Dallas Cowboys: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah

Cowboys need more Bradie James picks

May, 7, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- In talking about Bradie James on Tuesday, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones could not help but think of the draft.

It wasn’t just that the draft is coming up Thursday. It was something James signified in turning into a starter from 2005-11 with the Cowboys, a captain and the leading tackler for a six-year run.

“When I think about the fourth-round value of what Bradie brought us, that’s where you’re trying to go,” Jones said.

James was the 103rd pick of the 2003 draft. When the Cowboys moved to the 3-4 scheme in 2005, he became a better fit for the defense. He was a sure tackler, dependable player and good leader. He was solid in a lot of ways.

Since James, the Cowboys have not been so fortunate with their fourth-round selections.

In 2005 they drafted Marion Barber (109 overall) and Chris Canty (132 overall). In 2007 they drafted Doug Free (122 overall). Barber earned a Pro Bowl spot and was a tough runner. Canty was a solid player for four years before leaving in free agency. Free is the Cowboys' starting right tackle.

Since selecting Free in the fourth round, however, the Cowboys have not found an every-day starter. Running back Tashard Choice (122 overall, 2008) started four games in parts of four seasons. Quarterback Stephen McGee (101 overall, 2009) and Victor Butler (110 overall, 2009) combined to start three games. Brandon Williams (120 overall, 2009) never made an impact in part because of a knee injury.

The Cowboys never figured out of Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (126 overall, 2010) was a cornerback, safety or wide receiver in his two seasons with the team. David Arkin (110 overall, 2011) never started a game.

In 2012, the Cowboys picked Kyle Wilber (113 overall) and Matt Johnson in the fourth round. Wilber became a starter out of necessity last year but at outside linebacker after playing defensive end in the 4-3. Johnson has yet to play in a game because of an injury.

Last year the Cowboys took cornerback B.W. Webb (114 overall) and he did little to inspire the stopping of what has become a trend.

Successful drafts are determined by the quality of depth a team forms in the later rounds. In 2003, the Cowboys found James and he went on to become the franchise’s sixth all-time leading tackler. Free has been a starter since 2009.

The Cowboys need more of those guys this week in order to have a successful draft in 2014 and less of the Arkins, Butlers and McGees.

Reviewing the Cowboys' drafts: 2010

April, 15, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Day 2 of reviewing the Dallas Cowboys' last five drafts continues today with the Class of 2010.

If you want our thoughts on the 2009 draft, click here.

First-round pick: Dez Bryant (No. 24 overall)

Number of picks: 6

How they did: The Cowboys landed two building-block players in Bryant and Sean Lee. Bryant is coming off back-to-back 90-catch, 1,000-yard seasons and is dynamic. Lee is the leader of the defense and its best player, when healthy. Health has been a key issue for Lee since he has yet to play a full season because of injuries.

Sixth-round pick Sam Young is still in the league (Buffalo Bills) and the Cowboys landed a draft pick in return for their seventh rounder Sean Lissemore in a trade last summer with the San Diego Chargers. Lissemore was a quality pick but no longer a scheme fit with the change to the 4-3.

Pivotal pick: Injuries at Penn State kept Lee (No. 55 overall) out of the first round, but the Cowboys were willing to be patient with him because they sensed a special talent. He loves football in a way few players love the game and he is willing to put in the work. Had Lee been healthy, the Cowboys would not have been able to get him in the second round. Lee has been a playmaker since he joined the team and the Cowboys gave him a $42 million contract extension last summer.

Best pick: Bryant (No. 24 overall) slipped because of offseason concerns but the Cowboys moved up to get him and felt they could provide him with the best atmosphere to succeed. They did this less than two seasons after trading for Roy Williams and seeing Miles Austin make the Pro Bowl in 2009. They didn't need a wide receiver, but Bryant was too good to pass up. Williams was eventually cut and injuries led to Austin's departure this offseason. Bryant is now one of the best receivers in the NFL and coming off his first Pro Bowl.

