NFC East: terrance williams

As we do after every Dallas Cowboys game, we provide you with our weekly Upon Further Review.

Williams
Williams
1. With defenses taking wide receiver Dez Bryant out of games it was supposed to open things up for fellow wideout Terrance Williams. Williams finished with just two catches for 38 yards in the Cowboys' loss to the Eagles on Thursday. Williams has just five catches the past four weeks. Sophomore slump? Maybe. Quarterback Tony Romo was off on a few of his throws on Thanksgiving Day and Williams didn't help him out on a sideline pass that was intercepted but negated by a penalty. At times the Cowboys will make sure they get the ball into Bryant's hands because he's the No. 1 receiver on the team. Likewise for tight end Jason Witten, who's the No. 1A target for Romo. Should the Cowboys get Williams involved more? Sometimes the No. 2 receiver gets the leftovers in an offense especially with dynamic threats such as Witten and Bryant on the field. But Williams, who did play with a fractured finger, should be more productive.

2. Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan said earlier this week he wasn't that impressed with the Cowboys' offensive line. The line is one of the strengths of the team given it's got three first-round picks and a veteran presence in right tackle Doug Free. The line struggled on Thursday. Romo was sacked four times, though one time he just went down to avoid a hit, and was hurried five times. The run game produced 93 yards, the second-lowest output of the season. Romo did have time to complete some throws yet DeMarco Murray's longest run was nine yards. He's produced at least one 10-yard carry in every game this season. Playing two games in five days could have had an effect or maybe Logan is right. We doubt it because the NFL is a game of matchups and the Eagles are probably just a matchup problem for the Cowboys.

3. Speaking of disappearing acts, where has defensive tackle Henry Melton been? He's been credited with zero tackles the past two weeks. He had a four-week stretch in which he had 2.5 sacks and four quarterback pressures with just one tackle. Now, Tyrone Crawford plays that three-technique position that was slated for Melton and is just a better player right now. Considering the contract Melton signed -- $2.25 million in total compensation for 2014 in a deal that could jump to $29 million over the next four seasons -- you expect better. The Cowboys can get out of the deal by releasing Melton before the first day of the 2015 league year which would force them to have $750,000 in dead money for 2015. Melton's play leaves many questions. Over the next four weeks, he's playing for his future with the Cowboys.
SEATTLE -- The fireworks some thought would occur in the matchup between Dez Bryant and Richard Sherman didn’t materialize Sunday.

Bryant, the talented Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, lined up against Sherman, the Seahawks' All-Pro cornerback, unofficially 48 times.

Of those snaps, 26 were running plays. Quarterback Tony Romo directed six passes toward Bryant with Sherman covering him.

He completed two, a 23-yard reception in which Sherman was penalized for tripping and a 16-yard back shoulder fade in the fourth quarter.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonDez Bryant made four catches Sunday, held in check somewhat by Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
Bryant finished with four catches -- one in the second half -- and Sherman was penalized twice and had zero pass breakups, but was strong in the run game as he made eight tackles.

“One of the best, arguably the best, and I had to bring my A-game today,” Bryant said of Sherman. “And I made some plays and he made some plays, but at the end of the day, we got the W.”

The Cowboys didn’t need much of Bryant to win on Sunday, however. Seattle’s game plan had him covered often by cornerback Byron Maxwell.

When Maxwell went out with an ankle sprain in the first quarter, everything changed. Seattle didn’t want to use second-year cornerback Marcus Burley on Bryant, so Sherman shifted from staying at left corner to a player who followed Bryant all over the field.

“You didn’t want to put the young guy in that situation, and that’s what you got to do sometimes in games like that,” Sherman said. “He’s a great receiver and you don’t want to give him the matchup they desire and you switch things up on him.”

Sherman played Bryant in a variety of ways, but mainly in man-to-man. There were times when Bryant tried stop-and-go routes but nothing worked on a consistent basis.

