Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dallas Cowboys [Print without images]

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Random thoughts: Coming back to Dallas

By Calvin Watkins

SAN DIEGO -- As we pack our bags for the trip back to Dallas, we've got some random thoughts on what we've seen during Cowboys training camp in California.

Most impressive player (s): Dez Bryant and Brandon Carr have been equally fantastic. Carr has shut down receivers with his press coverage and playmaking skills. Despite his quiet demeanor, he's also provided a strong leadership quality. Bryant is well, Bryant. He makes leaping catches, catches in traffic and it seems the only man who can stop him is Carr.

Most disappointing player: Wide receiver Raymond Radway made the 53-man roster last year, but a fractured leg in the final preseason game cost him the season. Now healthy, Radway has shown flashes of that blazing speed. At other times, however, bad routes, drops and missed assignments have hurt him. He's been surpassed by Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris for the fifth and sixth receiver spots.

Five players to keep: Center David Arkin, linebacker Orie Lemon, guard Ronald Leary, defensive tackle Ben Bass and cornerback Mario Butler.

Five players to cut: Quarterback Stephen McGee, cornerback Teddy Williams, cornerback Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, defensive lineman Robert Callaway and guard Daniel Loper.

So did the Cowboys talk to Plax? Of course they did. Jerry Jones said he didn't speak with free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress or his agent, and we believe him. But someone did, and the Cowboys quickly defused the situation, which is the right thing to do. The Cowboys don't need Burress. The Cowboys don't need a veteran receiver. What the Cowboys need is for their young receivers to improve, which is what's happened under receivers coach Jimmy Robinson.

Best draft pick: Morris Claiborne is an easy selection, but I would say tight end James Hanna has been the most impressive. He can catch, run good routes and -- despite a few drops -- is more than serviceable. If Jason Witten can't play in the regular-season opener, Hanna has done enough to prove he's ready for the big stage. Now Hanna, the No. 2 tight end of the moment, needs to improve on his blocking. That will happen.

The biggest surprise from a player: RB/FB Jamize Olawale and DE Tyrone Crawford. Olawale needs to lower his body when he runs, but he displays good speed when he hits the holes. He's a good blocker, too. Is he good enough to make the 53? No, but the Cowboys should attempt to bring him back to the practice squad. Crawford moved up the ranks and got second-team reps in practice and games. He's been the second-most impressive draft pick in camp. There was a question about his ability to play against the run. He's better than expected with his power and ability to shed blockers.

One player who needs to step up: Felix Jones isn't going anywhere, nor should he. The running back, however, has gotten off to a slow start in training camp. In Saturday's preseason game against St. Louis, if Jones gets eight touches, we would like to see a burst through the hole and some movement in space. We haven't seen that enough in training camp and the first two preseason games.