Worst pick: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (No. 126 overall) put together a fantastic highlight tape and he tested great at the NFL scouting combine and at a pro day. Unfortunately his skills from Division II Indiana (Pa.) never translated. He played cornerback, but the Cowboys made him a safety and when that didn't work they made him a receiver. He was supposed to be a top kick returner but averaged only 21.7 yards per return. Seven picks after Owusu-Ansah the Seattle Seahawks took safety Kam Chancellor in the fifth round.

Seattle's best? Picks tell tale over Dallas

February, 3, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Is it too soon or too late to remind Dallas Cowboys fans that Akwasi Owusu-Ansah was drafted 13 spots before the Seattle Seahawks chose Kam Chancellor in the fifth round of the 2010 draft?

Or is too soon or too late remind them that Josh Thomas was picked 11 spots before the Seahawks took Richard Sherman in the fifth round of the 2011 draft?

Today, Chancellor and Sherman are celebrating a Super Bowl victory. Thomas at least made it to the playoffs with the Carolina Panthers as a reserve. Owusu-Ansah was on the Detroit Lions' practice squad last year. Maybe we can ask new Cowboys playcaller (and former Lions offensive coordinator) Scott Linehan how Owusu-Ansah looked.

When a team wins a Super Bowl, we all look for the differences as to why Team X played in the Super Bowl and Team Y didn’t, and we say, "Copy those guys. That’s the way to get it done."

It doesn't work that way. Well, it shouldn't work that way. A team has to have its own philosophy and make it work. Stick with it and hope it pays off. That’s what Jason Garrett has referred to as building a program. It’s maddening to hear, especially after three 8-8 seasons, but there is truth in what Garrett is saying.

The biggest difference between the Seahawks and Cowboys is the draft. Well, that and the Seattle defense. But for this post we’ll stick with the draft.

Since 2010, the Seahawks picked 12 players from the third round and later -- or who were undrafted -- who have crucial roles in the team's success. The Cowboys have DeMarco Murray, a third-rounder in 2011, and three undrafted free agents. I could have counted Dwayne Harris, but the Cowboys actually cut him and needed him to pass through waivers before putting him on the practice squad in 2011.

If the Cowboys had not traded Sean Lissemore before the 2013 season, I would have counted their seventh-round pick in 2010 on the list.

As for undrafted picks, I’ll go with Barry Church (2010), Dan Bailey (2011) and Ronald Leary (undrafted, 2012). I wasn’t ready to say that Kyle Wilber (fourth round, 2012) and/or James Hanna (sixth round, 2012) are crucial to the Cowboys’ success.

In order to win a draft, teams have to be successful in the middle rounds. The Cowboys have not been successful in the middle rounds in years. As a result, they lack depth. When they lose starters, they have to scour the street for help. When the Seahawks lose a player, they plug in a mid- to late-round pick as if nothing ever happened.

If we want to eliminate the third round, which is where Seattle drafted quarterback Russell Wilson in 2012, the Cowboys have to go back to the 2008 draft to find a real hit for the Cowboys in Rounds 4-7: cornerback Orlando Scandrick (fifth). Doug Free (2007) turned into a good fourth-round pick only after the Cowboys were forced to play him in 2009. The golden year was 2005 when the Cowboys got Marion Barber (fourth), Chris Canty (fourth) and Jeremiah Ratliff (seventh) in what was then the second day of the draft.

The Seahawks can point to guys like Sherman, Chancellor, Walter Thurmond (fourth, 2011), Byron Maxwell (sixth, 2011), Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith (seventh, 2011), K.J. Wright (fourth, 2011), Robert Turbin (fourth, 2012), J.R. Sweezy (seventh, 2012), Doug Baldwin (undrafted, 2011) and Jermaine Kearse (undrafted, 2012).

They aren’t merely contributors. They are difference-makers.

