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Scout's Eye: Day 1 observations

My thoughts from Saturday’s practice:

*Doug Free struggled at left tackle in some pass protection. In pre-practice I noticed that he was working by himself on his “kick-slide” technique. This is the way a tackle gets away from the line of scrimmage by kicking his outside leg back and sliding his plant foot. By doing this, it sets himself up for the block.

It appeared to me that Free in his mind was trying not only to work for the proper depth but width in his set. We have talked about how different angles and footwork would be for him as he went from the right to left side. There were back-to-back plays in the team period where he was beaten badly by the rush to his outside shoulder.

Free is a good enough foot athlete to correct these mistakes. We will need to follow his progress when the one-on-one drills take place at some point in camp. I do see the positive in that each day he will be working against two of the better pass rushers in the league in DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.

*Dave Campo, Brett Maxie and the Cowboys secondary deserve a lot credit for the type of effort and playmaking ability they showed in practice.

In his press conference, Wade Phillips spoke of how much better the “check down” game was with the offense today. The reason the “check downs” were so good was the fact that the receivers had to deal with guys like Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick in tight coverage. I didn’t see much space for the quarterbacks to fit balls in.

Safeties Alan Ball, Mike Hamlin and Patrick Watkins showing range on the back end, which is something this team has struggled with in the past. I was impressed with the fluid movement of Ball. He really turns easy and can cover some ground. The reason I believe that they have Ball playing free safety is his ability to potentially create more turnovers. In this first practice, the defensive backs were able to get themselves into position to make plays on the ball, which is something that had to make Phillips smile.

*I really did believe that going into this 2010 training camp, there was going to be a battle to see who would be the backup tight end behind Jason Witten. I thought that John Phillips outplayed Martellus Bennett and deserved the extended playing time that he received in 2009. Now that Bennett is on the shelf with an ankle injury, Phillips will have the opportunity to continue to build his trust with the front office and the coaching staff. Phillips is nowhere near as talented as Bennett, but what he brings to the game is his ability to function in several roles.

During practice, he lined up inline as a normal tight end, as the H-back or move guy and as the fullback. Is he a trained “killer” as a blocker? No, but he has gotten better because of his technique and effort. As a scout, I am a John Phillips fan and will be interested to see how the battle between he and Martellus shapes up.