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Dallas Cowboys Headlines: Roy Williams Gets The Game Ball, Doug Free rules and more.

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Doug Free, shown here lifting 222 lb. Marion Barber, is serious about his weightlifting regimen.
Doug Free, shown here lifting 222 lb. Marion Barber, is serious about his weightlifting regimen.

In lieu of a full VRR from Aaron, here are a few clippings about the 'Boys for your reading and discussion pleasure.

Remember all those articles in the offseason variously titled 'Five things to watch for in Cowboys camp' or 'Five hot spots to watch at Cowboys training camp'? One common question mark in those and similar articles was always Doug Free. The Star-Telegram argues that Doug Free has answered almost every question.

Free has been up against three players who combined for 30 sacks last season: Brian Orakpo, Julius Peppers and Mario Williams. Yet Doug Free allowed no sacks and hasn't been called for a single penalty.

And Coach agrees:

"He's playing awfully well, and it just goes to show you hang around long enough, and you're dedicated in what you do, and you've got great preparation what can be done," Cowboys offensive line coach Hudson Houck said. "He's got good talent, but he's maximizing his talent, which is really good for us to see."

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said Free has graded out better than any of the team's offensive linemen, including Pro Bowlers Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis.

But it isn't just the fact that Free has graded out so well. It's that he's graded out so well against some of the best pass-rushers in the league.

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Roy Williams has more than a fair share of detractors, but this week, and perhaps even his season, it's his turn to bask in the sunshine. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips gave the game ball to Roy Williams:

Coach Wade Phillips presented the ball to Williams today during a team meeting. Phillips wanted to recognize Williams for his performance against Houston -- five catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns -- and the manner in which he has conducted himself in the face of blistering criticism for his erratic performances since joining the club in 2008.

``When people praised him for a big game, he said `I'm just part of a team and trying to do my best,' '' Phillips said. ``That's been his attitude. That's appreciated by me but also by our team.''

After drafting Dez Bryant, many observers were questioning how Roy Willimas would deal with the added pressure. So far, he's responded remarkably well.

Miles Austin passed him on the depth chart, Dez Bryant was drafted to take his place and Michael Irvin trashed him. So Roy Williams has plenty of motivation behind the way he's playing.

In three games, Williams has caught what would have been the winning touchdown in the opener had a penalty not wiped it out, hung onto two passes despite flattening blows the next week, then had touchdown catches of 15 and 63 yards this past weekend to lead the Dallas Cowboys to their first victory of the season.

Todd Archer argues that despite his performance against the Texans, Roy Williams still faces a difficult path with fans. But if you look at many of the comments out there, the tide seems to be turning in Roy's favor in the court of public opinion. Slowly, but still...

Roy deserves a lot of credit for how he's handled all of this stuff since being traded. He's taken a ton of hits but he's still the same guy. He doesn't run and hide. It's admirable, especially when you see other guys take the easy way out. But can he win back the fans' affection? Yeah, if he has 5-117 every week. The first drop and it'll be, 'Same old Roy,' and that's not necessarily fair.

Rick Gosselin agrees that Roy Williams can and will become a contributor to the success of the Cowboys this season.

I think Roy Williams can and will become a contributor to the success of the Cowboys this season. I said that back in July. If ever Roy Williams was going to have a productive season in Dallas it would be in 2010 because by drafting Dez Bryant, the Cowboys were forcing Williams to earn his play time for the first time in his life.

In high school at Odessa, college at Texas and the NFL at Detroit, he walked in as the go-to guy on offense. Balls automatically came his way. With Miles Austin and Dez Bryant in the queue in 2010, Williams was going to have to earn both the respect and the throws from Tony Romo. We saw a glimpse of that last Sunday. Bottom line -- Roy Williams is a talented receiver. Now he's motivated to prove it. If he doesn't, Dez starts and Williams fades away. He knows what's at stake.

JJT also chimes in and expects more big games for Roy Williams if he's going to keep getting single coverage

On whether Roy Williams and Tony Romo will be able to have more big games after last week's breakout game: No idea. It was only his 2nd 100-yard game since he's been here. With the weapons on this team, no one is going to aggressively cover him. He's going to get a lot of single coverage.

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A not-so-subtle side effect of Roy Williams surge in performance is the effect it has had on the other receivers on the team. We speculated all offseason about opponents picking their poison against the Cowboys and the breadth and depth of offensive talent on the team. Well, the results are beginning to come in. The Cowboys' passing game is sharing the wealth.

They are the only NFL team that has five receivers with double-figures catches. The range goes from 22 receptions by wide receiver Miles Austin to 11 catches for Bennett, who had only 15 receptions last season.

``The more ways you can attack the defense, the better you're going to be,'' offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said. ``When you're doing that, you're dictating to the defense. You want to get the ball to different people effectively for that reason.

Todd Archer saw the Texans paying too much attention to Miles Austin.

Why wasn't Miles Austin targeted that much against the Texans? Can't get the ball to everybody. Roy was so open so early on his two touchdowns that Romo had to go there. I haven't looked at the Texans defense yet (that comes Tuesday usually) to see what they did with Austin but I'd guess they rolled coverage his way. Smart to do after 20 catches in two games but look how it left them vulnerable to other things.

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Leading up to the Texans game, Terence Newman publicly wondered whether the Cowboys were practicing hard enough. It seems that they are now. ESPN Dallas reported that the Cowboys had the 'best' bye-week practice on Wednesday.

"That was the best open-date practice that we’ve had since I’ve been here," Wade Phillips said Wednesday afternoon. "The guys worked hard today. They executed well. The concentration was excellent. "I think it was a combination of things carrying over what we’ve been doing. I think that’s important to them. We emphasized that, and I thought they responded well today."

With that having been taken care of, Coach Phillips was comfortable with giving the team 3 days off for bye.

The immediate challenge is sustaining whatever momentum they have going. Phillips proclaimed practice on Wednesday the best he’d seen from this club during a bye week. Their reward: Thursday’s schedule was shuffled so players could be done early in the afternoon, giving them a head start on a three-day weekend.

And while he encouraged his players to do the right thing on their off days, he apparently wasn't overly concerned about players getting into trouble during the bye.

"I don’t worry about that," Phillips said. "You could worry every day about young people and we’ve got quite a few on our team. You talk to them a lot about off-the-field things and how much that influences and you don’t know. We have a good group of guys and I don’t specifically worry about that."

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Looks like Tony Romo has been keeping up on the discussion we've had on the blog about the merits of the passing game, particularly about high YPA figures. Now if only he'd mentioned ANPY/A when he recently said that while he was happy his completion percentage was up, what he really wants is more yards per attempt.

You can always get a higher completion percentage if you want to check it down 4 yards on third and 10," Romo said. "Things of that nature can be skewed. What you want is yards per attempt because then you're able to move the chains and get the ball in the end zone."