If the Cowboys want to alter their "secret sauce" recipe, they can look at the Seahawks' cookbook.

For Cowboys, no more small-school DBs

January, 7, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- The NFL draft is not until May 8-10 and we will spend plenty of time dissecting players from here, there and everywhere in relation to the Dallas Cowboys.

While you should never speak in absolutes when it comes to the draft, here is one: The Cowboys do not need to draft a defensive back from a small school.

Since 2010, the Cowboys have drafted five defensive backs from small schools and have not seen one pan out yet.

It is too early to know what J.J. Wilcox will turn into. A third-round pick last year out of Georgia Southern, he had moments early in training camp and was given the starting job, which led to the release of veteran Will Allen. He missed three games with a knee injury and was unable to take the strong safety spot back from undrafted free agent Jeff Heath. Wilcox played safety for one year in college after playing running back. In small spaces, he made some plays. When the field was spread out, he did not.

B.W. Webb was the Cowboys’ fourth-round pick out of William & Mary. To put it kindly, he struggled. He was given more individual instruction on the field than any other defensive back in practice but he just lacked awareness as a rookie. He was benched late in the season in favor of Sterling Moore and was inactive for the final game.

Matt Johnson (2012 fourth round, Eastern Washington) suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the preseason. That came on the heels of him missing his rookie season with hamstring and back injuries. He has yet to play in a regular-season game. The Cowboys kept him on injured reserve and will give him another chance.

In 2011, the Cowboys took Josh Thomas in the fifth round out of Buffalo. He did not make the final roster. He will play this weekend for the Carolina Panthers against the San Francisco 49ers as a backup cornerback.

In 2010, the Cowboys used their fourth-round pick on Akwasi Owusu-Ansah out of Indiana (Pa.). His highlight film was terrific. He had all of the measurables, too. But the Cowboys weren’t sure he could play cornerback or safety. They moved him to wide receiver for a spell.

This isn’t to say small-school players can’t succeed. All you have to do is look at guys like Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin, but the bulk of the quality players come from the major programs.

With so many needs to fill in the draft, the Cowboys can’t really afford to gamble on another small-school product. And especially at defensive back, if history is any indicator.

How will these smaller school DBs fare?

April, 28, 2013
IRVING, Texas – Historically the Cowboys have never shied away from small-school players.

They found Hall of Famers at Fort Valley State (Rayfield Wright) and Sonoma State (Larry Allen) and a Ring of Honor player from Ouachita Baptist (Cliff Harris). You can add Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois) and Miles Austin (Monmouth) to the list of recent small-school successes.

But the recent run on small-school defensive backs has not paid off. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (Indiana, Pa.) never got a footing, and Matt Johnson (Eastern Washington) was not able to get on the field last year. The jury is still out on Johnson, who will have the opportunity to compete for a starting spot this year.

On Friday the Cowboys drafted safety J.J. Wilcox in the third round from Georgia Southern and on Saturday they took William & Mary cornerback B.W. Webb in the fourth round. Wilcox and Webb played in the Senior Bowl and showed they could handle the jump.

“You want to evaluate them against the best competition you can in a game setting,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You probably weigh those games more than others. But again, it is the whole package of evaluation that you are trying to do. Certainly the smaller school guys, almost by definition, have further to go and thus become a little more risky. But if you can get your arms how they played against bigger competition and how they stack up physically, I think you pull the trigger on them if you like the player.”

J.J. Wilcox loves him some Jerry Jones

April, 26, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- On his pre-draft visit with the Cowboys, safety J.J. Wilcox came away enamored with owner and general manager Jerry Jones.

“Mr. Jerry Jones is one of the best general managers and best owners I’ve ever met,” Wilcox said. “He’s calm, collected and energetic. You don’t see that much from an owner. They’re mostly laid back.”

You have to wonder how many owners Wilcox met in the draft process, but there would be a few who would not be as effusive about Jones among the fans.

