Cowboys camp report: Day 7

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
OXNARD, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Dallas Cowboys training camp:
  • With Tony Romo sitting out of the afternoon workout Brandon Weeden took the first-team full-pad reps for the first time in camp. He completed 13 of 18 passes in team and seven-on-seven drills. In the two-minute drills he directed the offense to a game-tying 41-yard field goal by Dan Bailey at the end of regulation. Weeden completed six of eight passes on the drive, and his best throw might have been one of his incompletions.

    With nine seconds left, Weeden looked in the end zone for Dez Bryant, but Morris Claiborne was in good position.

    “In that situation you have three points,” Weeden said. “We have a great kicker so you can’t turn the ball over. You’ve got a chance to make a play and put it where he can catch it or nobody else ... I knew the DB wasn’t going to catch it. That’s the main thing.”

    Weeden took all of the first-team reps in the spring but noticed a difference in running it with pads on for the first time.

    More than anything it’s in the run game and the pass rush,” Weeden said. “You’re banging. It’s more of a bomb went off back there. That’s what a game will be like ... With the pads on it’s easier to do that stuff. Without pads, you can’t really do a lot of that stuff we’re trying to do now. It was good. It feels like real football.”
  • The hit of the day might have belonged to rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens in one-on-one pass rush drills with running backs. Hitchens flattened Joseph Randle in the drill and immediately had fellow linebacker Justin Durant jumping on his back in celebration. To Randle’s credit, he responded in his next two reps, including a good standstill with Orie Lemon. All of the running backs not named DeMarco Murray struggled in the pass-protection drill. When coach Jason Garrett had Murray go up against Bruce Carter in the daily offense vs. defense matchup, Murray won the matchup.
  • Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan is considered a very technical coach. During individual drills, the offensive line worked on the proper way to throw a forearm shiver as they moved up on combination blocks. Callahan explained that the move has to be short and quick and the lineman cannot wind up or get his arm outside the framework of his body. The work paid off later in running drills with some good combination blocks from the line.
  • Caleb Hanie had his first extended work of camp with Romo sitting, moving up to the second team. He was late on a throw to tight end James Hanna, who beat linebacker DeVonte Holloman, allowing Holloman the chance to recover and make the pass deflection. He was short on a deep throw to Jamar Newsome that gave Tyler Patmon the ability to make the break up.
  • After DeMarcus Lawrence went down with an ankle/foot injury, Martez Wilson seemed to kick in. Wilson had two sakcs in team drills (one of Hanie, one of Dustin Vaughan). He also added a pressure of Vaughan.

Giants Camp Report: Day 7

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Unfortunately, the news of the day was injuries, headlined by running back David Wilson's neck burner. The Giants sent Wilson to New York and the Hospital for Special Surgery for a full battery of tests because they want to be as careful as possible with his neck as he's coming off spinal fusion surgery and only last week was cleared for full practice. It's possible this turns out just to be a low-level scare, but it's important to take every possible precaution given the recent history with Wilson and his neck. By comparison, the nagging hamstring troubles that kept Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle, Xavier Grimble and Trindon Holliday sidelined seem like minor issues.
  • Interesting practice for Larry Donnell, who's still No. 1 on the team's tight end depth chart and possibly in the coaches' hearts. He fumbled a ball near the goal line after one catch, but then got back up and made a leaping, one-handed touchdown grab in the back right corner of the end zone on the next play. All of the tight ends (except the injured Grimble) are getting lots of run, and they're all getting their share of first-team reps. There are a lot of formations the Giants are using in practice in which two tight ends are on the field at the same time, and they're lined up all over the place. They really need one or two guys to step forward from this group.
  • Jerrel Jernigan dropped three punts that my "NFL Insiders" colleague Field Yates and I counted during punt-return drills. That's not good, and with Beckham and Holliday unable to return punts we're seeing a lot of David Wilson (before he had to leave), Victor Cruz (who's not going to do it in games) and Charles James on the punt return unit. Maybe that's a way for James to sneak onto the roster, who knows? It was good to see Field, regardless.
  • Humorous highlights included a halfback pass from Peyton Hillis to Donnell that, shockingly, fell incomplete and a Trumaine McBride interception of Curtis Painter that he ran back for a touchdown with fellow corners Prince Amukamara and Walter Thurmond rushing off the sidelines and accompanying him home. I also thought it was funny that Jason Pierre-Paul joined in the defensive backs' post-practice huddle but left because their motivational chants are growing too complicated. Pierre-Paul continues to look fantastic in practice, by the way.
  • And I haven't been charting each and every rep, but it seemed to me that John Jerry got more time at first-team right guard Tuesday than he has been. Brandon Mosley's still the main guy there, and certainly has an opportunity to hold off Jerry and claim the spot for his own. But they do like Jerry and want to give him a look as his surgically repaired knee allows.
  • The Giants are off Wednesday and return to practice Thursday.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Three thoughts on Day 6 of Dallas Cowboys' training camp:

1. Matt Johnson is never going to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

He has yet another hamstring injury -- this is three training camps in a row -- and he’s expected to miss at least a week. That said, who among us will be shocked if he misses more than that.

The Cowboys have liked Johnson’s potential so much that they’ve kept him on the roster, even though the former fourth-round pick has never appeared in a game in his first two seasons.

He’s been good in practice, according to coaches and teammates, but will that be enough?

It’s hard to believe they would keep him for another year, which means paying him for a third year, if he can’t stay healthy and compete for a job. The competition at safety is taut. Every day he misses diminishes his slim odds of making the team.

2. Sean Lee is the kind of player you hope has success because he’s the epitome of what coaches want in a player and what players want in a teammate.

Yes, he’s been hurt frequently. Too frequently. And the reality is the Cowboys can’t really depend on him because he hasn’t shown an ability to stay on the field.

But his injuries are the result of bad luck -- not poor conditioning or training -- and you can tell he’s miserable about the missed time. He doesn’t have to be at training camp.

He could be rehabbing in Dallas, but he wants to be around his teammates. He’s sitting in on meetings and film sessions. He’s doing everything the other linebackers are doing except playing.

Not many other players would do that.

3. Henry Melton's knee is essentially fine from a structural perspective. Any athlete who’s had a knee injury will tell you the most difficult part of recovery is trusting the knee again.

That’s why the preseason games will be so important to Melton, especially as an interior lineman. He must get used to players falling on his legs or banging into them.

He must get used to the game’s physicality, and he must become adept again at maintaining his balance and staying on his feet when guys around him are falling down.

When he does -- no matter how long it takes -- that’s when he’ll return to being a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive tackle.

Key Number: 71

The Cowboys gave up 71 pass plays of 20 yards or more last season. No team allowed more.

Super Bowl champion Seattle allowed 30. The 12 playoff teams yielded an average of 51.

The Cowboys have no chance to win if they don’t stop the big plays. It makes it too easy for the offense. Improved safety play will help, but the Cowboys must figure out how to rush the passer and remove quarterbacks from their comfort zone.

Player to Watch: Cole Beasley

This is the first time Cole Beasley has ever entered training camp with outside expectations.

He seems ready to meet them.

He caught 39 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns last season. More important, he earned Tony Romo's trust.

On third down, he caught 14 of the 18 passes directed toward him for 146 yards, 11 first downs and a touchdown. When the Cowboys use Beasley in the slot on third downs along with Jason Witten at tight end, it gives Romo a pair of players with good hands who can work underneath and make first downs.

Beasley played only 247 snaps last year. Miles Austin, who had 541 snaps, is gone. Look for Beasley to gobble up a bunch of Austin’s playing time, which means he could easily catch 60 passes this season.
OXNARD, Calif. -- A hamstring injury will keep Dallas Cowboys safety Matt Johnson out for at least a week if not more in training camp, continuing a trend that started soon after he was drafted in 2012.

