Notes and Highlights
It looks like hydration will continue to be an issue as players are battling tight muscles. Pittman was the latest addition to the inactives as he sat out with a hamstring injury with Hillis and Mustard.
The team is looking at different nickel packages, including a Moss/Mallard/Ekuban/DOOM line, DJ and Boss doing the 'backing, and Bly, Champ, Foxy, Hamza and McCree doing the covering. The front six in particular with this group looks fast. It has been mentioned in several places that guys are knocking down passes on the defensive line, something we haven't talked about much when we consider the virtues of guys like Moss, Mallard, and Ekuban. And for a "short" guy, DOOM has a knack for getting his hands up too, swatting 7 last year...
Speaking of Royal, Wednesday seemed to be his coming-out party. He has made great plays before, but this morning he made several grabs including one where he layed out to catch a laser from Cutler in between Jack Williams and Roderick Rogers. During 7 on 7 drills, he also got away from Bly and made a long over-the-shoulder catch for a nice gain, and later caught another bomb for a touchdown.
You really have to love a guy who is laying out in practice to get his chances. I haven't heard anything negative about Royal in a week's worth of practices, and better still, he seems to be catching everything that comes his way. Nothing gives a coach or a quarterback more confidence in what you might be able to do on gameday. Royal is getting it done.
Rookie Josh Barrett made a big play during 7-on-7 drills. Tony Scheffler made a great grab in traffic and starting running up the sidelines, but Barrett ran at him and stripped away the ball. Not only did he cause the fumble but he recovered it as well and ran to the opposite sideline before the entire offense chased him out of bounds.
A look at the safety position will go up later tonight, so any news on the position seems particularly relevant. This is one of the ultimate roles of a safety, to turn the tide of a game just when it seems the opponent has the upper hand. A knock against Barrett was always that he never put the whole package together like a Laron Landry type of player. Plays like this show us that he is on the right track.
During 11-on-11 drills, Niko Koutouvides had a big stop lined up when a run came up the middle of the line. Then he realized it was Cutler on a keeper, and he quickly slowed up and let his quarterback go with a light tap.
Not a huge piece of news, but a heads up call by Niko not to lay into Cutler. A huge component of the MLB's game is keeping his head on straight amongst the fury, and we know from the past that Webster can't even keep his helmet on straight. This competition looks stiff, with Webster perhaps having an edge in regards to comfort level with the team, and Niko with more focus, and they both have showed up prepared. Stay tuned.
Speaking of tackles, Abdullah got a light rebuke from Head Coach Mike Shanahan when he wrapped up Selvin Young and actually tackled him on a run play. Abdullah fell back into good graces later in practice when he lept to snag the second interception of the day.
I like what I'm reading, when I'm reading that our defense is being aggressive. Admittedly what he did wasn't allowed, but I like to think that these guys are really starting to get into the heat of battle, and that they might be turning the intensity up a bit. That is just what this team needs, and small moments like this have the potential to build into the fiery competition it is going to take to forge a competitor out of these guys.
Speaking of Hamza, here is a nice interview and article that talks a little bit about how he is faring in the battle for the starting Strong Safety spot. It makes a great prep for tonight's edition of "Breaking down the Roster" where we will be talking about Safeties. I volunteered to give my thoughts on the position while Guru was en route to Mecca, so I hope everyone will check back in to see how I think these guys stack up.