Thin at safety, the Cowboys are hoping Wilcox can contribute his first year with designs on him starting I the future if not immediately. The team’s other forays into small-school safeties has not gone so well in recent years with Akwaski Owusu-Ansah (Indiana, Pa., fourth round, 2010) and Matt Johnson (Eastern Washington, fourth round, 2012) not contributing.

Wilcox has played one year of safety but caught attention from the Senior Bowl.

“There’s a lot of household names in the NFL from smaller schools,” Wilcox said.

Safety track record not good for Cowboys

March, 5, 2013
IRVING, Texas – After the Cowboys released Gerald Sensabaugh on Monday, I wrote that the move was risky, considering the Cowboys do not have a known commodity currently under contract.

Randy Galloway and Matt Mosley discuss the Cowboys putting the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer and releasing Gerald Sensabaugh.

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After checking out the comments section, I soon realized Sensabaugh was the worst safety in NFL history and was responsible for the current sequester. Maybe I’m stubborn, but I believe Sensabaugh is solid. Great? No. Good enough? Sure.

Another reason why the move is risky is that the Cowboys have not been able to find a long-term safety since Darren Woodson.

And everybody believes the Cowboys struggle to identify quality offensive linemen?

Roy Williams had a good run for a few years but then tailed off badly. Ken Hamlin had one good season with the Cowboys, signed a big contract and then didn’t seem to like playing much again. Keith Davis was a special teamer turned starter out of necessity. At the prices the Cowboys paid Sensabaugh, I think they did OK with him for four years. Abram Elam lasted one season as a starter, which is better than Brodney Pool, who didn’t last a week in training camp.

(UPDATE: The original version forgot Lynn Scott, an undrafted player in 2001 that the Cowboys had hopes for early.)

Since 2001, the Cowboys have drafted nine safeties and the best has been Williams, and he was the eighth overall pick in 2002. People will remind you that Ed Reed is a Hall of Famer and went later to Baltimore. Tony Dixon (second, 2001) never panned out. Justin Beriault (sixth, 2006) was hurt and never played.

Pat Watkins (fifth, 2006) was tall and an OK special teamer. Alan Ball (seventh, 2007) was drafted as a corner, became a forgettable starter at safety and moved back to cornerback. Mike Hamlin and DeAngelo Smith were fifth-rounders in the forgettable 2009 draft and didn’t make an impact. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (fourth, 2010) was hurt when drafted, came from a small school and made switch from corner to safety – and never made an impact.

Barry Church and Danny McCray were undrafted players in 2010 that have made an impact. But Church, as close to an incumbent the Cowboys have at the position, is coming off an Achilles tear, and McCray showed he’s a special-teamer with the more work he got on defense last season.

Matt Johnson was a fourth-round pick last year and never played a snap because of recurring hamstring injuries. Judgment should be withheld until he actually gets on the field, but let’s just say history is not on his side.

The Cowboys needed to look at the safety spot before Sensabaugh’s release and now they must really look at it.

But do you trust they will find the right safety even in a draft that is considered rich at the position?

Cowboys make roster moves, still two to go

August, 31, 2012
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys will make their final cuts today to reach the 53-man limit, but they have already notified 21 players that they have not made the cut.

According to sources, the Cowboys have informed Shaun Chapas, Adrian Hamilton, Danny Coale, Eddie Whitley, Orie Lemon, Ronald Leary, Pat McQuistan, Jeff Adams, Teddy Williams, Harland Gunn, Daniel Loper, Clifton Geathers, Rudy Carpenter, Lionel Smith, Baraka Atkins, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Andrew Szczerba, Ben Bass, Saalim Hakim, Tim Benford and Robert Callaway of their release.

They have two more roster moves to make by 7 p.m. after the trade for offensive lineman Ryan Cook from Miami.

The Cowboys would like to bring some -- like Hamilton, Coale and Leary -- back on the practice squad if they clear waivers.

