It is so nice to be able to read about the Dallas Cowboys without significant mention of who is calling the plays. Now that the media has its answers, the coverage at minicamp can focus on what we really want to know: How do the Cowboys players look?
It is still shorts and T-shirt time, but minicamp is the best (and last) look we will get until the team reports to Oxnard for training camp (the real start of the season for us, uh, addicts).
Before I get to some of the articles coming out of the day's activities, I picked up a few themes or trends from the Twitter activity.
One name that was getting a lot of attention is DT Ben Bass. With Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff getting a "rest" day off from the drills (along with Miles Austin), he was apparently tearing it up. His highlight of the day was a play where he drove David Arkin back into a running play, to the point Arkin knocked DeMarco Murray down.
Ben Bass really looking like someone to keep an eye on down in Dallas. Could we have another undrafted gem? I know, helmets and shorts.Ray Santiago (@RaySanti) June 12, 2011
Meanwhile Dez Bryant and Morris Claiborne (back from his migraine) were having some pretty good battles out there. Claiborne won at least once, but the advantage went to Bryant, who continues to look like a bit of a monster out there. And working against each other is only going to make them stronger. The action may have been rather intense on the field, but clearly they remember that they are teammates at the end of the day.
Dez Bryant on Morris Claiborne: "He has hands like a receiver. He's just putting pieces together to be one of the best in the league."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) June 12, 2013
There is little doubt that Dez is emerging as one of the true stars of the team. Rainer Sabin wrote about his confidence and the way he is demonstrating it at SportsDay DFW.
He has routinely made difficult catches while toying with cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, drawing praise from teammates and coaches alike as he has finished off one eye-popping play after the next. Although live contact is forbidden during the minicamp held this week, Bryant's performance has been impressive.
Jerry Jones made the decision to give Bryant the hallowed 88 jersey worn by Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin before him. We may criticize Jones for some of his decisions, but it looks like he got this one right. Not only is his production living up to the high expectations, but I think we are seeing a leader like those two starting to emerge, with the work ethic and swagger to match. And so far his performance has been with a group of quarterbacks that have not exactly been threatening to create a controversy over the starting job. I can't wait to see the chemistry with Tony Romo start to cook in Oxnard.
Although Bryant's standout work has come at the expense of Clairborne and Brandon Carr at times, they have also shown some good work from the reporting. And free agent safety Will Allen is looking to bring something to the team. At the Ft Worth Star Telegram, Carlos Mendez has an interview where Allen describes that.
"That's a mentality," Allen said, talking to reporters Wednesday at Valley Ranch. "If you aren't trying to hit, you can forget about it. So that's my mentality at all costs. I don't really care. That's the mentality that they have there (the Pittsburgh Steelers, his last team), and hopefully I can bring that here and get some guys to follow."
Before his time in Pittsburgh, where he was indoctrinated in that mentality by players like Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor, Allen worked for five years under Monte Kiffin with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He knows that Kiffin feels the same way, and bringing that kind of approach to the game is probably a big reason he was signed to shore up the safety position.
With Tony Romo still held out of most activities (although he has been working on the side and is very involved with the coaches, according to observers), backup quarterback Kyle Orton has gotten the opportunity to work with the first team more than he has since coming to Dallas. Jon Machota got some raves from Orton in a post at SportsDay DFW about Bryant, Austin, and Jason Witten, as well as the overall offensive scheme, but the best line is about something I hope we get to see a lot of when Romo is back in the saddle this fall.
Orton went to Bryant on four consecutive plays during the final team drills on Wednesday.
Do you get the feeling I am a bit high on Dez?
The playcalling story is not completely over, but now it is focused where it should be, on how the actual process is working out. ESPN Dallas' Todd Archer has a short report on how the players don't see any real impact at their level, because the plays are familiar. He did indicate that the team is still working out the actual system, like Jason Garrett kept telling everyone.
There were some issues with the mechanics on Wednesday. Callahan was calling the plays to quarterback coach Wade Wilson, who called them into the quarterbacks. In the first team red-zone period, the offense had a delay of game and needed a timeout two plays later.
I don't know why the plays wouldn't go directly from Callahan to the field, but that may just be an option that the team is looking at. It's a process, remember?
Speaking of the terminally process-oriented, Jason Garrett's press conference after the practice, available to view at DallasCowboys.com, primarily addressed the young guys. He had nice things to say about the progress of Claiborne, Bryant, and Tyrone Crawford, among others. He also addressed the reason the Cowboys are still going out of town to training camp when more and more teams are staying at their (expensive) home facilities. Garrett was in sunglasses, but he certainly looked like he was very relaxed. Maybe that question that is no longer asked had something to do with it?
Bryan Broaddus used his daily wrapup at the mothership to look at the four consecutive passes to Bryant sequence I mentioned above. It's a nice breakdown that highlights the battle he was having with Claiborne. After covering that in detail, he also talks about DeVonte Holloman making a pick of a ball that should have been a touchdown if had not timed his jump properly.
One more practice before the last idle period of the year. We'll have the highlights for you here at BTB.