Dallas Cowboys: Derek Dooley

IRVING, Texas -- In order to break out of their 8-8 doldrums, the Dallas Cowboys will need a lot to go right in 2014.

This week we take a best-case, worst-case look at five offensive and defensive players that will go a long way in shaping the Cowboys' season.

Terrance Williams

Best-case: He makes the jump

Coaches like to say all of the time that a player's biggest jump comes from his rookie season to his second season. The player has a good understanding of what's going on, having been through the rigors of a season, and knows what he is and isn't. Williams showed last year the game isn't too big for him. He was able to make big plays in big moments. With Dez Bryant on the other side and Jason Witten expected to line up mostly on his side, Williams will have the chance to make plays. Tony Romo will not be afraid to come after him. Some believe he will be a breakout player on this offense in part because of the attention Bryant and Witten will receive. He doesn't have great speed, but he still averaged 16.7 yards per catch. When he gets rolling, he is difficult to stop. He has the tools to be a 1,000-yard receiver, but he doesn't need to have 1,000 yards for the offense to be successful. Romo, Bryant, Witten and DeMarco Murray will be the focus. Williams just has to fit in. In the offseason, receivers coach Derek Dooley has been impressed with what Williams has been able to do with more work. That has to carry into the season.

Worst-case: He doesn't make the jump

If he is less than pedestrian, the Cowboys don't have options to replace him. They would have to do it by committee, unless fifth-round pick Devin Street can step up. Street is the only other true outside option after Williams and Bryant. The down-the-line receivers have warts. Dwayne Harris is a situational guy on the outside, probably not an every-down option. Cole Beasley is a slot player even if he got some work outside in the offseason. Williams' work ethic has been lauded by the coaches since he got here, but if things don't go well for him, how will he react? Last year the Cowboys didn't need him to be the man on a week-to-week basis with Bryant and Miles Austin. He could fly a little under the radar. This year he can't fly under the radar. He has to be one of their better players every week. If he doesn't, then the offense can become flawed and predictable. Williams offers the best blend of big- and medium-play ability opposite Bryant. Street would benefit from playing a similar role to what Williams had last year. If he has to play more, then that could upset the balance of the passing game.

Cole Beasley working for more chances

July, 3, 2014
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IRVING, Texas – After one of the Dallas Cowboys’ final minicamp practices, Cole Beasley took up a sliver of space on the field, running in quick bursts, cutting left and right over and over again.

“Just kind of working on my feet and pumping my arms at the top of routes,” Beasley said.

[+] EnlargeCole Beasley
AP Photo/James D SmithCole Beasley has been working to become a more well-rounded route runner this offseason.
It was tedious work on a June day that Beasley hopes pays off for him in September when the Cowboys’ regular season starts. In his first two years with the Cowboys, Beasley has 54 catches for 496 yards and two touchdowns. Last year he developed into a real threat in the slot as one of Tony Romo’s favorite targets, catching 39 passes for 368 yards and two scores.

At 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, however, there are limitations to Beasley’s game that he has to overcome, which is why he spent that post-practice time working on his route running.

“Typically when you’re a smaller receiver, you have to win by more,” coach Jason Garrett said. “And so how do you do that as an outside receiver? You outrun guys. I’m thinking about a deep ball down the field. You can beat a guy by a yard or two when you’re a smaller guy and he still kind of has you covered because he’s a bigger guy and as the ball is coming in, he has an equal chance to make a play on that ball. Bigger guys outside don’t have to win by as much because they can fight for that ball when it’s up in the air. That’s how his size hurts him.

“What helps him out there is his quickness, his change of direction. He’s a very good route runner, and he’s able to kind of create the space that he needs as an outside receiver a lot like he’s able to do inside. His change of direction is really pretty unique, and he has a real good feel. He’s very quarterback-friendly when he runs his routes. We’re trying to give him opportunities in a lot of different spots. He’s most natural playing inside, but he’s certainly not a non-factor as an outside receiver.”

Beasley worked on the outside some in the offseason but most of his work was still from the slot. Wide receivers coach Derek Dooley said Beasley has expanded his route inventory. The Cowboys would like to move Dez Bryant around more in 2014. In order to do that, they need Beasley to be able to handle the outside.