Leary was the apple of Jerry Jones’ eye as an undrafted free agent and early in training camp, but he will not be on the 53-man roster.

The Cowboys considered drafting Leary despite a knee condition, but ended up guaranteeing him $214,000 in base salary and signing bonus to sign as an undrafted free agent. When the interior line was hit by injuries early in camp Leary took some first-team snaps but he hit a wall midway through camp.
ARLINGTON, Texas – Phil Costa will start at center tonight vs. Miami and is the only projected starter playing in the preseason finale at Cowboys Stadium.

Costa missed the first three preseason games because of a low back strain and just returned to practice Monday.

Stephen McGee will start at quarterback with Phillip Tanner and Shaun Chapas in the backfield. Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris will start at wide receiver, with James Hanna at tight end. The rest of the line includes Jermey Parnell, Derrick Dockery, Daniel Loper and Pat McQuistan.

On defense, Josh Brent will be the starting nose tackle and could open the year there against the New York Giants if Jay Ratliff is unable to play because of a high ankle sprain. Tyrone Crawford and Clifton Geathers will fill out the rest of the defensive line.

The linebackers will be Victor Butler, Dan Connor, Orie Lemon and Alex Albright. The secondary will feature Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and Teddy Williams at cornerback and Mana Silva and Mario Butler at safety.

Random thoughts: Coming back to Dallas

August, 22, 2012
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.

Stock Report: Brandon Carr up, AOA down

August, 19, 2012

SAN DIEGO -- We're done with two preseason games, and with that, we review who played well and who didn't in our weekly stock report.

Stock Up

Brandon Carr: The veteran cornerback picked off two passes Saturday night at San Diego. He's turning into the cover corner the Cowboys envisioned when they signed him to a five-year, $50.1 million deal. The Cowboys' first-team defense has three interceptions, two by Carr and one by Gerald Sensabaugh, so far in preseason.

Kevin Ogletree: He's moving into the No. 3 receiver spot. He had a strong performance -- four catches for 60 yards -- against the first- and second-team defenses of the Chargers on Saturday. Ogletree is playing with a focus and is establishing himself as a force with several young and unproven receivers behind him. His leaping catch while taking a hit was the highlight of his night.

Cole Beasley: The rookie from SMU played well in the second half and finished with a team-leading seven catches for 104 yards. He's becoming a dependable force from the slot and coach Jason Garrett said Beasley is a quarterback-friendly receiver. The quarterbacks, Garrett said, have confidence throwing to Beasley.

Stock Down

Akwasi Owusu-Ansah: The cornerback doesn't look like he's playing with any confidence. He fell down trying to cover Mike Willie on a 38-yard touchdown reception, and he also fell down trying to defend another pass but missed at swiping the ball. If the Cowboys keep five cornerbacks, it appears Owusu-Ansah might not make it.

Shaun Chapas: The fullback missed two blocks, one leading to a sack and the other to a pressure. Of course, Lawrence Vickers is the starting fullback, but if Chapas wants a future around here he's got to block better. He's had a good training camp, but when it comes to the games, he's got to make plays.

Teddy Williams. He's a sprint champion that isn't making plays as a cornerback or returner. It's hard to ask him to make plays in some situations because of his inexperience, but as a kick retuner he's got to make defenders miss him and show some wiggle. As a corner, Williams, like Owusu-Ansah, looks lost out there.

Calvin Watkins' practice report

August, 12, 2012

OXNARD, Calif. -- The Cowboys conducted their last practice before Monday night's preseason opener at Oakland.

Some thoughts.

* This is how bad the kick return game was last season for the Cowboys: It was the first time since 1973 the Cowboys didn't have a single returner reach double-digits in returns. Last year, injuries and ineffective play were the problems. This is a new year. Lionel Smith, Tim Benford, Raymond Radway, Dwayne Harris, Felix Jones and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah could field kicks at Oakland. Returning kicks involves many things, including reading the holes, something Smith didn't do, which raised the ire of special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.

