IRVING, Texas – Here are some thoughts from the OTA practice on Tuesday morning:
- There was a time in his career where
Dez Bryantwas really poor running his routes. He honestly had no clue for the depth and technique in which he needed to execute it. There was more play ground to his game then there was NFL wide receiver. It really started for him last season but he has taken that up another level already in these OTAs. There were several routes in the one-on-one period where he was going against Brandon Carrand it took every bit of skill that he had to stay with Bryant. What Bryant has managed to do is learn how to sell his route and there is a confidence in which he is running them. There was a time where he wasn’t confident in what he was doing and too many times you saw him floating up the field. That has been replaced with explosive movements and power. By learning how he needs to run his routes correctly, he puts so much pressure on the secondary because there has never been a question about his hands or his ability with the ball in them but where he really struggled was getting consistently open which is why he had problems in games up until last season. Bryant’s confidence and understanding of his routes will be too much for defensive backs to have to handle, just ask Brandon Carr.
- I came away impressed with what I observed from
Phillip Tannertoday and really what I have seen the last few opportunities that he has received since DeMarco Murrayand Joseph Randlehave been sidelined with injuries. I have to be honest here and say that I really didn’t give Tanner much of a shot to stick with the team after last season when he was taken off the special teams and the offensive coaches started using him less, then becoming inactive for games. What Tanner has done is very similar in what I was able to see with Dez Bryant and Dwayne Harrisduring this time last season, he physically remade his body. He looks lighter and quicker with the ball in his hands. He doesn’t play sluggish and lumber through the hole. There is some wiggle with power in his game. Where he has made the most improvement in his game is as a pass catcher. There have been some reps in this camp where he hasn’t fought the ball and he looks natural catching passes. He has played out of the slot, catching the ball on a “Hot” and he has popped free on some screens. He is back on special teams and looks productive in what they are trying to use him for. Keep an eye on him this Summer and see if he continues to work his way back in the mix.
- Last week I wrote about Terrence Williams was going to have to fight his rear off to take the third receiver job away from Dwayne Harris and this morning the coaches gave him a shot at it. When the first offense went into the 2 minute period, it was Williams on the right outside with
Miles Austinin the slot and Dez Bryant to the wide side opposite. As the drill opened, Williams showed a trait from his days at Baylor and that was sideline awareness. It takes a certain skill to concentrate on the ball with a defender on your back and trying to get both feet down in bounds. Williams was able to accomplish all three with a beautiful catch along the sideline to get the ball up the field. As the drive continued, Williams and Austin never came off the field so I decided to keep my eye on Williams to see if he would take plays off or would he battle through it. To his credit, he continued to run his routes and use his technique to try and get open, as the ball went the other way. The drive ended with an Orton to Witten touchdown against Matt Johnsonwhen he nodded him to the outside, then up to get the separation. It was a great learning experience for Williams to be put in a no huddle situation and function without any major problems assignment wise.
- Matt Johnson received the majority of the reps with the first team today and he had a nice break up of a pass to
Andre Smithbut the guy that is gaining some ground in the way he is playing is J.J. Wilcox. What I noticed about Wilcox today was not only his ability to make the checks in the secondary and be in the right place in the scheme but his ability to be around the ball. I knew when I studied his game film from Georgia Southern that he loved to play football just because of his style but what I was anxious to see was how he would adapt to handling checks and assignments. There is plenty being thrown at these rookies in the secondary but it’s nowhere as complex as what he would have endured with Rob Ryan. What I have also noticed about Wilcox is that the ball tends to end up in his direction. He ended practice on an interception from the middle of the field. On the play, he was playing at linebacker level on his drop when Cole Beasleybroke from the slot inside. Wilcox reads the route and drives forward on the ball as Nick Stevens tries to get it to Beasley but he undercuts the route for the interception and the pick-six going the other way. It was the cap of a nice day for Wilcox.
- The Cowboys worked out two offensive tackles today, Dann O’Neill and J.B. Shugarts, who have experience in NFL camps. O’Neill went to school at Western Michigan while Shugarts is from Ohio State. After studying the tackles currently on the roster that they will most likely add one of these players to the group. The guy that will most likely be the best fit would be Shugarts in my view but we should know for sure on Wednesday if that is the case.