Dallas Cowboys: Leon Williams

Dallas Cowboys Preseason Live

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
9:00
AM ET
Welcome to Dallas Cowboys training camp! ESPN.com Cowboys reporters Todd Archer and Tim MacMahon have live updates and the latest news from Oxnard, California.

List of Cowboys free agents

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
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Now that the NFL is back, we have the official list of free agents for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys can begin to contact players' agents Tuesday at 9 a.m. CT.

On Friday at 5 p.m. CT teams may extend offer sheets and sign players.

Restricted free agents (Teams have the right of first refusal)

Cornerback Alan Ball

The Cowboys would receive a seventh-round pick if they didn't match an offer sheet for Ball. Offer sheets must be submitted to the old club by 10:59 p.m. CT on Aug. 20.

Unrestricted free agents

Tackle Alex Barron
Defensive end Stephen Bowen
Tackle Doug Free
Defensive end Jason Hatcher
Wide receiver Sam Hurd
Guard Kyle Kosier
Safety Gerald Sensabaugh
Defensive end Marcus Spears
Linebacker Leon Williams

The deadline to sign contracts is Sept. 3 at 3 p.m. CT. The Cowboys receive no compensation if they lose any of these players.

Players with fewer than four accrued seasons who received no qualifying offer or no minimum tender from their old club

Quarterback Chris Greisen

There is no deadline to sign a contract.

The Cowboys didn't franchise any players.

Cowboys explain their workout plan

October, 6, 2010
10/06/10
5:15
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IRVING, Texas -- Wade Phillips traditionally doesn't bring in a lot of players to work out.

He likes to stick with his 53-man roster for most of the season and, barring an injury or a trade that might help the team, won't add to the roster very often.

On Tuesday, the team worked out nine players at Valley Ranch and signed fullback Alex Daniels to the practice squad.

Others who worked out were: safety Quintin Demps, center/guard Eric Ghiaciuc, tackle Xavier Fulton, cornerback Ross Weaver, safety De'von Hall, cornerback Geoffrey Pope, running back Alphonso Smith, and running back Quinn Porter.

Demps was the most interesting name of the bunch because of his ability to play free safety and return kicks. Demps played his first two seasons with the Eagles.

Daniels, 270 pounds, was converted from defensive end to fullback by the Oakland Raiders before he was cut last month. Phillips said Daniels is strong and athletic.

"We brought guys in, quite a few, and report it to the league," Phillips said. "We had a spot open on the practice squad and we periodically look at players out there. Leon [Williams] we looked at last year. We've done it all along. We want to keep seeing who's out there and what the possibilities are."

LB Leon Williams ready for his shot

September, 16, 2010
9/16/10
1:20
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IRVING -- With inside linebacker Sean Lee questionable with a hamstring strain, it means Leon Williams will take over his spot on special teams. If necessary, Williams will also back up Bradie James on the strongside in the nickel package.

"That's what I'm focused on because it can change the game," Williams said of special teams.

Williams was one of the last players to make the team in a crowded field of linebackers. He has some experienced. Williams signed as an undrafted free agent with Cleveland in 2006 and after playing 46 regular season games, including 12 starts, he was released after the 2008 season.

Williams spent a year with the United Football League's New York Sentinels and former Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Todd Grantham told the Cowboys to give Williams a look after the UFL season.

The Cowboys liked his athletic ability and decided to give him a chance.

"I felt like the training camp I had was the best of my career," he said. "I would have felt alright wit myslef if I was cut."

Keith Brooking doesn't want to take breaks

September, 6, 2010
9/06/10
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IRVING, Texas – Wade Phillips’ concern about playing Keith Brooking in the nickel and dime packages is that the 13-year veteran could wear down if he’s plays too many snaps.

Brooking begs to differ.

“I feel like I’m in better shape than anybody on this team,” Brooking said with a big grin after finishing an intense conditioning session that involved jumping rope and sprinting on a treadmill with a resistance belt around his waist. “What am I going to tell you, I’m going to give out in the fourth quarter? No way, I’m not going to say that.”

But Brooking, proud as he is, is also a realist. He understands that there aren’t many dudes in NFL history who have played every down during a season in which they turn 35. He gets why his head coach worries that he might wear down if he plays in every defensive package.

“I think there’s some truth to that. There’s some inaccuracies to that,” Brooking said. “It probably falls somewhere in the middle.

