Cowboys have priorities straight

August, 12, 2012
8/12/12
12:35
PM ET
Couple of reports from Dallas Cowboys camp out there in California on Saturday. One says wide receiver Dez Bryant has caught Miles Austin's hamstring flu and will join Austin on the sideline for Monday night's preseason opener in Oakland. This is the one that will have people shouting they need to sign a veteran wide receiver, and even invoking the name of Plaxico Burress.

But they're not doing that, and they shouldn't. What the Cowboys are doing instead is taking the level-headed view that the quarterback can't throw the ball to any receiver unless he can successfully get it from the center. And since they're very short these days on centers who can get the quarterback the ball, this other report says they're bringing in former Eagles center Jamaal Jackson for a workout.

Not having Austin and Bryant on Monday will be fine for the Cowboys, as their young No. 3 wide receiver candidates will all get chances to work with Tony Romo and the rest of the first-team offense. That's the best way for guys like Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and the rest of that crew to show what they can do, and the Cowboys' current plan at receiver is to see what those guys can do and whether they have the solution internally. The Giants operate like this, and people laud them for it. Now that the Cowboys are trying it, they're supposedly overlooking some big need. Whatever. They'll be fine at No. 3 receiver. They found someone last year and he was great. They'll find someone again.

The bigger concern is the interior of the offensive line, where injuries have eliminated several of the candidates to back up and/or supplant starting center Phil Costa and stripped much of the Cowboys' planned depth. Now Costa is hurt as well, and that means David Arkin is the starting center Monday, and from what we've seen out there in practice, that means Romo's not going to get a lot of clean snaps.

Not really Arkin's fault. He's never played center and is learning on the job. Jackson, however, has started 72 career NFL games. Only one since 2009, but still. He knows how to snap the ball to the quarterback. And at this point, the Cowboys' standards at that position have dropped pretty far. Jackson makes sense if he's healthy and in any kind of shape, and I guess we'll find out about that today.

Receiver can wait. As long as Austin and Bryant can get healthy in the next 24 days, they don't need to go out and augment that position. Preseason is for finding out what you have, and they have candidates for that position. They don't have candidates for center. So what they're doing today is smartly assessing and addressing a need.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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