Johnson suffered the injury in a pursuit drill in Sunday's practice, ending his day. It is the same leg he injured in the spring during organized team activities that kept him off the field. He missed most of his rookie season with recurring hamstring injuries and did not play last season because of foot surgery.

"Yesterday I was talking to my brother and stuff and I had a pity party, and you can't do that because it's not going to solve anything," Johnson said. But I just don't know. I've done everything I could -- stayed late, get here early, rehab it. I've done more in the month off that we had from the summer than I ever have in my life. Not as far as overworking it but as far as trying to get it ready. The conditioning test, felt fine. The first couple three days, felt good. I felt really good warming up I was like, 'You know what I'm going to give it all I had,' and ... it wasn't anything bad, but it's just frustrating knowing you can't got 100 percent and in the NFL you have to go 100 percent."

Johnson had an MRI on Sunday that revealed a strain. Coach Jason Garrett said defensive tackle Terrell McClain (ankle) could miss a week or so. Darius Morris (hamstring), Will Smith (groin) and Ben Gardner (shoulder) did not take part in the walkthrough. Executive vice president Stephen Jones said he hoped Gardner could practice in the afternoon.
OXNARD, Calif. -- The Dallas Cowboys have seen glimpses of his talent during defensive tackle Henry Melton's first two full-contact practices, but he's far from Pro Bowl form.

That's to be expected from a player coming off a torn ACL, which Melton suffered in September of last season with the Chicago Bears. But the coaches aren't making any excuses for Melton.

In fact, head coach Jason Garrett made a point to publicly challenge Melton during Tuesday afternoon's press conference, noting that he'd been dominated by center Travis Frederick in a pass-rush drill Sunday.

"I think he is getting his feet underneath him, getting stronger, and as much as anything else when you've had an injury like this, it's the confidence to be able to do naturally what you have done your whole life," Garrett said. "He's getting to that point. We had a good 1-on-1 pass rush between Travis Frederick and him the other day and Travis won handily. I think knowing what I know about Henry Melton from afar, he is going to respond the right way."

The Cowboys are encouraged by Melton's progress in his return from the knee injury. There have been flashes of the quickness and explosiveness that helped Melton, who started his college career at Texas as a tailback, earn a Pro Bowl bid while playing for Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli in 2012.

Garrett said Melton looks good in non-contact individual drills but must work on his "contact balance," which is to be expected for a player coming off a major knee injury.

"It feels good," Melton said. "I was testing it out obviously the first day. I haven't been in pads since late September last year. It was good to kick the rust off. I've got a long way to go, but we're just going to keep working."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The good news is that the regular season is still nearly six weeks away, but the New York Giants really don't need any more wide receivers with hamstring problems.

Rueben Randle sat out Giants practice Tuesday with a hamstring injury, joining rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., rookie tight end Xavier Grimble and wide receiver/kick returner Trindon Holliday among those missing practice with the same injury.

"He was sore in the hamstring, so we held him," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of Randle.