“You don’t have as much space because the sideline is there,” Beasley said. “In the slot you kind of have a two-way go on a defender. You can’t just get way out or way in. Outside [the cornerback] can kind of use the sideline as his friend. You don’t want to get too close to that sideline because there’s no throw. It’s just a little different as far as releases go and stuff like that.”

By having more routes in his repertoire, Beasley will be more difficult to read.

“Even just being a slot guy you can still have more routes,” Beasley said. “To me, it’s all about opportunities. I didn’t have much opportunity to run that many different routes and they’re doing a good job of giving me more stuff just to see what I can do, what I can handle, what I can’t handle. I’ve just got to prove to them I can do the stuff. I believe I can, so it’s all a matter of showing them.”

In an offense with Bryant, Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray and Terrance Williams, Beasley could have a prominent role.

“He’s going to be a much better player than he was last year,” Dooley said, “and he was really valuable to us last year.”

Dallas could use slot by committee at WR

June, 11, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys went with their three wide receiver formation last year, they could count on Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams outside with Miles Austin working the slot.

This season, they could carry a more varied look and not just because Austin is now with the Cleveland Browns.

Bryant and Williams have taken some turns in the slot. Cole Beasley is continuing his same role of working inside. Rookie Devin Street was used a ton in the slot in college. Dwayne Harris is not taking team snaps as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but he is effective in the slot as well. And while he’s not a receiver, tight end Gavin Escobar has receiver skills.

“It’s still early to really figure out how we’re going to use everybody,” wide receivers coach Derek Dooley said. “I think the biggest thing is giving them a lot of opportunities in a lot of areas and we’ll figure it out in training camp.”

The different strengths of the receivers can prove troublesome for defensive coordinators with what personnel packages they would want to use to defend the Cowboys. Beasley has almost exclusively been used in the slot during the organized team activities open to the media, but Dooley said he has increased his route inventory and will have to play outside. Harris can be a devastating blocker in the slot, which opens up the run and the pass. Escobar showed he can work the seams and his height might be too much for most cornerbacks.

Bryant and Williams are bigger receivers on the inside than most slot corners.

“Every player has strengths, things they do really well and every player has things they don’t do well,” Dooley said. “What’s fun about coaching is using those strengths to your advantage and trying to minimize putting them in positions where they’re not as good. It’s a little bit, ‘Hey, players, go out there and build on your strengths and improve as much as you can on your weakness,' but the coaches, it’s up to use to put them in the right spots so we can feature what they do well.”

Devin Street understands the game

May, 26, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Devin Street knows how much of a difference a first impression can make.

“It’s everything,” said the Dallas Cowboys’ fifth-round pick. “Just how the way you walk, how you carry yourself, how you work, being a leader, but at the end of the day it’s football. I’m here because I love football.”

The Cowboys don’t need Street to set the world on fire as a rookie wide receiver. They hope he can be a valuable insurance policy behind Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams while filling a role along with Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley.

The Cowboys needed another outside receiver after releasing Miles Austin. They did not add a veteran free agent and did not draft another receiver. In a perfect world, Street does not need to replace the Austin of Pro Bowl form, but the Austin who caught just 24 passes in 2013.

Street does not have Austin’s speed and quickness, but in watching last year’s film, he noticed some similarities.

“Route running,” Street said. “Miles is a smart player, as well. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. That’s what I want to do, too. How he carries himself, how he works, just watching in the film room on the run plays and pass plays, he comes 100 percent with technique.”

At a pre-draft workout at Pitt, wide receivers coach Derek Dooley made a quick change on one of Street’s routes so he would not get off balance. He quickly aced it.

At the rookie minicamp, Street showed a savvy not often seen in rookie receivers. On a go route, Street cleanly broke away from the cornerback at the line of scrimmage. Instead of veering wide to the sideline, he remained on a straight line down the numbers to keep the corner on his heels.

That gave the quarterback the ability to throw the ball over Street’s outside shoulder with room for him to make the catch without worrying about the sideline. With the ball in the air, Street was able to glide outside and make the deep catch. The cornerback was never a factor.

“You can tell he was in an NFL-type attack and understands angles, how to win one-on-one, how to find himself open in zone, and he certainly has a maturity level to how he runs routes,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Very quarterback-friendly.”
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys believe they drafted a third-round prospect despite trading their third-round pick.

They consider selecting Pittsburgh receiver Devin Street in the fifth round a steal.