* It looks like Derrick Dockery is going to start at left guard at Oakland. He's doing a nice job of getting a push along the line of scrimmage and using his hands with the first team.

* This second version, no matter how limited, of Morris Claiborne is better than the first one. When we first saw Claiborne, he was getting beat deep by a variety of receivers. Not now so much. He's attacking the ball, as evident by his breakup of a pass to Kevin Ogletree in the end zone.

* Double coverage for Cole Bealsey? Say it ain't so. Yep, after Beasley beat a jam by Orlando Scandrick, safety Mana Silva picked him up quickly inside the red zone to prevent any throws coming his way.

* Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau is a big man and uses his frame well. At 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, he used his size to clear out linebacker Sean Lee (6-2, 245 pounds) on a dump off. Bernadeau displayed good foot work in pushing Lee out the way.

* Danny McCray is a noted special teams leader, but he wants to be known as a defensive safety. He recorded an interception off a Kyle Orton pass and deflected a pass intended for Dwayne Harris on the next play. Harris, however, should have caught the pass, but McCray did a good job in finishing the play.

* Victor Butler has responded well at outside linebacker with Anthony Spencer out with his injury. Butler read a screen play headed to Felix Jones and picked up a tackle for loss. Butler has done a nice job on the pass rush against tackle Tyron Smith. Butler will try swim moves, spins, and bull rushes against Smith. These battles are not as epic as DeMarcus Ware vs. Smith, but Butler is holding his own at times.

* Rookie linebacker Kyle Wilber had a sack and a tackle for loss Saturday afternoon. There have been plenty of discussions about how well defensive end Tyrone Crawford has looked. Wilber is also earning snaps with second teamers.

* Before practice, wide receiver Dez Bryant was getting stretched by Mike Woicik, the strength and conditioning coach, for about five minutes. Then as practices went on, Bryant was pulled and talked to the trainers. The Cowboys are doing the right there here after Bryant experienced some soreness in his left hamstring.

* Toward the end of practice, the Cowboys were running some Oakland Raiders plays with Stephen McGee at quarterback.

* The last play of the day resulted in a touchdown when Andre Holmes caught a Hail Mary pass in the end zone from Orton.

Camp observations: D wins the day

August, 11, 2012
Kutcher/RomoAP Photo/James D SmithAfter watching the Cowboys practice, actor Ashton Kutcher chatted with Tony Romo.

OXNARD, Calif. – Ashton Kutcher rolled into Cowboys training camp Saturday, and there’s no truth to the rumor that owner and general manager asked the "Two and a Half Men" star if he could play center … or wide receiver.

Kutcher, however, did spend a good time looking at the offensive and defensive line play before turning his attention to the skill players.

On to the observations from a Saturday practice that featured some game-plan work for Oakland:

** Lots of double moves and deep balls in one-on-one drills between quarterbacks and wide receivers. Now the defenders are at a distinct disadvantage in this drill, but WR Dez Bryant had the highlights before a hamstring strain ended his day. He beat CB Brandon Carr on a double move to the middle of the field (where a safety would have been in position) and outmuscled CB Morris Claiborne on a back shoulder fade.

** Carr got his revenge later when he broke up an out route to Bryant from Tony Romo.

** Two things you haven’t seen much of in camp: a Cole Beasley drop and an Akwasi Owusu-Ansah interception. They happened on back-to-back snaps in one-on-one drills.

** Bruce Carter is getting the edge in the inside linebacker chase with Dan Connor in part because of his athleticism. He was able to stick with RB Felix Jones on an arrow route underneath and break up a pass in one-on-ones.

** CB Orlando Scandrick jammed WR Raymond Radway so well off the line that the wideout just stopped on his route and took his helmet off in disgust. It was the beginning of a long day for Radway, who had a miscommunication with QB Kyle Orton that led to an interception and a drop.

