Monday, August 11, 2008

DMN Blog: Live from Oxnard XXII: Martellus Bennett made it to practice

Weather: 68 degrees and sunny.

Radio row has been abandoned other than the folding table that serves as blog central. A bunch of media types headed home after the preseason opener, and it looks light a pretty light crowd behind the fence for today's practice.

As I mentioned before, no pads for today's practice. Hopefully, the Cowboys will still do some competitive stuff for us to chronicle.

In the meantime, feel free to fire off any questions Todd Archer didn't address during today's chat. Answers and practice observations will be after the jump.

4:25 -- There's a new T-shirt I've seen around camp today. The front says, "YOU CAN TAKE MY HAT" and the back has "BUT NOT MY HEART!" You can guess which Jason Witten pictures are on the T-shirt. Marc Colombo and Kyle Kosier are among the fellas I've seen sporting those shirts this afternoon.

4:31 -- DE Marcus Dixon is still sidelined by a sore back. CB Terence Newman (groin) is not in uniform, either. Don't see CB Quincy Butler (hamstring). ... The Cowboys didn't suffer any significant injuries Saturday night. CB Orlando Scandrick had a mild stinger in his right arm, but he returned to the game and said he felt fine afterward.

4:34 -- Check that. We do have a Quincy Butler sighting. He's sporting No. 36 and will practice for the first time since the early days of camp. ... Stretching just started.

4:35 -- Second-round TE Martellus Bennett isn't out there. At this point, we're not sure whether his absence is related to the personal issue that kept him out of Thursday afternoon's practice. We'll let you know what we know when we know something.

4:39 -- OK, let's start off with an easy one. Teams have to cut down to 75 players Aug. 26 and 53 on Aug. 30.

4:41 -- Stretching just ended. Offense running plays vs. air, defense doing pursuit drills. ... Let's start off with the Anthony Spencer question, since I have some news on him. He'll sit out this afternoon with a sore knee. He's been consistently solid to good out here, and the Cowboys are confident he'll make a significant impact in his second season. TE Jason Witten said he doesn't play against a strongside OLB who is tougher to block. ... We'll leave Jacob Hester decleating coverage to our Cowboys Insider blog. ... DE Chris Canty was a "disruptive force" last season, to borrow Wade Phillips' term for him. There's no reason to believe that won't be the case again this season. Canty dominates the backups, usually beats Kyle Kosier and holds his own against Flozell Adams in practice. And he's awfully motivated, since he's entering a contract year. You shouldn't worry about Canty's production, but there is reason to wonder whether he'll be a Cowboy next season. Crazy Al Davis didn't do the Cowboys any favors when he gave DT Tommy Kelly a $50 million deal.

4:49 -- I can't explain the DT rankings that ran in SportsDay, because I didn't do them. Rick "Goose" Gosselin did, and I guarantee you he had input from scouts, coaches, personnel men, etc. I'd bump Jay Ratliff up a bit from No. 32. Very interesting that Tank Johnson was 10 spots higher.

4:52 -- The Cowboys practice against the Broncos twice Wednesday and twice Thursday. Those practices will be pretty physical, featuring a lot of 11-on-11 work. The teams agreed last season not to cut block, and it stands to reason that will be the case again this year. ... Courtney Brown didn't do anything that popped out at me, positive or negative. I'll try to ask around to see what the coaches thought of his performance against San Diego. I know they were very curious to see how he tackled, and he wasn't credited with any stops.

4:56 -- There was an officiating crew here for several days, so penalties were certainly emphasized during those practices. Not sure how much the coaching staff focuses on them otherwise. ... Sixth-round pick Erik Walden has struggled a bit while making the transition from small-college DE to NFL OLB. He's working with the third team. The coaches think he has potential as a pass rusher because of his explosiveness. His technique and ability to get off blocks need improvement. He's on the fringe of the 53-man roster at this point. ... I'm gonna head down the field for a bit. Looks like we're about to get some action.

5:15 -- Martellus Bennett made his way to the practice field about 10 minutes ago. We're still not sure what's up with him, but we'll find out after practice. ... 11-on-11 wasn't real exciting. No pads kinda puts a damper on the enthusiasm, you know? The most interesting thing was to see who was working with which groups. ... NT Tank Johnson got some reps with the starters. He split time at nose with Jay Ratliff and Marcus Spears, both of whom also worked at left DE. ... Alan Ball was the left CB with the No. 2 defense. He let Isaiah Stanback get behind him on a go route and face-guarded, much like he did on the pass interference against the Chargers. ... Evan Oglesby worked at right CB with the No. 3 defense. ... Brad Johnson was picked off by S Tyler Everett. Johnson overthrew an out route to TE Tony Curtis.

5:20 -- They're working on punt coverage now. While that's an area of significant concern -- and rightfully so -- it's not much fun to watch during practice. Especially without pads. They're basically making sure guys know their assignments.

5:22 -- OK, time to hit some questions. ... Pressure as Martellus Bennett's kryptonite? I don't know about that. The vague info I got about his "personal issue" from last week has nothing to do with pressure or his commitment to football. We don't know why he was late today yet. .... I don't see any reason to be concerned about bad blood between the Cowboys and Broncos. John Lynch was the one belly-aching about the Cowboys game planning, and Denver let him go. ... Here's a little more not-quite-full-speed 11-on-11 action. Coming my way.