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Street had a third-round grade on the Cowboys’ board, which is why they packaged their fifth-round pick (No. 158) and a seventh-rounder (No. 229) to move up a dozen spots and draft him with the 146th overall pick.

The Cowboys see the 6-foot-3, 189-pound Street, who holds Pitt’s career receptions record with 202, as a pro-ready receiver. He’s expected to immediately compete for the No. 3 receiver role and gives the Cowboys a legitimate option as an outside receiver if Dez Bryant or Terrance Williams gets injured.

“Very, very accomplished route runner, great hands, great length,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “If anything, needs to work on some of the strength a little bit. Other than that, he’s played in a [pro-style] system, he knows the route tree. It will be easy for him coming in.”

Street could be limited this offseason due to a shoulder injury he suffered as a Pitt senior, when he caught 51 passes for 854 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games. That injury, which limited him to three reps of 115 pounds on the bench press at the combine, could have caused his draft stock to drop.

However, the Cowboys sent receivers coach Derek Dooley to privately work out Street on the Pitt campus. Dooley returned to Valley Ranch raving about Street and didn’t stop until the Cowboys drafted him.

“It doesn’t matter where you get picked; it only matters what you do when you get here,” Dooley told Street during the phone call after the Cowboys made the pick. “Get your ass ready. You’re going to get down here quickly and we’re going to go to work, and you’re going to put it on all those teams that passed you up.

“You see all them receivers that went ahead of you? All right, don’t ever forget it, you hear me? And that needs to motivate you every day.”

Mike Pope had influence on Jason Garrett

February, 23, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Jason Garrett’s background has played a role on the composition of his Dallas coaching staff.

Of the coaches brought in after he took the job on a full-time basis in 2011, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan, running backs coach Gary Brown, secondary coach Jerome Henderson, linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack did not have a previous association with Garrett.

New passing game coordinator Scott Linehan worked with Garrett for a year with the Miami Dolphins. Derek Dooley got to know Garrett when he was an assistant coach at SMU and worked together for a year with the Dolphins. Garrett spent time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he got to know Rod Marinelli, Monte Kiffin and Rich Bisaccia. Assistant secondary coach Joe Baker was Garrett's teammate at Princeton.

Tight ends coach Mike Pope is the latest assistant in which Garrett dipped into his past.

Garrett was a backup quarterback with the New York Giants when Pope coached their tight ends.

“He’s really as good a coach as I’ve been around in my career,” Garrett said. “I saw him up close and personal with a lot of different guys, established players and young players and he’s a great friend. He’s a great addition to our staff and [Jason Witten] is the kind of guy who’s always trying to get better. Each and every day [Witten] comes in he’s always looking for ways we can help him, how he can help himself become a better football player. That’s why he is the player he is. To add Mike Pope to the mix and having a different perspective on how he gets coaches, I think Witt’s really excited and I know Mike Pope is as well.”

Pope’s main task, however will be to develop Gavin Escobar, but Garrett begs to differ slightly.

“I can go in my office right now and pull out his Saturday night tip sheet for the tight ends for four years with the Giants that I would fall asleep with in my bed that was 25 pages long and in Pope’s handwriting,” Garrett said. “He and I have known each other a long time. He’s a great coach. His track record speaks for itself. He’s worked with different kinds of tight ends, veteran tight ends. He’s worked with young guys, he’s developed guys who were college free agents. The fact that we have an investment in Escobar and have a young guy in James Hanna, we feel those guys will benefit, but Witt’s going to benefit as well.”

Garrett sees staff turnover as life in NFL

February, 21, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett preaches the importance of continuity, but his staff has seen nothing but changeover since he took over midway through the 2010 season.

Garrett
Garrett
Rod Marinelli is his fourth defensive coordinator after Paul Pasqualoni, Rob Ryan and Monte Kiffin. He is on his third wide receivers coach in Derek Dooley. He's on his third tight ends coach in Mike Pope. He's on his second running backs coach. He has had two offensive line coaches.

On the defensive side of the ball, only linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett remain from Garrett's first full season in 2011. Secondary coach Jerome Henderson arrived in 2012.

Rich Bisaccia, who is entering his second year on the staff, is Garrett's second special teams coordinator.