“Well, it’s interesting, because I had yet to see them move Sherman around, and so they kind of ended up having to, and I know they had the corner hurt,” Romo said. “But they tracked Dez and they hadn’t done that before. I don’t think they necessarily changed their defense, but that was a little out of character for them.”

Romo didn’t throw any passes in Bryant’s direction with Sherman lined up on him on first-and-goal at the 5 late in the first quarter.

Romo directed two passes at tight end Gavin Escobar and the Cowboys ran with DeMarco Murray. Maxwell almost picked off a Romo pass at the goal line. Romo went back to Escobar on the next play for a 2-yard touchdown pass, the Cowboys’ first score of the game.

The Cowboys' big plays on offense came from second-year receiver Terrance Williams (two receptions, 70 yards) and, of course, Murray, who rushed for 115 yards.

Bryant was a good decoy at times, but for all the hype about this special matchup, nothing magical happened, just mutual respect between elite players.

“I knew me and Sherman would be going against each other a lot,” Bryant said. “Like I said, I knew I had to bring my A-game. I feel like I could have done a lot better job, [but] we got the W, so that’s all that matters.”
Three thoughts on the Cowboys’ 38-17 win over New Orleans:

Carter
Carter
 1. I think Bruce Carter must wonder what football gods have against him, since a quadriceps strain will probably cost him at least one game.

Two seasons ago, he was playing the best he’d ever played when he suffered a dislocated elbow that ended his season. He spent last season in an unproductive fog but seemed to find his niche again this season after moving to strongside linebacker.

He had six tackles an two pass deflections before getting hurt against New Orleans. The Cowboys hope he’s not out long and that he returns with the same passion and performance.

Randle
  2. I think the Cowboys need to make sure they continue to get Joseph Randle involved, which is admittedly hard to do with DeMarco Murray leading the NFL in rushing and carries.

Murray, who has missed 11 games in his first three seasons, has 99 carries in the first four games. He’s on pace to carry 396 times, a huge number for a dude who has never carried more than 396 times in a season.

Coach Jason Garrett gave Randle the final series of the third quarter, and he responded with three carries for 21 yards and had an 18-yard run negated by a penalty. Garrett said Randle is running confidently and aggressively.

That’s why it’s time to ease Murray’s load just a tad, so he’s still able to grind in November and December.

3. I think the Cowboys’ defensive line is going to be better than I figured.
It’s because they don’t have any bad players in their rotation. You don’t think about it much, but there’s a significant difference between an average player and a bad player.

You can survive with average players in the right circumstance. You can’t survive with bad players.

The Cowboys don’t have any stars, but with the mix of guys they have, there’s little difference when one comes out and another goes in, and the result is the defensive line plays to the same standard the entire game. They can play with maximum effort because they’re getting consistent rest and the offense has been keeping them off the field.

KEY STAT: 50.8

Garrett always talks about having the ability to attack a defense in a lot of different ways.

Well, the Cowboys have achieved perfect offensive harmony during their first four games, as they’re running it 50.8 percent of the time -- and that has helped lead to a three-game winning streak.

The Cowboys are No. 1 in the NFL with 165.0 yards rushing per games and rank fourth with a 5.08 average per carry.

This is the first time under Garrett that the Cowboys have made the running game the epicenter of their offense -- and it’s opening up everything else.

That’s because the more opponents have to use an additional safety to stop Murray, the more the Cowboys can attack downfield with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams or Jason Witten.

Bryant and Williams each scored on touchdown passes Sunday against New Orleans, in part, because they were facing single coverage so the Saints could devote more manpower to stopping the Cowboys’ running game.

Church
 PLAYER TO WATCH: Barry Church

He’s not flashy, but he doesn't mistake that for not being effective. Actually, Church would be really good on a great defense because he could freelance more and put himself in position to make more plays.

But in the Cowboys’ defensive scheme and with their personnel, he tends to play it safe, as he should.

Church is solid in coverage, a willing tackler and a guy who makes the right play most of the time. He had six tackles against the Saints and made a couple of nice tackles that stopped New Orleans from converting third downs.