“I feel that I can contribute and help this team on third downs. I feel confident in Coach Phillips and the other coaches. They’re going to put me in a position to help our football team win. If they feel like I need a break, it’s tough for me to swallow, it’s tough for me to take. But I’ll do it, as long as we’ve got people out there being productive.”

Therein lies the question: Can any of the other nickel linebacker candidates (Jason Williams, Sean Lee, Leon Williams, Mike Hamlin and Danny McCray) be productive enough to make the coaches comfortable giving Brooking a breather?

The coaches can’t just count on Brooking to let them know when he needs a break. He’ll keep his mouth shut.

Five Cowboys who can help their cause

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
5:36
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The program for tonight’s game features Miles Austin, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Terence Newman and Bradie James on the cover. You won’t find any of them on the field.

The preseason finale is all about the fringe players for the Cowboys.

Here are five bubble guys who can really help their cause in a game considered meaningless by most:

LB Leon Williams: It’ll probably come down to Williams or Steve Octavien as the ninth linebacker. If Williams plants the seed that he’s a solid candidate for the nickel package, that could tip the scales in his favor. It’d also help if he’d made a tackle or two on special teams, it’d certainly help. Octavien has proven that he can be a core special teams guy.

CB Bryan McCann: They Cowboys will probably keep 10 defensive backs. The question is whether they’ll keep a sixth safety or a fifth corner. McCann will get the chance to compete against Miami’s starting receivers for at least a series or two. If he performs well enough, the Cowboys will be nervous about trying to slip him through waivers onto the practice squad.

TE Martin Rucker: They want to keep Rucker, a fourth-round pick by Cleveland in 2008 that the Cowboys added in the middle of training camp. He just has to show them something. He could claim a roster spot by blocking relatively well and making a few catches. He’s not nearly as physical as John Phillips, but Rucker has intriguing potential in the passing game.

FB Chris Gronkowski: It could come down to Gronkowski or Rucker. Gronkowski was an H-back at Arizona, so he can be utilized in a lot of the roles that Phillips filled last season. But Gronkowski has a shot even if Rucker makes the team. Gronkowski needs to prove that he can be an effective lead blocker to give him a chance to beat out Deon Anderson.

WR Jesse Holley: The Cowboys don’t want to pay Sam Hurd’s $1.8 million salary, but they could use a receiver who can be an impact special teams player. That gives Holley ($320,000 salary) a shot. He made the practice squad with his performance in last season’s preseason finale. If he finishes the preseason with a bang again, the reality show star might make the 53-man roster.

Boys on the bubble: Who has to go?

August, 30, 2010
8/30/10
9:05
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Siavvi/Hurd/McCannUS Presswire/AP PhotoWhat will the future hold for Junior Siavii, Sam Hurd and Bryan McCann? The Cowboys will be cutting five players Tuesday, so we'll see.

After cutting veteran safety Patrick Watkins on Monday, the Cowboys still need to release four more players from the 80-man roster. Some teams have done so already, such as the Jets, Bengals and Chiefs.

Dallas has some interesting decisions to make at a few positions, so here's our weekly look at the bubble players.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The bubble: Mike Tepper, Travis Bright, Will Barker and Pat McQuistan

Outlook: It seems 10 players will earn checks this fall who are offensive linemen. The injury to Sam Young (sprained MCL in right knee that keeps him out three to four weeks) won't hurt his status. Young, Doug Free, Alex Barron, Marc Colombo and Robert Brewster are the tackles in 2010. The inside positions are unsettled somewhat. Bright is a long shot to overtake Phil Costa as the No. 3 center, but McQuistan could make a case for himself if Montrae Holland struggles vs. Miami on Thursday night. But we doubt it.

WIDE RECEIVER

The bubble:Sam Hurd and Jesse Holley

Outlook: Hurd has done a decent job of catching the ball, but he's not making anybody say, "Hey he should be on the team because he's special." Special teams is the same way. The Cowboys know he can do it, but there are some younger players who have more upside than Hurd. Holley was in the lead to make this team on special teams, but fell off the last two games. The Cowboys should keep five wide receivers. At some point, Dallas might try to trade Hurd for a sixth- or seventh-round pick. If that can't happen, Hurd could be sent home.

