Test Day For Rookies

The Dallas Cowboys played the Oakland Raiders in what can only be described as a bar-b-que pit, known as Texas Stadium, Friday night. The first milestone along the way to measure where this year's version of the team is headed, it was a Friday quiz for five rookies.

On the first offensive play Andre Gurode pancaked the nose tackle for the Raiders. A very impressive start by a rookie, making a position change and playing center for the first time in the NFL.

If a tone is being set by one rookie player this season it would have to be Gurode. He consistently held the middle of the line together. A line that was featuring only two starters in Gurode and Page.

With back-ups around him, Andre opened holes for Hambrick allowing Troy to finish the night with 10 rushes for 43 yards. Gurode called all the line assignments and showed why he was such a highly coveted player coming out of Colorado. His play against a solid Raider defense indicates he could be anchoring the Dallas line for many years to come.

It was third and 7 and the Cowboys were facing their first up hill push of this young pre-season. Quincy set up in the pocket and rolled slightly to his right. He tossed a laser shot to Antonio Bryant in the flat, gaining about three yards. Bryant gave a juke on a safety and left him swiping at air as he gained 12 yards and a first down.

The play wasn't a highlight on ESPN but it may be one seen many times during the career of Mr. Bryant. He moved the sticks and kept a drive alive by his elusiveness and skills. As a slot receiver he is polished beyond his tender years in the league and a welcome sight for a Dallas team that has fielded the likes of the Chris Brazzell's and Billy Davis' over the past few years.

But perhaps more importantly was the moves put on by Bryant as he continually congratulated other receivers on their performances. He showed his willingness to be a team player and not the showboat predicted by everyone from Mel Kiper to Osama bin Laden.

Bryant showed some veteran moves for a rookie. Which should make the rest of the league that passed on him reflect on his desire to prove them wrong. He will burn some teams before this season is over.

Roy Williams was a first round pick. He should shine because of the accolades heap on him before the draft. Yet rookie mistakes happen to every player that comes into the league and Roy is no exception.

He blew an assignment during the opening drive of the Raiders allowing a deep completion in the seam of the defense. Yet everything said about Roy will end up bearing fruit.

On a play designed to fool the rookie, the Raiders ran a slot receiver at him. He chucked the receiver within the five-yard limit knocking him off his route. Fact is, he nearly knocked the guy off his feet.

But Roy was playing zone and the Raiders ran a second receiver behind the first into the flat. Williams read the play and made an open field tackle that could be the prototype shown to all football players from Pop Warner to Pro Bowl defenders.

Roy wrapped up the receiver around the waist and took him to the ground immediately. On any play where Williams was isolated in open space with a ball carrier he made the tackle alone. He will suffer through rookie mistakes, but he also will show why he was considered the best defender in the 2002 draft.

Derek Ross gave up a few pass plays. He made rookie mistakes on coverage that cost the Cowboys by allowing drives to continue. As of now he will have to be graded on his practice performances. But the team is high on this young player and he will be given many opportunities to showcase his talent.

The biggest question mark going into this game was at quarterback. Would Quincy show something more than he has in practice? But more importantly how would Chad Hutchinson stand up to his first live game in the NFL?

Quincy's performance suggests he is ready to take the reigns of the team this season as the true starter. Chad has work to do.

Not to say that Hutch didn't perform well. He showed signs of why there are so many that see his potential and dream. He does have a rocket launcher for an arm and is deadly accurate. But the rust was evident as he culminated his first drive with an interception in the endzone on a fade route.

Yet there are signs that he possesses the talent to play in this league. And perhaps the mobility. While he did miss reads, he showed he could roll away from pressure. Coslet will insist on reminding him that rolling away doesn't mean dropping fifteen yards behind the line of scrimmage. However, Chad did feel the defense and did buy time with his legs. Something less Aikman-like until he unleashed a Scud missile to Woody Danzler that was just out of bounds.

It was the first pre-season game of the year. There were no signs that this was a Super Bowl bound team in their over-all performance. Yet the rookies fared well and showed why they were selected.

The journalists haven't started in with their mocking of Jones. And for the moment Jerry isn't wearing a draft day egg on his face. It's nice to see Jerry avoid is normal August hard knocks.

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