They weren’t spectacular plays, but they were effective and ended the drive. They were typical Church plays.
ARLINGTON, Texas – As he ran into the Cowboys’ locker room after a convincing 38-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night, wide receiver Dez Bryant yelled, “We Dat!”

It was the direct opposite of the chant by Saints fans: “Who Dat?!”

Bryant finished with three catches for 44 yards and an 18-yard touchdown, his only catch in the second half.

Bryant
Bryant
The Saints played an aggressive defense against him. During one play inside the 20, two defenders manned Bryant. On a key third-down play in the fourth quarter, a linebacker dropped back in coverage underneath Bryant.

When Bryant saw one-on-one coverage in the fourth quarter, quarterback Tony Romo found him for a back-shoulder fade for the final margin of victory.

“I wanted a piece of the cake,” Bryant said. “You got to stay in the game. I did get a little frustrated, a little bit, but I want to make plays. They were cheating the safety up a little bit, but when I got the opportunity to score I did.”

Bryant’s Sunday night was unlike the past season’s 49-17 loss to the Saints, in which he didn't get any passes directed to him in the first half and finished with just one catch for 44 yards.

Bryant said he moved on from that game and focused on what defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was trying to do against him Sunday.

“I don’t think it was anything personal,” he said. “I think the approach we took a long time ago during OTAs is, we know how good we can be and all we had to do was believe.”

Bryant's getting double coverage allowed second-year receiver Terrance Williams to make big plays. He had two touchdown receptions to go with his six catches for 77 yards. He was targeted seven times.

Romo completed passes to eight receivers. On the first scoring drive, which lasted 12 plays, five players caught a pass.

“I honestly feel, when you double me, you disrespect my wideouts,” Bryant said. “And [Williams] knew he was expecting the one-on-one coverage, and all week he knew he was going to get the one-on-one, and he had to take advantage of it, and that’s exactly what he did. He killed them.”
IRVING, Texas -- Three thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys:

1. If you choose to be positive, there are some scenarios where the Cowboys’ defensive line could be solid instead of a disaster.

Spencer
Melton
It all starts with defensive tackles Henry Melton (knee, groin) and Terrell McClain (ankle) and defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee) getting healthy. Spencer and Melton can be good players and McClain can be solid.

Add defensive ends George Selvie, Tyrone Crawford and Jeremy Mincey to the mix, along with rookie DeMarcus Lawrence after he returns from his broken foot, and the Cowboys would be pretty happy with that rotation.

It will require considerable good fortune to get Spencer and Melton each playing at a high level early this season, but if it happened, the Cowboys would have a pretty good defensive line rotation without much drop off between the starters and backups.

2. The cornerback situation the first month of the season will be dire.

Morris Claiborne had a strong start to training camp, but he hasn’t been able to sustain it. Knee and shoulder injuries have limited him since the first week of practice.

The Cowboys are trying to get him ready for the first game against San Francisco, but we have no idea how long his body will hold up. They can’t trust him to be healthy enough to play, which is a concern since Orlando Scandrick will miss the first month of the season after violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Heading into the opener, Brandon Carr is the only proven cornerback on the roster the Cowboys know will be ready for the opener. That's scary.

3. Receiver Jamar Newsome had a nice game against Baltimore, as did fifth-round pick Devin Street.

Tim Benford has been on the practice squad each of the last two years, Chris Boyd has good size and potential and LaRon Byrd has been a good special-teams player in the past.

Street, a fifth-round pick, will make the team, but it’s going to be tough for any of the other receivers to make it. The Cowboys will probably keep five receivers: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris and Street. One of the other guys will have to be a beast on special teams to make the roster.

Key number: 20

The Cowboys had only 20 drives of 10 plays or more last season. Only Miami and the New York Giants had fewer. It was the result of the Cowboys' struggles on third down, which prevented them from sustaining drives, and their inconsistent running game. Too many times the Cowboys were in third-and-long situations that didn’t put them in position to convert.

They must do better this season to protect their defense and keep them off the field.