TIGHT END

The bubble:Martin Rucker and Scott Sicko

Outlook: When Rucker (hamstring) was deemed healthy, he was able to participate in practices and games but he hasn't impressed anyone enough. Sicko had to be convinced to come to training camp, and he should have stayed home. A concussion also slowed his progress. The Cowboys have an interesting decision here because they could keep Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett and then go with two fullbacks. If it happens, Rucker and Sicko will go home. But Sicko could be worth keeping. If he clears waivers, he could move to the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

The bubble: Pat Watkins, Jamar Wall, Bryan McCann, Danny McCray

Outlook: It's about consistency. McCray had three special teams tackles last week vs. San Diego. So how many did he have vs. Houston on Saturday? Zero. If McCray makes this team, it's because of his special teams work. Barry Church is a better safety than him, and it seems McCray is missing in action against the run. Watkins can still make this team over McCray, but if it's a financial thing, McCray makes $320,000; Watkins will earn $1.17 million. (UPDATE: Watkins was officially cut Monday morning.)

NOSE TACKLE

The bubble:Junior Siavii and Josh Brent

Outlook: There are some in the organization that love Brent, but Siavii is a better run stopper and he could move to end if necessary. Siavii, overall, is a better player, but it wouldn't be a surprise if the Cowboys kept three nose tackles. In 2006, they did. Brent, if he stays, will be inactive on Sundays.

LINEBACKER

The bubble:Leon Williams, Steve Octavien, Brandon Sharpe, Victor Butler, Jason Williams and Brandon Williams.

Outlook: Jason and Brandon Williams (not related) will be here, but not without some raised eyebrows. Octavien and Butler played steady, so their spots seem secure. The Cowboys could go with nine linebackers, or maybe 10. If it's 10, who is better: Leon Williams or Brandon Sharpe?

Final practice report of training camp

August, 27, 2010
8/27/10
3:03
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OXNARD, Calif. – A walkthrough in preparation for the preseason dress rehearsal game was the 36th and final practice of the Cowboys’ training camp.

The Cowboys wrapped up camp by getting in a single-file line and high-fiving the almost 1,500 fans who showed up to the Residence Inn to watch the yawn-inducing workout. That was the highlight of the morning.

Some other notable nuggets:

*Cornerback Orlando Scandrick is expected to play after busting up his nose during Thursday’s practice. He didn’t break his nose, as originally believed. “He basically had a bloody nose,” Wade Phillips said.

*Phillips said WR Kevin Ogletree (hamstring) and LB Leon Williams (cauliflower ear) are also expected to be available. Williams hasn’t put on a helmet since his ear flared up earlier this week.

*Most of the starters will play into the third quarter. Phillips said there could be some exceptions, using Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten as an example of a player who might not need to play in the second half to be prepared for the season.

*The Cowboys will play it close to the vest from a strategy standpoint, with a return trip to Houston coming in Week 3.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do, but we’re not going to show everything that we’re going to do against them that we think we can gain an advantage on them,” Phillips said. “Matchups are really what we’re talking about. If we can gain matchup advantages during a regular season game, that’s what we’ll do, more so than a preseason game.”

Practice report: Day 11, Pt. 2

August, 26, 2010
8/26/10
8:30
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OXNARD, Calif. – The last full practice of training camp was a no-pads affair that featured a lot of scout-team work run at less than full speed.

Some notable stuff from a practice that wasn’t exactly exciting:

*Cornerback Orlando Scandrick left practice after bloodying – and perhaps breaking – his nose when he made a diving deflection of a pass intended for Terrell Hudgins. Scandrick isn’t expected to miss Saturday’s game, but we saw the Cowboys’ backup plan for the nickel corner.

Fourth-round pick Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, whose primary focus is free safety, replaced Scandrick with the first-team nickel package.

“I think he knows what we’re doing,” secondary coach Dave Campo said of the rookie, who has 4.32 speed and played a lot of corner in college. “He just needs to get out there and play.”

Campo said rookies Bryan McCann and Jamar Wall could also see time as the slot back in the nickel and dime packages.

If Scandrick got injured in a game, the Cowboys would likely put Cletis Gordon on the outside and let Terence Newman play the slot in the substitution packages. Newman played the slot before Scandrick arrived in 2007. However, Campo said the coaches want to evaluate the young players in that position.

*Jason Williams and Danny McCray split time with the first-team nickel as the linebacker next to Bradie James.