"I think if you look around the league, staff changes are a part of this league," Garrett said. "Just as there's turnover on your football team with your roster, there's turnover on the coaching staff all around the league. The teams that embrace that, that embrace the change, are the ones with the most success. You always have to be ready with a guy you're thinking about if someone leaves. I think relationships in the past that you had in your career with different coaches, you rely on those and you bring in the right kind of people. Thirty two teams around the league are going through the same kinds of things and there's staff changes everywhere and you have to embrace them and find the positives in them. A new guy coming in, what can he add to our team to make us better? Certainly we're in the process of doing that."

Garrett added Scott Linehan as passing game coordinator, taking away the playcalling duties from Bill Callahan. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns were denied permission in speaking to Callahan this offseason, which the Cowboys acknowledged did not please Callahan.

"We're a team and every decision we make we believe is in the best interest of our football team," Garrett said. "Every decision we make in regards to players and coaches [is that way and] everybody understands that. That's the first thing out of my mouth and everyone has to understand what they're role is after those decisions are made and embrace those roles. We've changed things up a little bit last year. It was a different structure to what we had and now we're going to back to the structure that Bill was comfortable with originally when he was hired. That's just something we all have to embrace. It's going to take a little time to work through that and that's what this offseason is for. You work through the things we did well last year, the things we've got to improve upon and everybody has their role and the responsibility to embrace it and try to become a really close staff and a really close football team."

Cowboys position breakdown: Coaches

January, 31, 2014
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Cowboys reporters Calvin Watkins and Todd Archer break down the Cowboys, position by position, analyzing what the players did in 2013, what they can do in the future and what the team can do to improve the position in 2014.

Under contract: Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, Rod Marinelli, Bill Callahan, Monte Kiffin, Wade Wilson, Gary Brown, Derek Dooley, Mike Pope, Frank Pollack, Keith O’Quinn, Matt Eberflus, Jerome Handerson, Leon Lett, Ben Bloom, Joe Baker, Rich Bisaccia.

A look back: For the first time since he arrived as an assistant coach in 2007 Jason Garrett did not call the offensive plays. It wasn’t Garrett’s idea, but he had little choice in the matter. Owner Jerry Jones wanted Bill Callahan to do the job, so that’s how it went.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
AP Photo/Tom HauckAfter a third straight 8-8 season, Dallas' Jason Garrett made several key changes within his staff.
The Cowboys averaged 27.4 points per game but had their fewest yards in a season since 2005. For the final six games of the season Garrett asserted himself in the process, relaying the plays from Callahan to the quarterback. Garrett maintained Callahan called the plays throughout the season.

Defensively, it was a disaster for Monte Kiffin. The Cowboys’ move to the 4-3 could not have gone worse. Injuries depleted the defensive line and took their toll on the linebackers by the end of the season. Players counted on to have big seasons – DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr, Bruce Carter, Morris Claiborne – didn’t and Kiffin was unable to come up with any answers.

The Cowboys allowed the most yards (by a wide margin) and the second-most points in franchise history. Kiffin's return to the NFL after a run with his son, Lane, at Tennessee and Southern Cal, was a flop.

Special-teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia might have had the best season of any assistant coach. The special teams were better across the board in 2013 and he interviewed for the head coaching jobs with the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns.

A look ahead: Rod Marinelli has replaced Kiffin as defensive coordinator, although the Cowboys cushioned the demotion by naming Kiffin the assistant head coach/defense. Callahan has been replaced as playcaller by Scott Linehan, who is a Garrett confidante.

The Cowboys have denied teams from speaking with Callahan, which has not pleased Callahan and could lead to ill-will on the staff no matter how much the Cowboys try to put a smiley face on the situation. Callahan will return to coaching the offensive line full-time, which pushes Frank Pollack down the line after he did a good job with the group in 2013.

The Cowboys hope Marinelli can be as effective as a coordinator as he was in his three-year run with the Chicago Bears. He will need more talent, especially on the defensive line. He will need to be more creative than Kiffin as well. Players play hard for him and believe in his coaching, but the confidence of the entire group was shot last year. Having Sean Lee return from injury and players like Ware return to form, will help.

Kiffin will be around but mostly in an advisory role. Tight ends coach Wes Phillips joined the Redskins and was replaced by Mike Pope, a long-time veteran considered one of the best in the NFL. Assistant special-teams coach Chris Boniol also left.