It didn't sound like a serious problem, but we will see. The Giants are off Wednesday and return to practice Thursday. It's possible Randle returns after missing just this one day, but if he doesn't, there's obviously a strong chance they won't play him Sunday night in the preseason opener against the Bills in Canton, Ohio.
Cleaning out some thoughts on the Washington Redskins players' day off:
  • Griffin
    There's no drama. Certainly for the team, that's a good thing. Last summer it was mostly about Robert Griffin III's knee with an undercurrent of tension between head coach Mike Shanahan and Griffin. Now? It's Camp Love. A fresh start and approach after a 3-13 season has been welcomed by all. The energy in practice is different, in part because there's a more physical approach.
  • Teams that want to be more physical find players who are that way. It's one reason they drafted players such as linebacker Trent Murphy and corner Bashaud Breeland and brought in a safety such as Ryan Clark. But it can be hard to weed out who can play that way when you rarely hit in practice. In the old days, under Marty Schottenheimer, it wasn't tough to see. They were in full pads twice a day. Even I was exhausted at the end of camp.
  • You know it's a drama-free camp when perhaps your most popular story involves a fan getting players' signatures on his arm and turning them into tattoos. Last summer, that wouldn't have caused a stir. This summer? Story!
  • RG III looks so much better than he did while returning last summer from his knee injury. Of course, he should look better given the differences in the offseason. He's not Peyton Manning out there, but Griffin has thrown some excellent passes and made some good reads. There are times when he's forced to run and that's when it's often hard to tell why, without going back and seeing what happened. In the past, he often ran when he could have thrown. I will say, he's cut down on those runs as camp has progressed.
  • The real key in RG III's relationship with Gruden will be how each side handles adversity during the season. It will come; it always does. If Gruden has been consistent with him in his approach to that point, and continues that way, then it will be OK. Both sides will learn a lot at that point.
  • It'll be interesting to see how teams defend the Redskins and how much they blitz. The Redskins can make teams pay because of their talent in the passing game at receiver and tight end. Handle the blitz well early and watch teams back off. If not …
  • Safety Brandon Meriweather continues to decline any and all interview requests, instead pointing to Clark as his translator (spokesman would be a better word; the only player I've needed a translator for in the past was probably Rod Gardner with his thick country dialect).
  • But Meriweather is among those keeping second-year corner David Amerson in line. After one practice, Amerson headed to the Jugs machine to catch passes and then had to fulfill an interview request. Meriweather chastised him and prodded him to go sign some autographs. Amerson listened.
  • Still don't know what Clark has left as a player; tough to fully gauge his game until the preseason. So this position remains a question mark. Meriweather rags on Clark for how often he speaks to the media. If you're going to talk, you'd best still show you can play and that's the task ahead for Clark. At this point, it's too early to say and the key will be staying durable and getting through the season. At 34, that's always a key.
  • And while Keenan Robinson looks pretty good, we still don't know if he be effective against the run. Only one way to find out, but can't go overboard on him until he proves he can tackle and stop the run. Really, the same is true of Will Compton. I think the inside linebacker spot and who they keep will be interesting.
  • I like what I've seen thus far from Kory Lichtensteiger at center. His quickness here helps and his lack of size should not hurt him as much as it did at guard. There, he was responsible for many more one-on-one matchups. At center, he'll more often than not end up helping the guards and double teaming. And his quickness in the run game allows him to reach his intended spot quicker. He's held his own against Barry Cofield.
  • I still don't know when end Jason Hatcher will return and I think he's getting tired of being asked. It'll be six weeks Thursday since he underwent surgery -- at the time his recovery was said to be four-to-six weeks.
  • Still don't think receiver Leonard Hankerson will be ready at the start of the season. Nobody has said anything, but my hunch is that he'll end up on the physically unable to perform list. Not reporting that, but just a gut feel.
OXNARD, Calif. – All of the backup tight end talk around the Dallas Cowboys has centered around Gavin Escobar. After all, Escobar was a second-round pick last year and the Cowboys added a new tight ends coach in Mike Pope to develop Escobar.

But what about the guy who was the backup tight end last season, James Hanna? He started eight of 16 games. He caught more passes than Escobar (12 to nine).

“He’s in it,” coach Jason Garrett said of the tight end mix. “He’s battling for a role just like he did last year. For a lot of last year he kind of held Escobar off and played a lot of snaps for us. He’s a good football player. He can run, and I think both he and Escobar are getting better at ‘My hand is on the ground, physical, Y-type blocking.’ Coach Pope will really help guys in that regard. He’s in the mix. He’s someone we have a lot of confidence in.”

Hanna is on his third position coach in his three years in the league, going from John Garrett to Wes Phillips to now Pope. The teachings of the three are more different than Hanna imagined, from footwork to hand placement in blocking.

