

Bill Parcells always used the first pre-season game as a pretext for ripping on his team the following week.  He would give his Cowboys teams the most vanilla of game plans, limiting their chances of success.  This way, there were always mistakes to identify and iron out.  Complacency was discouraged.

It seems that Jason Garrett and his staff has taken that part of Parcells’ mode of coaching to heart.  From Garrett’s “come to Jesus” remarks about his rookies’ game tape review to the feedback to today’s practice, it’s clear the coaches patted the players on the head, thanked them for the win, and then preceeded to grill them for every mistake they made against Miami.

Follow today’s practice timeline and you’ll see a staff engaged in loud and aggressive teaching  The lessons are applied across the board, as defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin took the role of bad cop, giving tough love to his leaders DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee.

This shows a staff that’s hungry for success.  What’s more, it hints that the staff feels the team has real promise this year, and is not settling for “better” results. They’re aiming for flawless.

As it should be.

6:10 CT — The Dolphins made some big runs against Dallas first unit early in Sunday’s contest and this apparently did not please Monte Kiffin.  He assembled the first team defense at mid-field on the near field today and had them walk step by step through basic runs.  The second unit put on the colored balaclavas to impersonate an offense and started to execute a run.

The defense would respond to it at talking speed and Kiffin would stop them after a couple of steps.  He would them move into the gaps where DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lissemore were.  He would move between them and explain how their spacing was suspect.  He would walk the linebackers into the gaps they should attack.

He would then have them move a couple more steps into the play.  Again, the agitated Kiffin would stop and show them what they should be doing and some of the ways in which they did not carry out their duties in the last game.

Kiffin continued this session for close to 20 minutes, all with the first team.  The emphasis appeared to be on gap responsibility on the edge.  Mike Sherman’s Dolphins ran around the Cowboys’ perimeters multiple times in their game.

6:15: First play of 11-on-11, Kiffin  interrupts the session to chew out starters who did not make the proper adjustment to the offense’s movement.  Kiffin is speaking to the linebackers, who are responsible for the call.  His tone is, peppery, shall we say.

6:35 — 11-on-11 just concluded.  Drill run half-speed with helmets off.  That didn’t stop Monte Kiffin, who continues to jump into this front seven between nearly every play.  He’s not yelling, but he’s pulling nearly every player to his face and giving them detailed attention.  It will be interesting to see how this translates once the 11-on-11 with hitting starts.

6:50:  On the far side with the OL.  Callahan is working with the OTs and Pollack is working with the interior linemen.  That’s a swap from their normal protocol.  David Arkin is working 1-on-1 with Mackenzy Bernadeau.  The back and forth is emphasizing coordinating hands and feet when an OT or a pulling guard is trying to seal the edge and turn a defender inside.

It’s not as noisy, but this drill has the same fine-grained detail that Marinelli’s group work had on the front seven.

Just outside the OL drills, WR Terrence Williams is working with a trainer.  He looks loose, but focused. He’s grinding through his workout and is not showing any negative signs from his injury last Friday.

Interesting injury note — Jay Ratliff, a regular in the workout group, has not been on the field today.

Last injury note — Wannabe OT Demetress Bell finished his cardio conditioning work early and is now standing with the offensive line group.  He’s not in pads, but until now he’s always worked at a distance from the team, with the “rehab group.”  Now, he’s watching the OL drills in close and is learning from his coaches and teammates.  This suggests that he may be ready for the Cardinals game, a week and a half from now.  That would give him three fake games to show his game to the coaches.

7:15 CT:  Team just finished 11-on-11,working off a script which has emphasized the right side.  Is this on purpose because they want to look at Bernadeau?  Results have been mixed up there.

When the team tries working to its left, DeMarcus Ware is blowing up everything.  He’s taking his coaches early-practice notes to heart.

Kyle Orton has been very good at dropping intermediate passes into bubbles in the defense’s zone. He’s been on-target with sideline patterns and throws in the middle.

Another offensive standout has been Lance Dunbar.  There’s an electricity when he enters the game.  It’s no longer that he’s making himself hard to cut.  Dunbar is making himself hard to keep on the bench.  He beat Ernie Sims in the open field again with a juke.

Dunbar’s doing more of this today.

7:40 — In 11-on-11, it’s a big day for the offense.  Dez Bryant and Miles Austin made long plays, something not seen before.  Austin took a slant and go 70 -75 yards.  Coaches are chanting “finish, finish, finish’ on every play.  Players know they have to work to the whistle or a defensive player will come up from behind and knock it away.

Gavin Escobar added to the offensive honor role for the day with an impressive catch over the middle, holding the ball when he was hit by three men.

The hitting in today’s scrimmages was very intense.  It’s clear the coaches are working off the Bill Parcells pre-season script.  They let the team blunder its way through an early game, and have pounced on the fundamental errors they saw in Canton.

