- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXNARD, Calif. -- For you East Coast night owls, or for you Dallas Cowboys fans out here on the West Coast, I hereby offer one man's take on what he saw at Cowboys practice Monday afternoon here. As always, you can follow the hard-working fellas at ESPNDallas.com for more. I can see them all right now as I type, sitting in the row in front of me in the press tent. They're busting their tails for you guys. But you know, I'm here, and you seem to want to know what I think too, so here you go:
If you didn't know anything about his off-field issues and you just showed up to watch a Cowboys practice, you'd think Dez Bryant was one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Yeah, there was a play on which Brandon Carr carried him on a route and took the ball away from him for a nifty interception. And there was another on which he didn't turn and look when Tony Romo threw it to him on a hot route. But Romo throws the ball to him a lot, and you can see why. Bryant creates a physical mismatch against any defensive back that tries to cover him. (Carr beat him with guile and timing.) Romo can throw it high if he needs to and knows Bryant will out-jump his man. He can be confident in Bryant's ability to use his body to shield the ball from the defender. He can throw deep to him. He can hit him on an underneath route and feel good about his chances to shake a tackle and turn it upfield for a big gain. He can hit him, as he did, on a fade route in the end zone from the 1-yard line. If he can stay out of further trouble and on the field, there's little reason to believe Bryant can't have a huge season.
The first team offensive line, left to right, was Tyron Smith, David Arkin, Phil Costa, Ronald Leary and Doug Free. Arkin also got snaps at center with the second-team line, which featured Derrick Dockery and Daniel Loper at guard with Jermey Parnell and Pat McQuistan at tackle. The offensive line looks like a major area of concern, and there's little depth with so many potential starters out.
Smith is the one player on the line to feel great about. Coach Jason Garrett said he was "still learning how to get out of his stance on the left side," which makes sense since Smith played right tackle throughout college and during his excellent rookie season last year. And it's not 100 percent fair to judge a guy against DeMarcus Ware. But once he gets his hands on the defender, there's no getting by Smith. Once the footwork and everything on which he needs to re-train himself becomes second nature on his new side, he should be just fine.
Everyone on Twitter is asking me who has the edge in the No. 3 receiver battle. I didn't think anyone looked that great. Andre Holmes and Dwayne Harris dropped passes. Raymond Radway got yanked off the field for bad body language. Kevin Ogletree didn't really stand out. The best down-roster receiver Monday was Cole Beasley, who made three catches including the touchdown in the two-minute drill with the second-team offense led by Kyle Orton. Safe to say No. 3 wide receiver remains wide open. Here's Tim MacMahon on why DeMarco Murray could help make that less important.
Murray, by the way, looks fantastic as a runner and natural as a pass-catcher. Also, it really hurts when you shake his hand. He's got that Adrian Peterson/Oklahoma vise-grip thing going. My hand is still throbbing.
Inside linebackers Sean Lee and Dan Connor looked tough and aggressive blowing through blocks. Connor made one impressive stop on Felix Jones behind the line of scrimmage. I thought Bruce Carter looked good in coverage a few times. Lee's the superstar in that group, but the Connor/Carter fight for the other starting spot could be interesting.
I'm back out here for one more day tomorrow, watching practice and doing more interviews. I'll have more posts from here tomorrow and throughout the rest of the week, with the Cowboys "Camp Confidential" scheduled right now for Friday. But this ought to hold you for now.
3dEric D. Williams
3dEric D. Williams