“Every coach is a lot different,” Hanna said. “They want us to do things differently, so I’ve got to adjust to that, but it’s still the same game.”

When he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, the Cowboys raved about his speed. Except for one game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (two catches, 45 yards) the Cowboys have not put him in position to use his speed. He has improved as a blocker, however, and has taken some first-team snaps in the running game when the Cowboys use two tight ends.

He has also developed into a valuable special-teams member.

“My view of it is I want it to be so that they have to play me, and hopefully Rich [Bisaccia] feels like he needs me because I can play on special teams,” Hanna said. “Hopefully I get my shots on offense, too.”

Dallas Cowboys hope youth serves

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
OXNARD, Calif. -- These are not your father’s Dallas Cowboys.

And we’re not talking about the glory years set forth by Tom Landry, Roger Staubach and so many others and added to by Jimmy Johnson and the Triplets. We’re talking these aren’t your 2010 Cowboys, who preceded this three-year run of nothing but 8-8.

Of the 90 players on the current roster, only eight remain from when Jason Garrett took over from Wade Phillips: Tony Romo, Jason Witten, L.P. LaDouceur, Anthony Spencer, Doug Free, Orlando Scandrick, Dez Bryant and Barry Church.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Lawrence
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsRookie DeMarcus Lawrence was 11 years old when Tony Romo and Jason Witten were rookies in 2003.
But dig deeper. The Cowboys have undergone a youth movement. Forty-six of the 90 players are in their first camp with the Cowboys. Only nine players are 30 or older. Forty-two were born in 1990 or later.

More than once in camp Garrett has said the Cowboys have gone from one of the oldest teams in the league to one of the youngest over the past few years.

There can be good from coaching youth: they don’t have poor habits, they don’t suffer as many injuries. There can be bad from coaching youth: they don’t have the experience, and most of the time the knowhow, required to win at a high level.

“You have to be mindful of their experience and what they can handle, and you do that all the time with individual players, and the more individual players who are younger that you have, you might have to do that from a system basis as well,” Garrett said. “We’re mindful of that. It’s not the same playbook every year -- ‘Hey, here we go. This is what we’ve been doing forever. I’m handing down the 10 Commandments, the tablets from Mt. Sinai -- that’s not how it works. We have to understand our philosophy, our system of football and offense, defense and the kicking game. We also have to understand the 90 guys we have on our roster and what works best for them and how we can put them in the best light to be the best unit we can be.”

Though the Cowboys will not be offering remedial lessons on their playbook, the defensive scheme will be cut back in order for them to play fast. Jeremy Mincey could be the oldest defensive starter at 31. The next oldest starter would be cornerback Brandon Carr, 28.

“We had a lot of guys on our football team the last couple of years who didn’t practice during the week getting ready for a game, because they were dealing with injuries and they happened to be older guys,” Garrett said. “So it’s always been a younger man’s league. We’ve made that transition and we’re going to give some younger guys a chance to compete.”

In previous camps Garrett would be mindful of the legs of older players like DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Miles Austin, giving them “vet” days. Now the “vet” days will be fewer and might be far between.

DeMarcus Lawrence was 11 when Tony Romo and Jason Witten were rookies.

For Witten, the influx of youth could help in 2014 because most of the younger faces have not experienced the disappointment of not only the past three seasons, but the past six or seven.

“The urgency that you talk about and you want to play with, you’ve got to show that,” Witten said. “That’s what excites me every day is the leadership of this team. Our best players work the hardest and kind of set the tempo and the stage of what we want to be about. A lot of young players and obviously talented, and they’re going to help our football team (but) we’ve got to show them the way. And I think they’ll be huge assets for us.”

Redskins learn from RG III injury

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
It was the slogan. It was the documentary. It was a coach who figured they could ease him back in. It was a doctor calling him superhuman. It also was a group that overlooked the obvious: When it comes to playing quarterback in the NFL, especially for a young guy, there’s no substitute for repetitions. That’s where Bruce Allen, in essence, said the Washington Redskins organization erred last summer when it came to Robert Griffin III.