Second-round pick Sean Lee was expected to replace Bobby Carpenter in that role. But Wade Phillips said Lee is still trying to get the base defense down after missing 13 practices and two preseason games due to a strained quadriceps. Lee is starting with Keith Brooking sidelined the rest of the preseason, and it’s a lot to ask a rookie to play every snap.

“It’s a different type position,” Phillips said of the nickel linebacker role. “Different learning involved, different techniques involved and different abilities involved. We’re looking at all aspects and all guys that we think can fill that role.”

Mike Hamlin is another candidate, but he’s starting at strong safety with Gerald Sensabaugh out. Brooking performed well in the nickel the first two preseason games, but Phillips is hesitant to ask a 35-year-old to never leave the field.

“I think both of those guys can do it,” Phillips said, referring to James and Brooking. “I just don’t know if I want them to play every play. They’re very valuable on first and second down. If we have somebody who can come in and spell those guys, we’d like to that.”

*Phillips said he expects WR Kevin Ogletree (hamstring) and LB Leon Williams (cauliflower ear) to play Sunday in Houston. Ogletree practiced in the afternoon. Williams did not.

Cowboys practice report: Day 11, Pt. 1

August, 26, 2010
8/26/10
1:24
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- The last two-a-day practice of training camp happened with no helmets and shoulder pads. The Cowboys continued to work on the Houston Texans as quarterback Stephen McGee ran the scout team offense.

Here's the highlights.

*Leon Williams (ear) returned to practice but Kevin Ogletree (hamstring) did not. Ogletree wore his uniform jersey and his playing status for Saturday night is uncertain. We'll see if he goes in the afternoon. If he does practice, he most likely will play.

*The missing: Gerald Sensabaugh (shoulder), Keith Brooking (knee), Stephen Hodge (knee), Marcus Spears (knee), Kyle Kosier (knee), Marc Colombo (knee), John Phillips (knee) and Dez Bryant (ankle) missed practice.

*Patrick Crayton worked on returning punts during the special teams portion of practice. Alex Barron worked with the first team offense again at right tackle.

*Following practice, Jay Ratliff, the All-Pro nose tackle, worked with rookie center Phil Costa on his technique for about 15 minutes.

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Chargers review

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
11:00
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Thoughts from the San Diego preseason game:

*The biggest concern for the Cowboys going into this game against the Chargers was how were they able to effectively protect Tony Romo from a defense that had six sacks the previous week against the Bears.

[+] EnlargeRobert Brewster
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezWhen Robert Brewster struggles, the problem area seems to center on his footwork.
With injuries to Marc Colombo and Alex Barron, Robert Brewster was placed into the lineup as the starter at right tackle. All the talk centered on how much help Brewster would need throughout the game not to expose Romo to any unnecessary hits. The offensive coaches were preparing several different combinations in the practice leading up to this game.

We observed tight end Jason Witten lined up in line next to Brewster; we also saw backs off set to that side as well. Offensive line coach Hudson Houck spoke of how the coaches had to be smart in the way they called plays in the game to attempt the help Brewster. There was no way that Brewster was going into this game to be left on an island to block.

His first series was decent even though on his first play, he was late out of his stance but managed to recover to finish the block. When Brewster struggles, it is when he doesn’t move his feet or they are not quick. In the Chargers game, his pass set was good for the most part, but there were some plays where the defender managed to get the edge on him.

His technique wasn’t pretty, and there were a couple of times where he could have been called for holding but wasn’t.

On the interception by Romo, there was a question about whether Brewster and Davis were at fault for the breakdown in protection on the twist, which put pressure in Romo’s face. In studying the play, Davis appears to be the one at fault, and not Brewster.

In the running game, I thought Brewster came off the ball well and got into his blocks with some pop. He wasn’t on the ground and he was able to move his feet, sustain his block and get some push.

The most impressive area about Brewster’s night was his ability to play both left and right tackle in this game. We talked about the transition that Free had to make from right to left because of the footwork, but Brewster was able to play both spots in the game without struggling a great deal. It actually was impressive.

*Linebacker Sean Lee was making his first appearance of the preseason after missing time in camp with a quad strain. Lee will fill the important role of the nickel linebacker but was surprised to see that when the first nickel went onto the field early in the first quarter, Bradie James and Keith Brooking were the linebackers. Maybe this was Wade Phillips’ way of not showing too much in the preseason with his nickel packages.