A look out: The Cowboys have set up an interesting situation on the offensive side of the ball by hiring Linehan and demoting Callahan, but Garrett believes the transition will be smooth because the system remains in place.

But how well will Linehan and Callahan work together? Are there too many people involved in the offense with different agendas? It will make for interesting viewing.

On defense, the move to Marinelli should also be easy because the system remains. He should be more adept at handling the current game than Kiffin, who could not come up with ways to slow spread offenses.

But this year will be all about Garrett, who is entering the final year of his deal. The Cowboys gave him the authority to make the changes on the staff, and it’s up to him to make it work. He has been able to keep the players on his side despite three straight 8-8 finishes. They believe in what he says. Now the actions have to back up the words.

Position breakdown:

Quarterbacks
Running backs
Tight ends
Wide receivers
Defensive line
Offensive line
Linebackers
Defensive backs

Dallas Cowboys coaching tracker

January, 29, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- With changes on the Dallas Cowboys' coaching staff, it’s time to update the tracker.

Rod Marinelli is the defensive coordinator but will continue to work with the defensive line. He'll receive more help from Leon Lett and Ben Bloom.

The changes are in bold.

Head coach: Jason Garrett

Passing game coordinator: Scott Linehan
Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach: Bill Callahan
Defensive coordinator: Rod Marinelli

Assistant head coach/defense: Monte Kiffin

Quarterbacks: Wade Wilson
Running backs: Gary Brown
Wide receivers: Derek Dooley
Tight ends: Mike Pope
Assistant offensive line: Frank Pollack
Offensive quality control/wide receivers: Keith O’Quinn
Offensive assistant: Vacant

Defensive line: Rod Marinelli
Linebackers: Matt Eberflus
Secondary: Jerome Henderson
Defensive assistant/defensive line: Leon Lett
Defensive quality control/defensive line: Ben Bloom
Assistant secondary: Joe Baker

Special teams: Rich Bisaccia
Assistant special teams: Vacant

Strength and conditioning: Mike Woicik
Assistant strength and conditioning: Brett Bech
Assistant strength and conditioning: Kendall Smith

Cowboys' coaching staff tracker

January, 22, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Since we parsed Jerry Jones' words Tuesday about the current state of the Dallas Cowboys offensive and defensive coordinators, let's parse what head coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday when it came to Monte Kiffin and Bill Callahan.

Like Jones, Garrett said both are under contract for 2014. Unlike Jones, however, Garrett said roles could change, but he would not elaborate.

What does it mean? Maybe everything. Maybe nothing.

Kiffin, who turns 74 next month, has said repeatedly he is not retiring. Could the Cowboys move him to a consultant role like they did with assistant head coach/wide receivers Jimmy Robinson last year? Robinson was not spotted at one practice in the offseason, during training camp or during the season. He is in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl looking for a job in 2014.

Given how Jones and Garrett handled the announcement of Callahan as playcaller last year, first with Jones saying it, then Garrett denying it only to come back a day or two later and say, indeed, Callahan would call plays, this is shaping up as an only-with-the-Cowboys situation.

With that in mind, let's look at the current state of the staff:

Head coach: Jason Garrett

Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach: Bill Callahan
Defensive coordinator: Monte Kiffin

Quarterbacks: Wade Wilson
Running backs: Gary Brown
Wide receivers: Derek Dooley
Tight ends: Vacant
Assistant offensive line: Frank Pollack
Offensive quality control/wide receivers: Keith O'Quinn
Offensive assistant: Vacant

Defensive line: Rod Marinelli
Linebackers: Matt Eberflus
Secondary: Jerome Henderson
Defensive assistant/defensive line: Leon Lett
Defensive quality control/linebackers: Ben Bloom
Assistant secondary: Joe Baker

Special teams: Rich Bisaccia
Assistant special teams: Vacant

Strength and conditioning: Mike Woicik
Assistant strength and conditioning: Brett Bech
Assistant strength and conditioning: Kendall Smith

Wes Phillips left the Cowboys to be the Washington Redskins tight ends coach. Offensive assistant Dave Borgonzi left for a defensive assistant's job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mikal Smith also worked with the Cowboys secondary last year but did not have a specific title. He joined his father, Lovie, in Tampa Bay. Assistant special teams coach Chris Boniol and the club agreed to part ways, and the Cowboys will likely give that job to Carlos Polk, although Garrett did not confirm the position at the Senior Bowl. Polk served as an intern with the Cowboys in 2013.