Allen told ESPN 950 radio Monday that having Griffin play after only a couple of weeks of practice was “disrespectful to football.”

That's easy to say now. Although his return was heavily debated, it wasn’t as if many in the organization were saying behind the scenes that Griffin should wait a few more weeks.

His knee was ready and cleared by Dr. James Andrews. His game? Another matter. Griffin did not look sharp in the throwing sessions the media could watch. But at the time, you figured it was natural rust and would be shed soon. Griffin, after all, was an athlete on a different level.

Ah, but playing quarterback is about more. It’s safe to say Griffin could have used a few more weeks of nurturing his game before returning. The problem at the time was this: The Redskins were entering the regular season, and he didn’t have time to continue rebuilding his game. Coaches often say young quarterbacks grow more in the offseason between their first and second seasons. Griffin didn’t have that. It took him a while to gain any sort of consistency and rhythm. A big play or game would be followed by erratic play; it never really changed.

There’s no doubt coach Mike Shanahan felt as if he had no choice but to insert Griffin. Allen never mentioned him, but Shanahan had the ultimate authority. There was so much hype surrounding Griffin's desire to return, which left the coach wondering how it would be perceived if he didn’t start him. Shanahan had the utmost confidence in Kirk Cousins -- but Cousins sprained his foot and missed two weeks, not returning until right before the opener.

Shanahan could have made a decision, just as he could have made one in the 2012 playoff loss and not used Griffin. A coach with two Super Bowl rings has that authority. Shanahan failed to make the decision; no one from the organization publicly disagreed with the move, either.

It’s funny, though, because life is different for Griffin with Jay Gruden. It’s almost as if the Redskins are trying the George Costanza approach: Whatever was done in the past, do the opposite. Gruden is more player-friendly and certainly more compatible with Griffin. They are trying to decrease the importance of his legs (the Shanahans incorporated them in part to ease the transition to the NFL), at least on designed runs; when he has run in camp, it’s been off scrambles. If any situations arise with Griffin when it comes to injuries, my guess is they will take a different approach there, too.

Gruden knows what went wrong here in the past. But it wasn’t just one or two people who learned a lesson when it came to handling Griffin’s injury. It was an organization. More than one person shared in this responsibility. If they learned from it, Griffin and the team can move forward with confidence.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Dez Bryant has yet to hit his prime, so he playfully protests when asked about being the old head among the Dallas Cowboys' receivers.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
AP Photo/Gus RuelasReceiver Dez Bryant, a first-round pick in 2010, relishes his role as one of the Cowboys' veterans.
"I'm not the old guy!" Bryant said with a kid's goofy grin.

OK, Bryant is a little more than a year younger than Dwayne Harris. However, in terms of NFL experience, Bryant suddenly finds himself as the senior member of the receiving corps as he enters his fifth NFL season at the ripe old age of 25.

The leadership role rests firmly on Bryant's shoulders after the Cowboys cut Miles Austin during the offseason. Truthfully, Bryant has transitioned into that role over the past year due to his ability as much as his experience. It's only natural for young players, such as second-year receiver Terrance Williams or rookie Devin Street, to look to an elite talent to set the tone.

"There's a greater responsibility when you're the best player in the room," receivers coach Derek Dooley said. "People generally look up to guys that have been to Pro Bowls and made these great plays. You can either be an example in a positive way or be an example in a negative way.

"I'm really blessed to have a guy like Dez because he has an incredible work ethic on the field and an incredible desire to get better in his trade. All that does is spill down to the rest of the guys."

All old jokes aside, Bryant takes his responsibility as a leader among the receivers seriously. He helped build a brotherhood-like bond by frequently organizing offseason group dinners, when the receivers would typically shoot the bull until the restaurant closed and Bryant refused to let anyone else pay the bill.