In the evaluation of Lee, it was a mixed bag. There is not a doubt in my mind that Lee has a nose for the football because I have seen him in practice, read the scheme, fight the block and get in on the tackle. Early in Lee’s time in the game, he really didn’t cut it loose. Plays that he normally would make in practice were done in caution.

When he plays cautious, he didn’t get off the blocks as well and he was standing around too many piles and not part of them. Was there a reason for this?

I do not believe it was for lack of preparation because Lee is extremely smart and instinctive for a rookie. Was it nerves? This might be your answer.

As the game wore on and into the fourth quarter, his play was better overall. He was solid in carrying his man in routes along with his zone drops. Lee was more physical in the running game playing off blocks and getting into those piles.

The Cowboys didn’t draft Lee to be a cautious player, but one that can be a force like he was in the fourth quarter.

*On our nightly Cowboys Training Camp Report (7-9p.m.) on 103.3 FM ESPN, my co-host RJ Choppy and I have talked about the "bubble players" on this team.

These are the players that are fighting for those last few spots on the 53-man roster. Guys like Leon Williams, Barry Church, Danny McCray, Josh Brent and Bryan McCann just to name a few. These are guys that need to step forward and not only show in practice what they can do but make plays in the game, so when the front office and coaches are sitting in those meetings they struggle with the decision of releasing them.

For guys like Church, McCray, McCann and Brent, it was a productive night. Church had a nice open field tackle on Ryan Mathews and a long fumble return. McCray had two solid tackles as the gunner on the punt team. Both of these young safeties will get more of an opportunity with Gerald Sensabaugh sidelined with a shoulder injury for the next 3-4 weeks.

Brent was powerful at the point pushing the pocket on Victor Butler’s safety. McCann was in great position for a breakup on a pass, but the receiver made an outstanding adjusting catch. Despite that play, McCann has been super competitive in the way he has gone about his business.

With only two games left in the preseason, these players have to continue to shine whenever they get the opportunity whether it’s practice or a game. As “bubble players,” their NFL jobs with the Cowboys depend on it.
video
The Cowboys moved to 2-1 in the preseason as a result of their 16-14 victory over San Diego. The Chargers said they came after the Cowboys with blitzes and thought they were more physical than the visitors.

Jerry Jones agreed. There were two injuries, one of which gave someone quality playing time. Here's who played well and who didn't.

Stock Up

Martellus Bennett. The young tight end is still playing with a swollen left ankle that looks like a softball. Bennett led the Cowboys in receiving yards with 40 on four catches, including a 19-yard touchdown reception.

Robert Brewster. Who said Tony Romo was scared about Brewster starting at right tackle? He had few mental mistakes, but a false start in the fourth quarter was the only glaring mistake. Brewster did have some help on pass plays, but he also moved to left tackle in the second half and performed well.

Terence Newman. Of the three turnovers by the Cowboys defense, Newman had a nice interception, jumping the route near the goal line on a Philip Rivers pass. Newman has performed well in training camp and in the preseason.

Cletis Gordon. Fighting for a fourth cornerback spot, Gordon struggled at times, but he made a great play on the ball, something he's done all summer, when he picked off a Jonathan Crompton pass in the fourth quarter.

Barry Church. Coaches tell young players that when your number is called, be ready. When Gerald Sensabaugh went down with a shoulder injury, Church moved to strong safety. He was credited with five tackles and a fumble recovery that set up the first offensive touchdown of the preseason for the Cowboys. Church ran 80 yards on the return. His status for the 53-man roster just got stronger.

Stock Down

Tony Romo. He looked bad. He misfired two passes to Miles Austin. He threw off his back foot while under pressure, leading to an interception. He was hurt by two drops, by Jason Witten and Austin, and threw seven incompletions.

Miles Austin. Yes, he did catch a touchdown. But he had a drop, and of the five passes thrown his way he caught just two. Austin has done an excellent job in training camp. But for one night, he didn't do so well.

Leon Williams. If you're looking for linebackers to cut, this is one guy who might not be in Landover, Md., when the season starts. Williams looked lost on defense at times. When Marcus Mason scored on a 4-yard run, Williams had a chance to blow him up but he moved behind Marcus Dixon, who was engaged with a blocker.

Sean Lee. The second-round pick looked a little lost out there. He was behind on some passes in the flat and was late in covering the tight ends. He did play a lot and as the game wore on and got better. We thought he was thinking a little too much and not reacting.

