OXNARD, Calif. -- Three thoughts on Day 4 of Dallas Cowboys' training camp:
1) It was one play, just about as meaningless as can be, considering it was the first day players wore pads, but Morris Claiborne wanted to establish a tone.
First, he locked down Terrance Williams, forcing an incompletion. Then he jumped up and started woofing. Eventually, the players were separated.
It was the first time since he arrived that we’ve seen that type of feistiness from Claiborne.
Hey, whatever it takes. He’s been the epitome of a bust his first two seasons, allowing 70 completions in 117 attempts with only two interceptions and 13 pass deflections.
For a guy who was supposed to be the best defensive player in the 2012 draft that’s not nearly good enough.
Jason Garrett said he’s improved significantly during the offseason. It’s time for him to take it to the field.
Better secondary play is the fastest way for this defense to improve, since their pass rush remains suspect.
2) The Cowboys are moving closer to a long-term agreement with left tackle Tyron Smith, who’s going to deserve every nickel of whatever he gets.
Smith is man-handling the defensive ends on this roster, the way DeMarcus Ware used to destroy tackles, including Smith, during training camp.
Smith is only 23, so don’t be surprised if he signs a deal that’s nine or 10 years long. When he does, it’ll be interesting to see if Dez Bryant can continue to ignore his contract situation and play well.
After all, the club has already taken care of Sean Lee, who was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft. Bryant was the Cowboys’ first-round pick.
3) Kyle Wilber spent his first two seasons bouncing around between outside linebacker in the 3-4 and weakside defensive end.
Injuries last season created some playing time for him at strongside linebacker and the Cowboys suddenly found a player.
Wilber has the strength to hold the edge and consistently force running plays inside, in part because of the time he spent at defensive end, and he made several important plays for the Cowboys last season.
He finished the season with 44 tackles and two sacks, while starting six games.
The Cowboys were tied for 25th in the NFL with 34 sacks. Only five teams had fewer.
Their sack total was 10 fewer than the average 2013 playoff team.
Teams that don’t get many sacks often say they’re overrated. Well, they’re not. Pressure is good, but sacks are a momentum-changer and usually result in a punt at the end of the drive.
You must rush the passer and put quarterbacks under duress, or it’s hard to force turnovers and win games.
The Cowboys are counting on defensive Henry Melton, who missed the last 13 games with a torn ACL, to provide pressure up the middle. He has been a terrific pass-rusher, and they need him to command double teams to help other players get to the quarterback.
Player to Watch: Gavin Escobar
The Cowboys wasted Escobar’s rookie season. Hopefully, they’ve learned their lesson.
It’s dumb to ask a tight end who should excel at working from the slot and creating mismatches with his size to be the same type of player as Jason Witten.
Escobar can help this team by making plays downfield and giving Tony Romo one more vertical threat.
He caught nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He can be a playmaker, if Scott Linehan gives him a chance to do it. If not, he’ll be a wasted pick.