Bryant radiates positivity, often going out of his way to praise the other receivers, publicly and privately. He carefully picks his spots to offer constructive criticism, too.

"He just doesn't talk just to talk," Williams said. "The times he does say something, people listen because it's something that can help us all out. The times he's coaching me, he's coaching the whole group. We all pay attention to the stuff he says, because when he talks, he means it."

More than anything, Bryant sets a tone with his approach to the game. He's attentive and engaged in the meeting room, a far cry from the kid who used to be frequently tardy and struggle to focus in film sessions. Bryant has always epitomized passion on the practice field.

"Dez sets the tone every day at practice," No. 3 receiver Cole Beasley said. "He just has so much fire in him. It pumps all of our receivers up and makes us want to work. That's what he does every day. He comes out here and works hard and pushes us to be better because he's such a freak."

Added Williams: "When you have somebody like that, you don't want to let that guy down."
OXNARD, Calif. -- Dez Bryant caught 11 balls out of the slot last season, which is nine more than he caught in 2012.

The Cowboys want him to catch a lot more from the slot this season.

 The Cowboys can finally expand Bryant's package of plays because they can move him around the formation and put him in the slot, where he doesn't have to deal with bump-and-run coverage.

Jason Garrett said the Cowboys would've liked to have done it in other years, but Bryant wasn't ready. His grasp of all the different positions wasn't good enough.

Now, it is.

There's a significant difference between playing outside receiver and one who is in the slot.

"He's grown as an inside receiver," Garrett said. "The trait and the qualities are different. I've been around a lot of outside receivers who looked like a fish out of water when they moved inside.

"If you picture an X receiver in right formation, there's no one outside of you. You're typically working against a corner by yourself or there's a safety rotating over the top. When you're inside, you have people inside of you and outside of you. You have a linebacker walked out, you have a safety coming down, and you have to have a feel for how to run the routes because there's a lot going on.

"It has a lot to do with your feel as an athlete -- your vision, your instincts and your experience. You have to get in there and do it."
OXNARD, Calif. -- Defensive end George Selvie started every game last season, but he's still the same guy who spent the first few days of training camp hoping his phone would ring.

The Dallas Cowboys, desperate for bodies after a rash of injuries to the defensive line early in last year's camp, finally called Selvie. He signed a two-year, minimum-salary deal with nothing guaranteed but a plane ticket to Southern California.

Selvie, who had three sacks and played for three teams in the first three years of his career, showed up to Oxnard believing that this could be his last opportunity to stick in the NFL. He made the most of it, recording seven sacks last season and returning to Oxnard as the starter.

Yet Selvie still feels like he has to compete for a roster spot.

"A lot has changed, but I've got to move forward and go with what I've got now," Selvie said. "I'm very blessed to be in the position that I am in right now. I'm just moving forward and trying to get better.

"I'm not a big-time guy. I'm not getting paid a lot of money. Even those guys are fighting to stay on the roster. If they don't perform, you can get cut. I'm definitely out here trying to get better and trying to fight for a job."

Selvie is fired up about the perception that the defensive line is Dallas' weakest link. He was reminded of that the other night as he watched television with some of his linemates. They were excited to see their pictures flash across the screen, only to then see the words "Biggest Question Mark in the League."

Selvie wants to prove that perception wrong. He wants to prove his performance last season wasn't a fluke. He wants to prove again that he belongs in NFL.

"People still don't give me credit for last year," Selvie said. "But that comes with the territory. I was a no-name guy. I came off the couch. I've just got to go out there and prove myself again. That's what football is all about. Year after year, you've got to come out there and prove yourself."