Herb Donaldson. On four carries he gained just 8 yards. Donaldson had a chance to gain a first down by breaking a tackle by Nathan Vasher, but he didn't stay in bounds and stumbled out of bounds short of the first down. Donaldson later dropped a swing pass. He's battling Lonyae Miller for spot on the practice squad and took a step back.

The best of Cowboys' bubble battles

August, 20, 2010
8/20/10
4:30
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys don’t have any legitimate competition for starting jobs, but one member of the front office said he’s never seen so many good fights for the spots at the bottom of the roster.

Here are a few of the best:

Barry Church vs. Danny McCray (with injured Pat Watkins hoping to get back in the fray): Watkins has been a backup safety who made an impact on special teams. It looks like the Cowboys can upgrade for less money with either of the two undrafted rookies.

Church is a strong safety who was a four-time All-MAC player at Toledo, where he had nine interceptions, six forced fumbles and three blocked kicks. He’s a good special teams player who serves a personal protector on the punt team. He showed his knack for making plays with a couple of picks in one practice this week. His 4.69 speed is the only reason he wasn’t drafted.

McCray is a free safety who wasn’t a starter at LSU, backing up Giants third-round pick Chad Jones and playing in the nickel. He’s an impact special teams player who has made a few tackles as a gunner in the two preseason games. He’s shown good range and better instincts than the Cowboys expected as a safety.

There is a chance that the Cowboys could decide to keep both undrafted rookie safeties. If that’s the case, one of last year’s draft picks could be in trouble. Michael Hamlin’s roster spot isn’t guaranteed. Neither is quarterback Stephen McGee’s.

Leon Williams vs. Steve Octavien: They play different linebacker spots, but the Cowboys will only keep one or the other. The plan is to keep nine linebackers, and the Cowboys aren’t going to give up on project 2009 third-round pick Jason Williams.

The coaching staff wouldn’t cringe if Leon Williams had to play some snaps at inside linebacker. He’s a four-year veteran who took advantage of the extra reps when second-round pick Sean Lee missed 13 practices and two preseason games with a strained quad.

Octavien isn’t going to get in the rotation at outside linebacker – especially with 2009 fourth-round picks Victor Butler and Brandon Williams showing promise – but he’s a Joe DeCamillis favorite who ranked fourth on the Cowboys with 12 special teams tackles last season.

If Williams gains the confidence of DeCamillis the next few games, he’ll have the edge.

Jesse Holley vs. Sam Hurd: Hurd is a heck of a No. 6 receiver and led the Cowboys with 19 special teams tackles last season. Is that worth $1.759 million this season?

The Cowboys are leaning toward keeping Holley, who would make $320,000, over Hurd.

Holley was “a dominant special teams performer” in the first two preseason games, according to Wade Phillips. DeCamillis has singled out Holley and McCray as the two guys he’s most intrigued with at this point. Holley has filled some of Hurd’s roles in those games, an audition for taking his roster spot.

Hurd is a much better receiver than Holley and might be able to crack another team’s rotation. But he won’t have the chance to catch passes in this receiving corps, so that won’t be much of a factor in the Cowboys’ decision.

This will come down to money and special teams. Holley is a whole lot cheaper, so if it’s close, he’ll get the nod over Hurd.

Scout's Eye: Raiders-Cowboys preview

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
11:30
PM ET

Some things I’ll keep a close eye on during the Cowboys-Raiders preseason game:

*This group of linebackers is deep -- really deep.

The Cowboys are going to face a difficult decision. Do you release Jason Williams, the third-round selection of 2009, for, say, Leon Williams? There is talent in Jason Williams, and you can see that. But does he have the mental makeup to be a consistent player in this defense where you are not only asked to play run but also be reliable in pass coverage?
PODCAST
Bryan Broaddus joins the show to preview Thursday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Listen Listen

Mental mistakes will get you beat and watching the way that this defensive staff operates, the Cowboys will not put you on the field if you are making mistakes. There were times in San Antonio when Jason Williams would lose his man in coverage. You would see him reaching or searching to find Jason Witten or John Phillips behind him.

On the Bengals' touchdown Sunday, it appeared that Williams lost his man in the back of the end zone. He was moving along the goal line and not at the proper depth to defend the ball. There was help to his left as he drifted into the flat while the receiver worked the back of the end line.

Jason Williams will get another opportunity to prove that he deserves to be on this team. Watch and see which Williams plays better against Oakland: Jason or Leon.

