Thursday, July 29, 2010
Bryant, Witten are Cowboys catchalls
By Calvin Watkins
SAN ANTONIO -- Welcome to our first Cowboys Mailbag of training camp, and I see that many of you have some excellent questions asking who's looking good in camp. Just a quick note, Dez Bryant is the real deal. He's fast, quick, powerful and has great hands and body control. Should he pick up Roy E. Williams' pads? Of course he should, but we're over that now. Let's get to the mail.
Q: Has Titus Ryan made any positive impressions yet? -- Anthony (Topeka, Kan.)
A: Anthony, I would say no. He had two drops in Tuesday's practice and a false start Wednesday. He's struggling to make plays. Ryan has to impress the coaches in the preseason games. He's a fast player -- maybe the fastest of the receivers on this 80-man roster -- but he needs to do something with that speed and he isn't. He seems a little overmatched.
Q: Just a comment. How can Dez Bryant not know about the rookie traditions? I do not play football and I know about them; everyone does. Let's hope his ego comes down some. It is a tradition and shows real team spirit. -- Jim Ethington (Sand Springs, Okla.)
A: It is interesting that Bryant didn't know about the tradition. A veteran player other than Williams should have pulled him aside and told him about it the day everything went down. But everything is OK between Williams and Bryant, at least for now.
Q: Haven't heard anything about Jason Witten since training camp started. Can we expect another Pro Bowl season from him based on what you've seen so far? -- Rone (Fort Worth, Texas)
A: For as much as we've talked about Dez Bryant -- I think he's dropped just one pass -- Witten hasn't dropped any passes that I've seen. Witten continues to run excellent routes and is a favorite of quarterback Tony Romo. Witten continues to be an underrated tight end in this league.
Q: With the talent the Cowboys have on both sides of the ball, do you think heads will fly if the Cowboys don't get deep in the playoffs? -- Jonathan Richardson (Galloway, N.J.)
A: If the Cowboys don't make the playoffs, I'm sure Jerry Jones will be having a serious conversation with coach Wade Phillips. If the Cowboys do make the postseason, and I'm sure they will, Phillips isn't going anywhere. The uncertainty of the NFL labor agreement raises all sorts of questions about the 2011 season. I'm not sure if Jones wants to fire a coach going into the expected mess between the players and the union.
Q: What's the biggest depth concern for the Cowboys this season? Offensive line? Defensive backs? -- Ben (Dallas)
A: As of today, the defensive line has some issues. There are 10 defensive linemen on the 80-man roster, and four of them are hurt. Jason Hatcher (elbow) and Josh Brent (hand) could return this weekend, so that's the good news. Long term, the Cowboys are trying to build some depth on the offensive line. They have the swing tackle in Alex Barron, but finding a guard to backup Kyle Kosier (last year of his contract) and Leonard Davis are the issues. Phil Costa, Robert Brewster, Sam Young, Pat McQuistan and Montrae Holland have shown some flashes in camp. Holland appears to be a lock for the 53-man roster, but the others haven't been determined.
Q: Alan Ball is the starter, but I hear the staff is very high on Michael Hamlin. Could Hamlin win the safety job during training camp? If Ball remains the starter and say he struggles six weeks into the season, will the Cowboys stick with him or give Hamlin a shot? -- Taylor (Philadelphia)
A: Philadelphia is one of my favorite places to go.
Ball is the projected starter at safety and, from the look of things, is ahead of Hamlin. Things could change of course, but I like the way Ball is reacting to long passes and not getting beat deep. That was a problem for Ken Hamlin, but not for Ball.
Q: What's up Calvin, I just wanted to see what you thought about the Gordon kid? He has great feet and skills; he was a great punt and kick returner at alma mater Jackson State. Do you think he could be some sort of a steal and a weapon. -- Alton Jonell (Dallas)
A: Secondary coach Dave Campo said Cletis Gordon is the leader to become the No. 4 corner. The Cowboys don't want Ball to do it, because his objective is to start at safety even though he played corner at Illinois. Gordon is making plays on the ball and getting knockdowns.
Q: Considering that Dez didn't play much ball last year, how much playing time do you see him getting this preseason? -- Mark (El Paso, Texas)
A: Mark, you should see a lot of Bryant during the preseason. More than you know. The Cowboys plan on him returning punts and kicks and lining up with Miles Austin and Williams in a three-receiver set. Bryant is still working on route running, the plays and how to read the coverages, but that will all happen in due time.
Q: Hello sir, I am hearing lots of rumors regarding our rookie linebacker, [Sean] Lee. Is he really as good as the hype? I have even heard that he is more talented than DeMarcus Ware! Please help me out here. -- Kevin Zamora (Garland, Texas)
A: I don't believe Sean Lee is as good as DeMarcus Ware, so let's slow down there. However, I do think Lee is very talented. He's quick to the ball and knows both inside linebacker positions in the 3-4 scheme. He is very physical, something Bobby Carpenter wasn't in the nickel last year. Lee is an upgrade without question and a future starter on this team.
Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.