Coaches like Bloom, Baker, O'Quinn and Woicik would need new deals to remain with the team in 2014.

Dez scores, but film session won't be fun

November, 29, 2013
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dez Bryant's touchdown drought ended with the kind of catch we've become accustomed to seeing him make.

It was a back-shoulder fade against former Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins, who really had no chance being in single coverage against Bryant, who boxed out Jenkins and made a jumping catch in the end zone for his ninth score of the season but first in 14 quarters.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDespite scoring a touchdown for the Cowboys, receiver Dez Bryant says there's another play he'll scrutinize more in the coming week.
Receivers coach Derek Dooley will probably breeze through that play during the film session reviewing Dallas' Thanksgiving 31-24 win against the Oakland Raiders.

But Bryant anticipates they'll spend plenty of time on his final catch, when he caught a short pass on second-and-goal from the Oakland 7-yard line and had only backup cornerback Phillip Adams between him and the end zone. Bryant attempted to juke Adams and got stopped a few yards shy of pay dirt, a play that will bother him over the long weekend.

“No doubt! No doubt!” said Bryant, who had seven catches for 61 yards and the touchdown. “I screwed it up. I don't know why I didn't keep attacking. I should have kept running outside and I didn't.

“I know I'm going to hear it from coach Dooley. He's going to keep rewinding it. Coach Dooley is all about north and south.”

Another play that Bryant will hear plenty about from his position coach: His fumble during the Cowboys' two-minute drill at the end of the first half, which fortunately was recovered by left tackle Tyron Smith to keep the touchdown drive alive.

That's two consecutive games that Bryant fumbled. That's a trend that needs to end, but he believes focusing on it only increases the odds of him fumbling again. And he also believes worrying about minding his manners on the sidelines -- a reaction to the overreaction to his emotional outbursts during the Cowboys' Oct. 27 loss to Detroit -- has only distracted him.

“I'm being strictly straight up honest,” Bryant said. “After that [fumble] happened, I'm like, forget this. I've got to talk. I don't care who's looking. I'm gonna be me. This is how I've got to be.

“I can't be watching it and be worrying about everything else, worrying about catching the ball and paying attention to the tuck. When I do that, that's when I screw up. I've got to go out there and just play Dez, just got to be Dez.”

Derek Dooley deals with Dez Bryant

November, 14, 2013
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Dez BryantAP Photo/James D. SmithReceivers coach Derek Dooley says Dez Bryant's sideline antics are often misunderstood.
IRVING, Texas -- Along the sidelines at several games, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is seen yelling.

He's always yelling it seems, but he's not being loud for the sake of it. His passion, Cowboys' players and coaches say, is encouraging.

The man at the center of most of these sideline 'chats' is wide receivers coach Derek Dooley.

"I don’t think they were all animated for the same reasons," Dooley said. "If they were all animated because they want to win and they want to be as good as they can be to help the team, I would love to have that. What you don’t want is a bunch of passion that’s sort of unbridled and has no purpose -- you’re just out there ranting. That’s not the case, and I don’t think that’s the case with Dez for those that know him."

The worst of the sideline rants occurred in Detroit where Bryant is waving his arms, yelling about coverages and how the Cowboys are the best in the league at beating certain types of defenses. Bryant breaks through a discussion between Jason Witten and Jason Garrett to yell at Tony Romo. Bryant also yells about the defense he's seeing to Dooley, who speaks in a calm tone to the 25-year old, as he walks away.

The attention brought to Bryant's sideline antics that day stunned, him because it was mostly negative. A audio account of what he actually said supported his comments after the game, where he said he was just talking about beating coverages, not complaining about touches.

"I found it interesting -- after the game, everybody was asked at different levels what went on," Dooley said. "All the answers were consistent, nobody really thought it was a big deal except everybody outside of our -- you know. And I can understand both sides. To us, when you’re hearing it, I remember people asked me, they go ‘Well he was right there, and you just kind of walked right by.’ He’s over there going, ‘We’ve got to win, we’ve got to win.’ You know, he wasn’t saying anything bad, so you just go ‘Yeah, I know.’ I mean a great example is after (Terrance Williams') touchdown, he went up to Tony and is just ‘Keep throwing it to Terrance if he’s one-on-one.’ But if you don’t know what’s said, it looks like he’s chewing him out. I mean, he wasn’t."