Player to Watch: Tyler Clutts

Jason Garrett has talked all training camp about establishing a physical presence and how much a true fullback will help the Cowboys do that.

Clutts has been doing a good job working with DeMarco Murray and taking advantage of his limited opportunities, but to win the job he must prove himself more valuable to the offense than the third receiver or second tight end.

He needs to be a core player on special teams, and he needs to be a difference-maker on the 12 to 15 crucial goal-line and short-yardage plays the Cowboys will have this season.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Three thoughts on Day 4 of Dallas Cowboys' training camp:

1) It was one play, just about as meaningless as can be, considering it was the first day players wore pads, but Morris Claiborne wanted to establish a tone.

Claiborne
First, he locked down Terrance Williams, forcing an incompletion. Then he jumped up and started woofing. Eventually, the players were separated.

It was the first time since he arrived that we’ve seen that type of feistiness from Claiborne.

Hey, whatever it takes. He’s been the epitome of a bust his first two seasons, allowing 70 completions in 117 attempts with only two interceptions and 13 pass deflections.

For a guy who was supposed to be the best defensive player in the 2012 draft that’s not nearly good enough.

Jason Garrett said he’s improved significantly during the offseason. It’s time for him to take it to the field.

Better secondary play is the fastest way for this defense to improve, since their pass rush remains suspect.

Smith
2) The Cowboys are moving closer to a long-term agreement with left tackle Tyron Smith, who’s going to deserve every nickel of whatever he gets.

Smith is man-handling the defensive ends on this roster, the way DeMarcus Ware used to destroy tackles, including Smith, during training camp.

Smith is only 23, so don’t be surprised if he signs a deal that’s nine or 10 years long. When he does, it’ll be interesting to see if Dez Bryant can continue to ignore his contract situation and play well.

After all, the club has already taken care of Sean Lee, who was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft. Bryant was the Cowboys’ first-round pick.

3) Kyle Wilber spent his first two seasons bouncing around between outside linebacker in the 3-4 and weakside defensive end.

Injuries last season created some playing time for him at strongside linebacker and the Cowboys suddenly found a player.

Wilber has the strength to hold the edge and consistently force running plays inside, in part because of the time he spent at defensive end, and he made several important plays for the Cowboys last season.

He finished the season with 44 tackles and two sacks, while starting six games.

34

The Cowboys were tied for 25th in the NFL with 34 sacks. Only five teams had fewer.

Their sack total was 10 fewer than the average 2013 playoff team.

Teams that don’t get many sacks often say they’re overrated. Well, they’re not. Pressure is good, but sacks are a momentum-changer and usually result in a punt at the end of the drive.

You must rush the passer and put quarterbacks under duress, or it’s hard to force turnovers and win games.

The Cowboys are counting on defensive Henry Melton, who missed the last 13 games with a torn ACL, to provide pressure up the middle. He has been a terrific pass-rusher, and they need him to command double teams to help other players get to the quarterback.

Player to Watch: Gavin Escobar

The Cowboys wasted Escobar’s rookie season. Hopefully, they’ve learned their lesson.

It’s dumb to ask a tight end who should excel at working from the slot and creating mismatches with his size to be the same type of player as Jason Witten.

Escobar can help this team by making plays downfield and giving Tony Romo one more vertical threat.