** As good as Bryant has been in camp, he still doesn’t always go where he is supposed to go. After running the wrong route, Romo lit into him pretty good after he would have been sacked by OLB DeMarcus Ware, who had two sacks and a pressure Saturday.

** LB Orie Lemon struggled a few days ago in pass coverage but rebounded nicely Saturday, reacting quickly to screens to TE Jason Witten and RB Jamize Olawale. Lemon could force his way on the roster, but it will come down to his special teams work. He worked as the personal protector Saturday on punts.

** LG Derrick Dockery and RG Mackenzy Bernadeau had false starts on the first play of team drills and were replaced by undrafted rookies Ronald Leary and Harland Gunn. Three plays later, LT Tyron Smith jumped early but the play went on as called.

** Claiborne made a nice break on a Romo pass to WR Kevin Ogletree in the end zone, stopping a potential touchdown. The coaches were excited to see the rookie No. 1 pick make a play in a big situation.

** Bernadeau did a nice job in space on LB Sean Lee on two screens, delivering a good blow on the move. For a big guy, he moves pretty well. He’s had a pretty good start to his camp.

** The defense would have scored a TKO for its work against the offense for much of the day, but during the two-minute drill the No. 1 unit rebounded. Romo completed 8-of-9 passes and ended the drive with a TD pass to Witten on a shallow out route as S Barry Church chased.

W2W4: One more practice before a day off

August, 7, 2012
OXNARD, Calif. -- The Cowboys will have their ninth practice of training camp Tuesday before a day off.

Cowboys TE Jason Witten comments on his confidence in this year's squad, where Tony Romo ranks, the team coming together in training camp and more.

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Backup corners: Monday when Orlando Scandrick went down briefly with a twisted ankle, it moved Akwasi Owusu-Ansah to the first-team with Brandon Carr. Injuries to Teddy Williams, Mike Jenkins and Morris Claiborne raised issues about the depth at the position as it allowed some inexperienced players to get more snaps. C.J. Wilson had a strong Monday practice and the Cowboys matched up Mario Butler against Dez Bryant a few snaps. The Cowboys might keep five corners this season. Carr, Jenkins, Claiborne and Scandrick are the main ones. But the uncertainty of when Jenkins will play could bring Owusu-Ansah or Wilson to make the 53-man roster.

Not ready for Oakland yet: Coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys won't prepare for the Oakland Raiders, whom the Cowboys meet Monday night on ESPN, early this week. Instead the Cowboys will continue with their installation plan and work on situational plays. The Cowboys will work on the Raiders during the end of the week.

Offensive line movement: If the preseason opener was today, right now, at this moment, Ronald Leary and David Arkin would start at guard surrounding center Phil Costa. The Cowboys seem comfortable with this alignment going into the preseason opener. For continuity this is the best thing but maybe the team should consider giving Derrick Dockery and Daniel Loper snaps with the first-team early next week. if Mackenzy Bernadeau returns soon from his injuries, he will also get snaps at not only guard but also center.

Cowboys making cornerback changes

July, 30, 2012
OXNARD, Calif. -- With Mike Jenkins out until maybe the third preseason game as he recovers from shoulder surgery, there are some changes coming in the secondary.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is moving from safety to cornerback. Teddy Williams, CJ Wilson and Mario Butler got second-team reps with Orlando Scandrick during Monday's walkthrough practice.

It's uncertain how many corners the Cowboys will take into the regular season.

It's expected Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Scandrick and -- if he's healthy -- Jenkins will make the 53-man roster. How many they will keep will depend on how many defensive linemen make it and who can play well on special teams.

"Everybody is going to get an opportunity and we’ll see how it all works out," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "That’s what preseason is for. We’re going to keep the best players, but we’re going to play everybody and make sure we keep the right guys -- the guys that will help us win. That’s what we’ll do."