- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- With the Cowboys’ on-field work done until they get to Oxnard, Calif., next month, let’s hand out some awards from the six practices that were open to the media.
Best player, offense (not named Dez): Jason Witten
It would have been easier to give the award to Dez Bryant, who was excellent throughout the offseason, but his effort was chronicled throughout. From the opening practice to the end, Witten was the best player. He was more of a factor in the red zone. He was able to get down the middle of the field for longer catches. He was as reliable as ever.
Best player, defense: Sean Lee
If Anthony Spencer did not hurt his knee, then he was getting this award because of how dominant he was. Lee showed no rust from a long layoff or worry from a toe injury that required surgery. He filled quickly in the run game and did a nice job in the passing game.
Best rookie, offense: Terrance Williams
He started slowly with too many drops in the rookie camp but the arrow kept going up for him the more he practiced. He has a chance to be really good after the catch. He can get up the field quickly. He will benefit from having Bryant and Miles Austin ahead of him so he can take his time to a degree in learning.
Best rookie, defense: J.J. Wilcox
He has a lot of room to grow before he gets in the mix for a starting job but from the first day of rookie minicamp to the final day of the veteran minicamp, he was around the ball. You knew where he was. What has to make the Cowboys giddy, however, was the work they got from guys like B.W. Webb, DeVonte Holloman and Brandon Magee. Those guys could contribute this year.
Most improved, offense: Phillip Tanner
He’s not a lock to make the roster, but he ran much more decisively this spring than he did last season when he just lacked vision to make plays. He also did a nice job catching passes out of the backfield. He has the desire to play special teams, which is a must for a backup.
Most improved, defense: Tyrone Crawford
A number of candidates here too with guys like Ben Bass, Kyle Wilber and Matt Johnson, but Crawford took advantage of the extra work due to Spencer’s absence. He has dropped some weight down to 285 after getting up close to 300 pounds as a rookie. He showed some burst off the edge and plays with good leverage.
Best guy I didn’t know about, offense: Eric Rogers
Forgive me for not knowing my Cal Luthern receivers, but Rogers has terrific hands. I can’t recall a drop. He also made some nice catches. He does not have great speed, which will hurt him, but there might be a spot on the practice squad for him.
Best guy I didn’t know about, defense: Nick Hayden
He has experience from his days in Carolina and Cincinnati and showed he is pretty tough to move on the inside. He got added work because of injuries (Rob Callaway) or rest days (Jason Hatcher) but he could find his way into the 53-man mix.