He caught nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He can be a playmaker, if Scott Linehan gives him a chance to do it. If not, he’ll be a wasted pick.
Three Thoughts
  • Garrett
    Garrett
    Coach Jason Garrett believes the annual conditioning test is important. He’s said as much many times. There is no way he canceled it, and let the players administer it without any coaches around to oversee it and make sure everyone passed.If that were the case, it would be like an open-book test and all of us could pass it. After all, which teammate is gonna tell Garrett which players flunked it. Actually, Garrett wouldn’t even want to put his players in that position.It’s not a huge story, but there’s something missing in this narrative concerning the players administering their own conditioning test.It probably has something to do with the team not being allowed to make the players do anything in the 10 days before training camp begins and a desire for the players to do the test at their Valley Ranch training complex instead of Oxnard.We’ll get answers Wednesday afternoon, when Garrett addresses the media for the first time.
  • You can’t possibly have any expectations for linebacker Rolando McClain, the eighth player selected in the 2010 draft. He’s now with his third team since the end of the 2012 season -- also the last time he played.He told the Baltimore Ravens a few months ago that he wanted to retire because his heart wasn’t in the game.The game is too tough and too physically demanding to persuade players to play. The Cowboys need players and McClain has talent, the question is whether McClain wants to work hard enough to play in this league.
  • Lance Dunbar had the best game of his career against Oakland last season -- 12 carries for 82 yards and one reception for 12 yards -- and displayed the change-of-pace skill set Garrett has talked about since he arrived two seasons ago.But he tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during that game, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. In his third season, the Cowboys need him to be the playmaker they envision, or he probably won’t get a fourth year to show them.
Key stat: 736 yards receiving by third-round pick Terrance Williams ranked third among rookies. His 44 receptions ranked fifth and his five touchdowns ranked second.

You could easily argue Williams had the second-best season among the 28 rookie receivers drafted -- six in the first two rounds -- last year. Only San Diego’s Keenan Allen, taken two picks after Williams, had a better season.

He finished with 71 catches for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns.

Player to watch: DeVonte Holloman will probably start training camp as the backup to Kyle Wilber at strongside linebacker. He showed an ability in the preseason and in limited playing time last season to make plays. That’s an intangible quality the Cowboys must figure how to exploit, especially on a unit devoid of playmakers. He doesn’t have to start, but it would be nice if he forced the Cowboys to play him 25 plays a game.

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
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IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

The Kyle Orton watch is over now that the Cowboys released the veteran backup. The timing of it is a surprise, and Jason Garrett spoke optimistically all offseason about Orton’s return. Now the Cowboys turn their attention to Weeden as Romo’s backup. Weeden had a productive spring, running the first-team offense as Romo recovered from back surgery. The Cowboys haven’t kept a third quarterback since 2011, and Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan will have work to do to crack the 53-man roster

RUNNING BACKS (4)


The last two spots could be up in the air. Randle, a fifth-round choice, will be pushed by free-agent pickup Ryan Williams in the preseason. Williams, a former second-round pick, was not able to stay healthy in Arizona. The Cowboys have given him a chance to win a backup job. Clutts did a nice job as a late-season pickup in 2013. He is more versatile than undrafted rookie J.C. Copeland, but I don’t think having a fullback on the 53-man roster is set in stone.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)


I debated whether to go with a sixth, but later on you will see why I stuck with five. It is possible the Cowboys will look for a veteran in the final cuts if they feel limited by their depth because of injury, but I think they like the overall group. They will work their No. 3 receiver role on a rotation basis, but Beasley could emerge as a bigger threat on third down. There will be a lot of eyes on Williams, who takes over the No. 2 role on a full-time basis. Bryant is set for another Pro Bowl-type season.

TIGHT ENDS (3)


Witten remains near the top of the game at his position. His total catches were down last year, but his touchdowns were up. Escobar’s role figures to expand, especially as a No. 3-type receiver. Hanna has the inside track on the third spot, but I have a feeling the Cowboys will be looking for more of a traditional blocker, especially if they want to get away from the fullback spot to open up a role elsewhere.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

The top six are set, with Bernadeau or Leary fighting it out for the left guard position and the loser becoming the top backup on the interior. Parnell is in the final year of his deal, and if Weems develops, I wonder if the Cowboys would look for a trading partner. They have invested a lot in Parnell in time and money for him to be a backup, so it would be a risk, but perhaps one worth taking. Weems had a decent offseason. Clarke gets the nod as the No. 9 guy right now, but veteran Uche Nwaneri could work his way into the mix.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

I think the Cowboys will go heavy here, especially considering what happened last year and the numbers they have thrown at the position this year. Four of them are rookies -- Lawrence, Gardner, Bishop and Coleman. I believe Anthony Spencer and possibly Amobi Okoye will start the year on the physically unable to perform list, so they don’t make this 53-man roster with the idea that they join the team after the sixth game of the season. Wilson garnered the last spot over a 2013 starter, Nick Hayden, but there will be a few players in the mix for the final few spots, including Ben Bass.

