OAKLAND – Even despite the last-minute decision to play Dez Bryant Monday night, it was certain the Cowboys would get a good, hard look at many receivers trying to distance themselves from one another in the preseason opener.
Bryant did his thing, with a splendid 24-yard grab in the first half – which was really the only decent highlight from the first-team offense.
After that, the next-best receiver was easily Andre Holmes, who played most of the second and third quarter. He ended up with three catches for 40 yards, leading the team in both categories.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Holmes "really stood out" Monday night and even hinted he might have put himself in the lead when it comes to the jumbled pack of backup receivers jostling for position.
Holmes caught two of his three passes on the Cowboys' and the game's only scoring drive. A 16-yard catch and then a 4-yard grab helped set up Dan Bailey's field goal for the only point of the game.
Holmes also had a 20-yard catch in the second quarter.
Oddly enough, the first-year receiver who spent most of last year on the Cowboys' practice squad, said his confidence stemmed from a good week of practice, that even included a Hail Mary touchdown catch in practice.
"I think I've been practicing a lot better here lately," Holmes said. "I just basically told myself 'you can catch the ball' so I just stopped thinking so much and focused on making plays and letting it come natural to me. I think I was pressing when I first got back."
And that's natural in itself, considering Holmes' training camp began on the wrong foot when he reported to camp and couldn't pass his conditioning test, keeping him out of practice for three days. And when he returned, Holmes wasn't exactly lighting it up, dropping a few passes in practice. In last Sunday's Blue-White scrimmage, Holmes failed to come down with three passes in the red zone.
But this last week was a different story and it carried over into the game. Holmes said he knows his 6-5 frame has to be a difference-maker.
"I'm a big guy and I know they want me to go up and get the ball," Holmes said. "That's one of the reasons I'm here and I think it's something I've got to do more of – go get the ball when they put it up for me. So hopefully I'll get more opportunities to do that."
With Bryant playing two series and Miles Austin already out with a hamstring injury, the Cowboys started Kevin Ogletree and Cole Beasley in the three-wide sets.
Beasley drew a pass interference and Ogletree had a 12-yard catch. The only other wide receivers with receptions were Dwayne Harris (13 yards) and a nine-yard catch by Tim Benford.