The coaches may have been pleased with the win, but they’re not pleases with the sloppiness in certain aspects of the game, if their tenor is any indication.

The team is now working unit drills.  We have video, which will be posted tonight, of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher working with position coach Leon Lett on defending edge run, building on Rod Marinelli’s opening lessons.  Stay tuned for that.  DeMarcus Ware brought the drill to a temporary halt with an accidental smack at assistant DL coach Leon Lett’s fine and privates.  All appear to be okay.

7:50 — The players have taken their pads off and are still working 11-on-11.  The coaches still want to work on technique and game plans, but appear to have backed off a bit on the hitting.

8:00 CT — the team is back to where they started, walking through 11-on-11s, moving deliberately, so the coaches can provide detailed feedback on what they want the team to do.  In the near end zone, late arrival Jay Ratliff ran through a one-on-one hand-fighting session with LG Ronald Leary.



Dez Bryant is again getting extra attention from a trainer during stretching.  The extra work is focused on stretching his hamstrings and muscles in the hip areas. A hip strain kept him out for a few days at the end of week one.

— Romo watch.  The Cowboys  QB is clearly working through the soreness and tightness he experienced early in camp, when he could not stretch with the rest of the team.  Romo today has gone through nearly all of the stretches done by his teammates and was not grimacing, as he was in the early days.  Step by step, folks.

— Bernardeau watch: for those keeping track, Mackenzy Bernadeau “looked great” in the 11-on-11 helmet-free portion of the practice.  We’ll update you on him when the hitting starts.

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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  • Pete

    great write-up. i love the detail. Your the man Raf

    • oskieoskie

      I agree. One more example of why this is the best Cowboys blog on the web, bar none.

      Thanks, Raf.

  • Yuma Cactus

    Seems Garrett is taking many “teaching” aspects of Coaching i.e. calling out in a presser from both Parcells and Jimmy Johnson. As I’ve said before, it might not end up being the beats team since the mid nineties, but it will surely be the most “coached up” group to hit the field in a Star in a long while.

  • Arnoldo Becho

    So Raf do you agree that the pursuit of a FA guard was a big critique of the OGs on the team, especially Arkin?

    • Not really. Arkin was not the projected starter. Berndeau was and is. If anybody should be sweating it’s him, IMO, or Livings.

      It may suggest the team likes what it has and wants to fill in RG and make a go of it.

      • rabblerousr

        “It may suggest the team likes what it has and wants to fill in RG and make a go of it.”
        I think this is the story…

        • Steven Van Over

          Indeed …..

      • Steven Van Over

        You nailed it — the high salary (compartirively) Livings and Bernadeau are the ones in “danger” as Arkin is a quality (at this point) backup level player that is still trending upwards in a Free-ish fashion. From a bean counter perspective that is a no-brainer.

      • kameleon_o

        Of all the players that restructured their contracts Livings was the only one not turned in to the league by the Cowboys. That tells me a lot.

        All in all though I don’t think it matters much. I think both of our lines are going to be very bad this year. Way too much uncertainty and too little depth. Glad we drafted a backup TE and #3 WR. Gotta make sure the 4th and 5th receiving options are filled.

        Great camp coverage Raf BTW. Usual good stuff.

        • xgonzo22

          A receiving TE and a 3rd receiver are not backups in this offense. The lines both look much improved by scheme and coaching alone.
          Did you even watch the Game?

          • kameleon_o

            I think you’re definition of “backups” needs to be updated. I don’t care if Escobar is a receiving TE or not, he’s a BACKUP receiving TE and as of right now, he’s behind Hanna. So he’s not even the “backup” TE. He’s the backup, backup TE. And we’re hoping that Williams can be the 3rd WR once he gets back on the field. So even the best options are that Escobar and Williams will be ranked as receiving options in this order:

            Dez, Witten, Austin, Murray, Williams, Escobar.

            So you’re “don’t call them backups” receiving options will AT BEST be the 5th and 6th receiving options on the team. With all due respect I think you’re clueless about what a backup is.

            “Did you even watch the Game?”

            You’ve got to be kidding me!! You mean the game that was almost entirely played by “backups”??!! And even then mostly 3rd string “backups”??!! Wow. I guess you’re probably mad pre-season games don’t count, huh?? You’re basing what you think of our lines off that game?? A game where our D gave up over 400 yards and our offense racked up 266?? Yeah, color me impressed by that pre-season game.

      • Arnoldo Becho

        Thanks Raf, I have no idea why a picture of my wife is showing up as my avitar

        • Steven Van Over

          Thats ok, every one now understands (however) why you have such a positive demeanor! 🙂 Lucky guy.

  • Kevin

    Just to clarify, the Dolphins ran through the first defensive unit that played in the game. Our number one defense didn’t see the field for the most part.

    • True, but the coaches certainly didn’t care, judging from what they were doing today.