LINEBACKER (7)

Carrying seven linebackers might be a little heavy, but I have special teams in mind when it comes to Will Smith. He benefits from having only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The Cowboys spent the offseason telling us games are won and lost up front, so carrying an extra offensive or defensive linemen could get in this mix as well. McClain gets a spot only because of his experience. Backups of Holloman, Hitchens and Smith would be tough considering their youth, and I can see the Cowboys looking for veteran backup help around the final cut dates.

CORNERBACK (5)


Carr and Claiborne have to play exceptionally well for this defense to have a chance, and they might have to do it without much help from a consistent pass rush. Scandrick is coming off his best season, and Claiborne will have to beat him out to reclaim the starting spot. Moore can play inside and out. Mitchell showed in his limited offseason work that he can make plays. Last year’s fourth-round pick, B.W. Webb, will have to fight for a spot. Based on his offseason work, he did not make the cut for this roster.

SAFETY (5)

Church is the only player without questions. The Cowboys are projecting the other four with their biggest bet on Wilcox. He enters camp as the starter, but he could be pushed by Heath and Hamilton. Dixon will be more of a special-teams threat if he is to make the roster. Hamilton showed some playmaking in the offseason. No Matt Johnson? Not right now, especially after he couldn’t practice -- again -- for most of the offseason.

SPECIALISTS (3)


Perhaps Cody Mandell can push Jones, but Jones is the more consistent punter and has a good rapport as a holder for Bailey. Ladouceur remains one of the best long-snappers in the game. This group won’t change during the summer unless there is an injury.
IRVING, Texas – Brandon Weeden's bid to be the Dallas Cowboys’ No. 2 quarterback in 2014 got a lot easier when the club decided to release Kyle Orton.

Weeden
Barring something unforeseen, Weeden, who signed a two-year deal in the offseason, will be Tony Romo’s backup. But Weeden does not look at the move as “weight off my shoulders.”

“Given the situation Kyle has been in in previous years in Dallas, he’s been the backup quarterback, so I think if he was there it would be one more obstacle I would have to kind of hurdle,” Weeden said. “But at the same time I can’t really get wrapped up in putting all of my attention on that. I need to do what I did in the [organized team activities] and continue to play well and get better. I think hopefully things will work out that way regardless.”

The Cowboys felt confident enough to jettison Orton, who skipped the entire offseason program and minicamp, in part because of what Weeden did in the spring. With Romo recovering from back surgery and being kept out of competitive drills and Orton missing, Weeden took all of the first-team snaps.

“I think the reps I got in the OTAs were kind of irreplaceable,” Weeden said. “If I was in a situation where God forbid something happened to Tony and I’m asked to play, those are the guys I’m going to battle with, so those reps I got were invaluable. I know I won’t get many of those in [training] camp, but fortunately I had 12 practices where I was able to get out with those guys. Now it’s, ‘Let’s get to work.’ I’m ready to get to California and get things rolling.”

Orton had the same benefit last year of taking all of the offseason snaps in 2013 as Romo recovered from surgery to remove a cyst from his back. When Romo hurt his back in Week 16 against the Washington Redskins, he was able to step into the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles and play well. He completed 30 of 46 passes for 358 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, but a late turnover sealed the Cowboys’ loss.

“[Gavin] Escobar and [Jason] Witten are two totally different players. Dez [Bryant] and Terrance [Williams] are two totally different players,” Weeden said. “You kind of learn what certain guys’ strengths are and little nuances of what they do. That’s the thing more than anything. You kind of get a feel for what Dez likes on fades and all that stuff a certain way where Terrance might like it another way. You’ve got to learn what each guy likes. When you’re with so many new guys it takes time. You always want more time, but it’s nice to have the reps I did get there to get a head start.”
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.”
IRVING, Texas -- If the Dallas Cowboys are to break out of their 8-8 doldrums, they will need younger players to grow up in 2014.