Eagles Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
PHILADELPHIA – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Philadelphia Eagles training camp:

  • The Eagles drew just under 15,000 fans for the first of three open training camp practices this summer. It was the first chance for fans to see the changes to Lincoln Financial Field. It was also Military Appreciation Day, and dozens of active service people were in attendance. “It’s awesome, man,” cornerback Cary Williams said. “You’ve got some people who can’t afford to come to a regular game. This is their opportunity to sit in these green seats and enjoy what we put out every day.”
  • The Eagles wore full pads for the first time, but there wasn’t significantly more hitting than there was in the first two days. Coach Chip Kelly has made it clear he sees practices as teaching and training opportunities and really puts a lot of weight on preseason games for evaluating player performance.
  • Several players did stand out. None of the four quarterbacks has thrown a single interception during the first three days of practice. LeSean McCoy looked impressive running the ball as well as catching it. He made it very tough on linebackers, especially Mychal Kendricks, who were called upon to cover him. Rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews got open in the middle of the field for two consecutive catches from backup quarterback Mark Sanchez.
  • The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Matthews plays primarily in the slot. Kelly likes the kind of matchup issues that can create. “Obviously, a lot of the corners who play slot corner in this league are a little smaller,” Kelly said. “You can create some mismatches from that standpoint. If you’re going to leave a linebacker in the game, obviously there’s some athletic mismatches we can exploit there. Also, in the run game, our slot receivers have to block. That’s one thing Jason Avant was outstanding at last year.”
  • Unlike his predecessor, Andy Reid, who opened every news conference with a list of injured players, Kelly seldom brings up injuries. He isn’t especially forthcoming when asked, either. His approach is basically that he’s coaching the players who are healthy and the trainers are working with those who aren’t. Four Eagles were limited or out of Monday’s practice: nose tackle Bennie Logan (hamstring), wide receiver Riley Cooper, running back Chris Polk and center Julian Vandervelde. None of the injuries appeared serious. The Eagles are off on Wednesday.

Giants Camp Report: Day 6

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Another short practice for the Giants, who cut it off after about an hour and 15 minutes and headed inside for another recovery stretch. The longer training camp this year gives them a chance to build in rest breaks as dictated by the GPS technology the players are wearing during practice, and they're taking advantage of it. The hamstring injuries to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Xavier Grimble are the only injuries that are holding people out of practices so far, and Beckham's was apparently a holdover from the spring. So I guess you could say it's working.
  • One interesting thing I saw in the 11-on-11 period: There was a play on which wide receiver Marcus Harris was lined up out wide to the right, and just before the snap he motioned a few steps to his left into a three-man "bunch" formation with fellow wide receivers Julian Talley and Jerrel Jernigan. Bunch formations are one possible technique the Giants could use to help offset the fact that their wide receiver group is made up of relative small players. Instead of asking a small wideout to beat a defender off the line, you bunch them up in order to try and create confusion at the snap in the hope that one or more of them gets loose.
  • For the second day in a row, Ryan Nassib completed a downfield seam throw to a tight end. Monday it was Larry Donnell, who had to go high in the air to catch the ball and then somersaulted foward in the air as he fell to the ground with it. Earlier in the practice, Daniel Fells caught a touchdown pass from Eli Manning. It was Kellen Davis who caught the seam pass from Nassib on Sunday. The tight ends continue to rotate in and out of the practice reps as the coaches hope one or two of them start to distinguish themselves. It has not yet happened.
  • It was the second straight day in full pads, and there were some incidents. Fullback Henry Hynoski got into a very brief post-play scuffle with a defensive player. We couldn't see exactly who it was -- could have been Johnathan Hankins or Jameel McClain. But Hynoski's helmet went flying off, and the crowd got a kick out of it. Right at the end of practice, defensive tackle Jay Bromley made a big hit and full tackle on running back Kendall Gaskins, drawing a scolding from coach Tom Coughlin, who doesn't want his players tackling each other to the ground in practice.
  • The Giants mixed-and-matched some interesting defensive line looks, moving ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka inside on a couple of plays. And their NASCAR showed up, with pass-rushers Pierre-Paul, Kiwanuka, Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore all on the field at the same time.