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Dallas Cowboys Headlines: Rookies Making Impact, Very Early Potential Draft Picks, More

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Good morning everybody. Not a lot of Cowboys news on a Sunday morning during the bye week, but I've managed to throw together some odds and ends for a halfway decent headlines post. Our topics today:

The Cowboys 2010 rookie class is making its presence felt on the field, and that's not just because of Dez Bryant - but he gets some extra special love anyway. Sean Lee didn't get a lot of love from the fans this week, but after the mid-week outcry over Sean Lee not playing nickel linebacker, cooler heads prevail and provide their point of view. We also look at what could possibly be a re-emergence of the run in the league and look at the Cowboys penalty situation. Finally, because it's never too early to talk about the draft, we look at some mock drafts and who they think the Cowboys will pick in the first round next year.

Later in the day we'll have an open thread up as we settle in for a full afternoon and evening of NFL football.

This 2010 Cowboys rookie class is making a strong first impression, and it's more than just Dez Bryant. The DMNs Gerry Fraley likes what he sees so far:

The Cowboys have 10 rookies, tied for the fifth-most in the league. The rookies have made their presence felt, be it through 14 catches and a scoring punt return by Dez Bryant or the work of the "Three Musketeers" safety trio of Barry Church, Danny McCray and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah. [...] The Cowboys do not yet have a rookie starter, but they have found useful pieces from their draft and undrafted free agents.

Tom Orsborn from the San Antonio Express News chimes in on the same topic:

Bryant isn't the only rookie with a TD. Undrafted fullback Chris Gronkowski had a 1-yard TD reception in the 27-20 loss to Chicago. Defensively, four rookies have contributed, including undrafted safeties Barry Church and Houston native Danny McCray. Rounding out the list of rookie contributors is Josh Brent, a seventh-round defensive lineman who had two tackles Sunday.

And Dez Bryant gets some extra love from Michael Lombardi, who'd like to see Dez get 10 balls a game.

On what impressed him most from Cowboys game vs. Houston:

"I thought Tony Romo was spectacular. I think Dez Bryant should get 10 balls a game, I think he should be thrown to twice a quarter down the field because he's sensational. He's similar to Andre Johnson . He's a young player, but he's so explosive and so talented, he is the key to the Cowboys. And this is not to take anything away from Miles Austin , because I think Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are probably two of the most powerful receivers in the NFL. It was nice to see Roy Williams make some plays but the key to me is in this offense Dez Bryant has to become not just a piece but a major focal point."

Bob Sturm also has some extra love for Dez and thinks the sky is the limit for the Cowboys number one pick.

"I think the sky is the limit for Dez Bryant. I always look for two things in a young athlete and seldom do they have both: Raw talent and ability and the desire to be the best. I think he has both. That should really excite people. No. 2 is tricky, because once athletes get here, they sometimes change with money and success. I don't think he will. We shall see."

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Just about the only rookie missing from the list is Sean Lee, and Coach Wade Phillips' mid-week remarks Lee won't be used as the nickel linebacker caused quite some consternation among the Cowboys faithful (Hat tip to BTB members elFURIOSOpozo for the fanpost, and mdlusk for the fanshot).

The consensus that seems to be emerging after the alarm bells have stopped ringing is that Lee is likely to be used on 1st and 2nd downs, while Jason Williams is being prepped for the nickel role. Bob Sturm agrees that the panic over Lee is overblown.

I think "Sean Lee panic" is way overdone, and Wade Phillips isn't helping it with his quote the other day. Sure is weird for Wade to actually say something critical about a player by name, but all my reports are that Wade's agenda is to get Jason Williams ready for nickel LB and save Lee for base defense situations.

JJT has a similar point of view and argues that the only thing holding Lee back is that he missed significant portions of training camp

If Lee is healthy enough to play, as expected, against Tennessee next week, the Cowboys will probably try to use him on first and second down. Then Brooking could play on third down, and his play count might not get too high. [...] Delve a little deeper at the club's Valley Ranch training complex, and it becomes clear the Cowboys think Lee can handle the job once he gets some more practice time. That's understandable since he has twice missed chunks of practice time with leg injuries – the latest a strained hamstring suffered against Washington.

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You may have noticed that so far this season, teams appear to be more successful with a dominant running game than with a prolific passing offense. Is this just a minor aberration? USAToday's The Huddle looks at whether the league is trending back towards the run.

The league's most prolific passing games to date stand in stark contrast. Of the 11 passers with the biggest yardage days in 2010, nine have toiled in a losing effort, including Drew Brees, Chad Henne, Eli Manning, Kyle Orton and Philip Rivers -- the latter two both surpassed 450 yards -- last Sunday. [...]

The Kansas City Chiefs are off to a stunning 3-0 start, thanks largely to a run game that paces the league with 160.7 yards per game. They rate just ahead of the Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers, who are a combined 5-1. The top four passing offenses -- the Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, Colts and Dallas Cowboys -- are a collective 5-7.

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The Cowboys have settled down in their customary place atop the penalty leader board. Raf keeps a running penalty meter on his new site, and Mike Sando from ESPN's NFC West Blog also keeps a penalty watch including declined penalties. His findings:

Only the Oakland Raiders (37) and Dallas Cowboys (35) have committed more than the Cardinals (33) through three games, counting declined penalties.

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It's never too early to talk about the draft. Here are 11 mock drafts and who they think the Cowboys will pick in the first round next year. Notice any trends towards a particular position?

Site Pick # Player Position College
Draftcountdown 28 Gabe Carimi OT Wisconsin
Footballdraftanalysis 19 Gabe Carimi OT Wisconsin
Draftace 32 DeMarcus Love OT Arkansas
Draftzoo 13 Nate Solder OT Colorado
Draft King 28 Chris Hairston OT Clemson
Footballsfuture 28 Matt Reynolds OT BYU
Walter Football 26 DeAndre McDaniel S Clemson
Great Blue North 27 DeAndre McDaniel S Clemson
Newsportdraft 27 DeAndre McDaniel S Clemson
Draftseason 23 Da’Quan Bowers DE Clemson
Draftsite 15 Dont'a Hightower ILB Alabama

Chris Steuber reports via his Twitter account that Cowboys scouts attended Ohio State @ Illinois, East Carolina @ North Carolina and Penn State @ Iowa.