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports has two candidates for breakout seasons -- Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams -- in his annual list.

Frederick
Williams
Williams
The Cowboys were one of four teams with more than one player. The San Diego Chargers had three: D.J. Fluker, Melvin Ingram, Keenan Allen. The New Orleans Saints (Kenny Vaccaro, Akiem Hicks) and Denver Broncos (Montee Ball, Sylvester Williams) also had two.

Here’s what Prisco said about Frederick and Williams:
Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys -- When the Cowboys picked him in the first round of the 2013 draft, there were snickers. But it was the right move. He showed last season as a 16-game starter that he has a chance to be a really good center. He is smart and athletic, two musts for the position these days.

Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys -- With Miles Austin now gone, this second-year player takes over as the starter opposite Dez Bryant. That should mean a lot of single coverage and a chance for big plays. Look for his numbers to go up dramatically from his 44 catches a year ago.

Defining how Frederick breaks out is tougher than Williams just because of the nature of his position. The Cowboys were stronger up the middle in 2013 than they had been in recent years because of Frederick. He did not miss a game as a rookie and carried himself as a veteran from the first day he arrived.

(As an aside, there is a similar feeling when it comes to this year’s first-round pick, Zack Martin.)

For Williams, it can be a little easier to define because his statistics will be there for everybody to see. He caught 44 passes for 736 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie.

With Austin gone, Williams will be the starter opposite Bryant in 2014. The Cowboys have no reservations about Williams. They believe he will slide into that role without any issues. In coach parlance, they don’t believe the game is too big for him.

He will get opportunities. Bryant will be the focal point of opposing defenses.

With Bryant catching 93 passes for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013, Austin caught 66 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns as the No. 2 receiver in 16 games in 2012. The Cowboys would live with those numbers from Williams.

Cowboys' quarterbacks had 375 completions last year.

Pencil in Bryant for another 90-plus catch season. Jason Witten will catch 75-80 passes. The running backs will combine for 80. Cole Beasley should figure in that 35-45 catch range. Dwayne Harris and Gavin Escobar will have more than the 18 they combined for last year. Devin Street will be in that 20-30 range if things go well as well.

There will be opportunities for Williams to show 2014 will be a breakout season.
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 -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • When Dez Bryant might sign an extension.
  • Lance Dunbar’s roster spot with the addition of Ryan Williams.
  • The team’s best free-agent pickup
  • The state of the defensive line.
  • The best of the undrafted receivers.

Look for Part 2 of the mailbag on Saturday.

Away we go:

Dallas Cowboys draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
May 10
7:46
PM ET
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


IRVING, Texas – A wrap-up of the Dallas Cowboys draft. Click here for a full list of Cowboys' draftees.

[+] EnlargeZack Martin
Robin Alam/Icon SMIZack Martin was the right choice for the Dallas Cowboys in the first round.
Best move: In taking Zack Martin with the 16th pick in the first round with Johnny Manziel staring at them in the face, the Cowboys made a football decision. Bravo. It did not directly help a defense that ended last in the NFL in 2013, but indirectly it could make the defense better. If the Cowboys are better along the offensive line, they can do a better job closing out games by running the ball and the defense would be on the sidelines watching. Martin started 52 games at left tackle at Notre Dame but will move to guard, most likely for Mackenzy Bernadeau, this year. He is the third offensive linemen the Cowboys have drafted in the first round in the last four seasons. The Cowboys hit on tackle Tyron Smith (2011) and center Travis Frederick (2013) and if they hit on Martin, they will make Tony Romo’s life much easier. Jason Garrett said teams win games up front, but he has been reluctant to run the ball and Scott Linehan’s offense in Detroit was pass happy. The Cowboys do not have to become a ground-and-pound team but they will have to do a better job of finishing games with the run.