Dooley, along with several Cowboys' officials, don't want Bryant to curtail his passion, because it's needed on a weekly basis. Bryant's sideline explosion prompted Jerry Jones to say he might visit the sidelines more often to check on the passion of the team. Jones hasn't visited the Cowboys' sidelines for any extended period after Bryant's actions in Detroit.

Dooley, along with former receivers coaches, Ray Sherman and Jimmy Robinson, have been a calming influence during Bryant's maturity from rookie receiver, to one of the most talented players in the NFL.

But sometimes the sideline antics get in the way of what's important, and that's Bryant's production.

"When you’ve been in coaching and you’ve been around kids your whole life, you can get a read on people," Dooley said. "I think sometimes we put these unrealistic expectations on the emotions of a 25, 26, 27year-old, that things shouldn’t bother them, and they’re human. You guys get bothered, I get bothered by things, so learning how to compartmentalize that and go out and perform at a high level, it’s a real step. I think he’s doing great. I think he really is. I think he’s playing with more consistency than he’s ever played with. His production is high, but we always want it to be higher, and we can do a better job for him."

Audio backs Dez Bryant's claims of support

October, 28, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant has taken some heat in the past 24 hours for two sideline rants in Dallas' loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

But sideline audio and video released by NFL.com on Monday night supports Bryant's assertion that he was offering support to his teammates.

During the first sideline chat, when Bryant is waving his arms, he yells, "No, we can't let them do that. They playing me [expletive] up. We destroy that."

[+] EnlargeDallas' Dez Bryant
AP Photo/James D. Smith"It's all about motivating, trying to get guys' minds right and things like that," said Dez Bryant.
Bryant is referring to press-man coverage by the Lions, something Bryant feels he can beat with a deep pass. Quarterback Tony Romo and wide receivers coach Derek Dooley are also on the audio speaking to Bryant about watching where the safety is playing him.

After Bryant breaks through Jason Witten and Jason Garrett to speak with Romo, the receiver says, "It's over on that last one."

While kneeling down with Dooley and Romo, the receivers coach tells Bryant, "Just sit it down, don't look at Tony. Safety is coming over the top."

Dooley later adds, "It looks open but they coming over the top."

Dooley is explaining to Bryant to be careful of the safety because he presents a threat on a deep pass and that's why Romo isn't throwing passes down the field toward him.

Bryant is very animated, but he never says anything negative about individually wanting the ball. If anything, Bryant is talking about how the Cowboys can beat the Lions' deep coverage.

"We busted our ass not to win this [expletive] game," Bryant yells.

Bryant did have another animated discussion on the sidelines with tight end Jason Witten with 12 seconds to play in the game. The pair needed to be separated by defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who at one point grabbed Bryant to calm him down.

Bryant hugged Witten in the locker room after the game and everyone involved said the issues on the sidelines are nothing more than a player being passionate about trying to win a game.

"There was no anger at all," Bryant said to reporters on Monday. "Me and Witt, we laughed and smiled. We even joked about it whenever we got on the bus. Check this out. Don’t think that I know there’s not a million and one cameras out there on that field. The thing about it is, this is a football game. You can’t worry about who’s watching, who’s paying attention. It’s all about motivating, trying to get guys’ minds right and things like that. And basically that’s what it was. For the most part, that’s what it was, especially with the Romo situation. I don’t know how that came about. I got done talking to Romo, I went down to talk to [Cowboys WR} Terrance Williams and tell them, ‘You know what, they keep you like, keep killing ‘em, keep killing ‘em, keep killing me.' And so I see he broke out for, how long was the touchdown? 60 yards?"

Williams had a 60-yard TD catch in the fourth-quarter. After that, Bryant had a 50-yard TD catch. Overall, Bryant had three catches for 72 yards and two touchdown receptions.