*Have been floating the idea of two tight ends and two fullbacks on the final roster. Interested in seeing more of fullback Chris Gronkowski in the role of that potential H-Back, move guy player.

Gronkowski is 240 pounds, runs a 4.70 and has wonderful hands. With the difficulty of trying to find a tight end off the street or maybe another club releasing one, this appears like the perfect opportunity to see if he can really do the role.

John Phillips was a player that could line up all over the place and give you good reps on special teams. Gronkowski appears to have the similar skill set.

Early in camp, you heard that he needed to be more forceful at the point of attack, which was true when you watched 9-on-7 from San Antonio. In the Cincinnati game, he did a much better job of hitting square and making something happen as did Deon Anderson.

Two fullbacks and two tight ends a possibility? We will see.

*Robert Brewster is now your second left tackle since the injury to Alex Barron in the Cincinnati game. This is a tough spot for Brewster because he really is still just a rookie.

The main problem that Brewster has to deal with right now is that he doesn’t play with quick feet. When you have to get out of your stance and get to the edge, your feet really need to work. Brewster’s feet at times will stop on contact and then he will struggle to keep his position on his man giving up the edge.

Another area that Brewster struggles in is when he has to deal with power. Brewster doesn’t play like the strongest guy and at times he will give up too much ground on the rush, which happened to him in San Antonio and the Cincinnati game.

Brewster will most likely make this team, because you really don’t want to give up on a young offensive linemen. But you would like to see him make some improvement from his first game to the next.

*With the injury to Dez Bryant, it appears that for the time being, that the Cowboys are going to have to carry six receivers on their 53-man roster. The sixth receiver in my book talent-wise is Sam Hurd, but what he does on special teams makes him one of your 45 each week that dresses for the game.

In the Cincinnati game, it was interesting to me that Jesse Holley took more of an active role on special teams. Holley covered kicks and took Hurd’s important job as the personal protector on the punt team.

Could special teams coach Joe DeCamillis be trying to find a suitable replacement for Hurd? And does the front office feel that Holley has more of an upside as a receiver than Hurd? This is an area that is worth watching as these games in the preseason unfold.

Scout's Eye: Day 11 observations

August, 4, 2010
8/04/10
11:53
AM ET
My thoughts from Tuesday’s practice:

*Quarterback Stephen McGee will get the lion’s share of the work this summer, and with five preseason games, he will need every one of them.

These games will be the best opportunity and really the only opportunity that the staff and front office will have to get a true read on his ability. Sure, they have seen McGee in practice and been with him in meetings, but how he handles these games will be the true measuring stick.

McGee has had his moments in this camp, but he has also had his struggles as well. A two-minute drive moving well down the field ends up with an interception on the goal line by Cletis Gordon, who drives on the ball intended for Titus Ryan. In the afternoon session, he threw another two picks, but one of those really wasn’t his fault because Tashard Choice couldn’t handled a checkdown pass that ended up in Leon Williams’ hands.

There are several traits that you have to like in McGee. He does have a strong arm, he does show mobility and he has quarterback intelligence.

Look for McGee to be given every chance to prove himself. A coach told me that McGee will have every opportunity to shine with quality players around him, which is important. If McGee is running for his life, or struggling with receivers not making a plays, it will be hard to evaluate him.

*Choice has had a very quiet camp, which has been surprising to me. Choice just hasn’t played like his normal self.

Haven’t seen that runner that gets to and through the holes quickly. He has been running like he is not seeing what is in front of him. There is hesitation and indecision, which we don’t normally see from him.

Granted, Choice has had to take reps with the second and third lines, which at times have had their struggles as well. In the passing game, Choice is normally sure-handed, but he had a bad bobble that cost McGee an interception.

Having studied him on special teams and as a blocker on the second punt team, he has struggled to work on the edge and secure his block. Know he is a much better player than what we have seen in this camp to date.

*Have been impressed with the linebackers on this club all through training camp. Whether it’s the pass-rushing of DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer or the sideline to sideline play of Keith Brooking, as a collective group they have been outstanding.

Bradie James has been playing with a purpose this camp. He looks lighter and he is moving better even in coverage, where in the past he has been a bit of a liability. When balls that have gone to the outside in the running game, James has shown the ability to quickly read the scheme, react and get in on the play. James has been solid as well on point of attack plays during the 9-on-7 drills. He is a powerful man that plays with a thump.

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