Riskiest move: The Cowboys entered the draft knowing they needed a right defensive end. When they went with Martin in the first round, the need increased, so they were willing to overpay some by giving the Washington Redskins their second (47th) and third (78) picks in order to move to the 34th pick to take Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. With how the draft fell, they had a chance to stick at their picks and take defensive linemen anyway, but none with the elite talent they believe Lawrence has to affect the quarterback. Moving up is always dangerous. The last time the Cowboys moved up significantly in a round was in 2012 when they took Morris Claiborne in the first round. Through his first two seasons, the Claiborne move has not paid off.

Most surprising move: Most of the draft experts had linebacker Anthony Hitchens as a late-round pick, but the Cowboys took him in the fourth round, No. 119 overall. He was Iowa’s defensive MVP in 2013 and led the team in tackles for two seasons with 112. He could play inside linebacker as Sean Lee’s backup and be a special teams stalwart early on. The Cowboys defense is predicated on speed and he ran a 4.7 at the scouting combine. But he was productive. He had an eye-catching 13.5 tackles for loss as a senior.

File it away: The Cowboys came into the draft needing to find help for a defense that finished last in the NFL in 2013. The Cowboys ended up with nine picks and took seven defenders to potentially help Rod Marinelli make over the unit in 2014. Five of those picks came in the seventh round, so some expectations need to be tempered, but the Cowboys were able to find a defensive end in Ben Gardner, a linebacker in Will Smith, a safety in Ahmad Dixon, a defensive tackle in Ken Bishop and defensive back Terrance Mitchell. If the Cowboys can find three players to fill roles out of that group, they should be happy.
Well, the NFL draft is finally here. And we have a preview of what the Dallas Cowboys might do over the next three days.

The picks, the picks, the picks: The Cowboys have 11 picks, tied for the third-most in the league this year and the team's second-most in the last 20 years; the Cowboys had 12 picks in 2009. The seventh round will be interesting for the Cowboys because they own six selections in the round. Executive vice president Stephen Jones said there's a value in those picks either via trade or just by selecting a prospect.

Who will Dallas pick in the first round? The mock drafts are in, and here's what people are saying.
  • Todd Archer, ESPN: Zack Martin, tackle/guard, Notre Dame
  • Calvin Watkins, ESPN Dallas: Martin
  • Mel Kiper, ESPN: Calvin Pryor, safety Louisville
  • Todd McShay, ESPN: Martin
  • Peter King, MMQB: Timmy Jernigan, defensive tackle, Florida State
  • Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Jernigan
  • Rob Rang, CBS Sports: Jernigan
  • Pat Kirwan, CBS Sports: Cowboys trade up for Minnesota's pick and draft Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald at No. 8
  • Mike Mayock, NFL Network: Anthony Barr, linebacker, UCLA
  • Bucky Bucks, NFL Network: Barr
  • Charley Casserly, NFL Network: Barr
Will they draft a quarterback?: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ruled out drafting a quarterback in the first round because he didn't want to invest the money and value of a first-round pick on someone who is going to sit behind Tony Romo for at least two more seasons. Cowboys officials believe Romo is in his prime despite coming off his second back surgery in less than a year. If the Cowboys draft a quarterback, it will happen in the middle rounds.

What are the needs?: Defense, defense, defense. Yes, the Cowboys signed three defensive linemen and two quarterbacks in free agency, but finding an edge pass-rusher in the 4-3 scheme is important. If the team doesn't believe it has a free safety on the roster, getting somebody there helps. The starting wide receivers are Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, and there are no expectations the team will sign a veteran. Cowboys like some of the receivers in this year's draft and might spend a midround pick on one. The interior of the offensive line may need an upgrade, and that's where Martin comes in. He could be drafted to play guard and then move to tackle in his second season.

Trades in the first round: The Cowboys have made a trade in the first round the past two drafts. Last year they traded down to eventually select center Travis Frederick, and then they got Williams in the third round. In 2012, the Cowboys moved up to get cornerback Morris Claiborne with the sixth pick overall.

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