Camp observations: DeVonte Holloman's pick

August, 14, 2013
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OXNARD, Calif. – Let's just get straight to the observations from Tuesday’s workout after a spirited session that you can read about here.
  • DeVonte Holloman showed his athleticism in the Hall of Fame Game with an interception return for a touchdown. In team work, Holloman ended the second-team offense's drive with a pick of Kyle Orton, dropping back into coverage and exploding to the ball. It capped off a good day in coverage for him with two pass breakups in one-on-one work.
  • WR Anthony Armstrong hurt a finger on his left hand in individual drills after getting whacked by a pad by an assistant coach. He got the finger taped up but then dropped his first pass thrown his way when he returned. That led to WR coach Derek Dooley throwing some quick passes to him to get accustomed to catching with his fingers taped together.
  • CB Orlando Scandrick is hunting for a pick after dropping a sure takeaway in situation work. The good news was that it came on fourth down. The bad news was he could have had a touchdown.
  • S Will Allen was active. He stunted TE James Hanna on a route in one-on-one drills, nearly picked of Romo in seven-on-seven and broke up a deeper throw to Jason Witten in situational work.
  • OT Darrion Weems was back to practice after missing two days because of a bruised chest and gave up a sack to DE Kyle Wilber when he was beaten off the snap.
  • In one-on-one work, LB Justin Durant clamped down on TE Gavin Escobar at the line and essentially prevented the rookie from getting out into his route.
  • Dan Bailey made all six kicks in the special teams' period between 40 and 51 yards. In situation work, Bailey nailed what looked like a 50-yarder to give the offense a 24-23 win.
  • For the second straight day QB Alex Tanney was the third-team quarterback, taking most of the reps over Nick Stephens.
  • Before practice, special teams coach Rich Bisaccia put WR Dwayne Harris through an interesting drill in which he had Harris spin around and then find the ball in the air while squaring himself up to the field as a punt returner.

Former head coaches offer perspective for Cowboys

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
11:30
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OXNARD, Calif. – Sometimes being a head coach can be a lonely position.

There are so many issues that come up on a daily, if not hourly, basis. They could be player related, personnel related, coaching staff related, management related. It’s part of the reason Bill Parcells liked to say, “I’m just trying to keep my own house from burning down.”

Jason Garrett enters his third full season as the Cowboys’ head coach with an overhauled coaching staff. Only four -- Wes Phillips, Wade Wilson, Chris Boniol and Keith O’Quinn -- remain from when he took over in the middle of the 2010 season.

Of the six new coaches on his staff in 2013, three have head coaching experience: Derek Dooley, Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin. Bill Callahan, who is the fourth former head coach on Garrett’s staff, joined the Cowboys last year.

“I definitely believe that when you sat in that chair you have a better appreciation of what a head coach goes through,” said Dooley, who headed up Louisiana Tech (2007-09) and Tennessee (2010-12) before coming in as Garrett’s wide receivers coach. “For an assistant coach, when you’re face with all these tough decisions as a head coach, we say, ‘I would’ve done this or that,’ and maybe you don’t have the perspective he does and maybe you don’t realize the four other things that affect it that might be why he made that decision. If you experience being a head coach and you can put your ego aside, you become really a better assistant. You can serve the head coach in a better capacity because you understand the challenges he’s facing and understand what decisions are made and the way they are made.”

Considering that Garrett may be on the hot seat after consecutive 8-8 seasons, surrounding himself with former head coaches might not be viewed as the wise thing to do. If owner and general manager Jerry Jones ever wanted to make an in-season change, he would have plenty of in-house candidates.

But Garrett feels secure in his position.

“I rely on all those guys all the time,” Garrett said. “We’re having constant conversations about how to do things, is this the right way, what do you think about that? And all the guys give great insight.”

Marinelli was Detroit’s head coach from 2006-08. Kiffin was the head coach at North Carolina State from 1980-82. Callahan was Oakland’s head coach in 2002-03 and Nebraska's from 2004-07.

“You see the big picture at times,” Marinelli said. “I think that’s one of the benefits. You usually climb because you’re good at doing certain things as a position coach or a coordinator. I think it’s important that you bring that expertise to the table every day.”

Garrett’s decision to give up play-calling duties to Callahan was not easy. He enjoyed doing it. He was good at it. On game day, though, the hope is that he will now be freed up to better handle time management and other issues that will arise. Without play-calling duties during practice, Garrett can roam the field more to study every player and every group.

He can also interact with more players.

“There’s nobody that does a better job of all the coaches I’ve been with than Jason does spending time and getting prepared for a team meeting or talking to players one on one,” Callahan said. “He’s the best at it.”

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