Look, Ma — one hand! It's almost getting to the point where it seems first-round draft pick Dez Bryant doesn't like using both hands to catch the ball. Maybe he thinks it would be construed as showing up the defense, or he doesn't see it as a challenge. Whatever the reason, Bryant is making one-handed catches look easy, and he made a lot of them throughout the three-day camp.
Catching on — sort of: Bryant made easily the catch of the day, and still drew the ire of wide receivers coach Ray Sherman. Bryant ran an out route of about 12 yards, and when he turned back for the ball, his feel slipped out from under him. Undeterred, he reached up while stretched out flat on his back and snared the pass. Teammates hailed his ability to concentrate and make the catch, but Sherman immediately corrected Bryant's running form, saying that Bryant had been running too upright. Had he kept his pads lower, Sherman said, Bryant wouldn't have had to make the circus catch. Later in practice, Sherman also got after Bryant to shorten his steps when trying to stop and cut on a route, because it will shorten the time Bryant needs to stop his momentum.
Sherman also reminded Bryant about the need to come back and meet the ball on curl routes. Bryant was making catches cleanly — with both hands — but Sherman reminded him that every NFL team has cornerbacks with the speed to jump in front of him for an interception if he waits for the ball to come to him, rather going to meet the pass.
Hot potato: Bryant, of course, is assured of a job, but he is one of just seven receivers who spent the weekend trying to catch the attention of the Dallas coaching staff. One who stood out, but for the wrong reason, was Verran Tucker, a speedy rookie from Cal. Tucker has the wheels to get behind a lot of defenders, but dropped several passes Sunday morning in drills that didn't even include defensive players.
Sticky fingers: The polar opposite was running back Lonyae Miller, who made a number of nice grabs on passes out of the backfield. On at least two, Miller had to leap in the air and reach for errant passes, and in each case, he was able to haul in the throws and head upfield.
Little big man: Of the six offensive linemen the Cowboys had in camp, Cal's Chet Teofilo appeared to be the quickest, and probably the best-conditioned in the group. Teofilo, who is listed as a guard/center, somehow looks almost skinny at 309 pounds, and moves very well, whether accelerating forward or when moving side to side in a "mirror" drill. He also responded quickly when offensive line coach Hudson Houck instructed him to sink his hips lower in pass protection drills, and delivered a very quick punch — earning praise from Houck.
Medical update: The players escaped the weekend in relatively good health. Three minor notes:
• Bryant slightly twisted an ankle, but it didn't appear to be serious.
• Cornerback Bryan McCann slowed down a little from his strong Friday performance after experiencing what head coach Wade Phillips referred to as "soreness" in the Saturday and Sunday practices.
• While running a pass route, running back Herb Donaldson accidentally spiked cornerback Jamar Wall in the ankle. Wall was hobbled for a minute, but quickly returned to drills.
Still getting his kicks: At one point Sunday, the team split into two groups. Most of the players went to one end of the field to work with special teams coach Joe DeCamillis on kick-blocking drills, but a couple of players — Bryant and fellow wide receiver Titus Ryan — stayed on the other end to field punts. Doing the punting were rookie Delbert Alvarado, who is trying to make the team as a kicker and/or punter … and former Dallas placekicker Chris Boniol. The 37-year-old Boniol, who last kicked in the NFL in 1999 as a member of the Chicago Bears, didn't have quite the altitude Alvarado was able to muster, but he did consistently kick about 40 yards, with a hang time of about four seconds — not bad for a guy who made his living as a placekicker (not a punter) in a career that ended 11 years ago.
Block party: At the other end of the field, DeCamillis ran a majority of the players through drills for blocking punts. A row of trash cans was set up to emulate blockers, and players were instructed to go around or between them on their way toward kicker Connor Hughes, who was lightly punting a soccer ball. Most of the players, were able to get to Hughes in time, since there was no live blocking, but two players — safety Danny McCray and cornerback Marquis Floyd — made exceptional plays. While their teammates jumped in front of Hughes to knock his "punts" to the ground, McCray and Floyd got there so quickly they basically snatched the soccer ball right off Hughes's foot before cruising into the end zone.
Getting closer: McCray also showed exceptional closing speed for a safety in coverage drills. On several plays, he would drop back to cover a receiver, and as the ball was thrown, he was able to time his arrival and accelerate quickly enough to knock away several passes in the drill.
Defensive play of the day: In three days, Floyd and Bryant were the most impressive players at their position. At one point, the two lined up across from each other. When Bryant had sprinted about 10 yards, he planted his foot and cut toward the center of the field. Floyd got his feet mixed up and the two collided. Floyd, who is listed 32 pounds lighter (190) than Bryant, bounced off of the Oklahoma State rookie like a pinball, but managed to maintain his concentration enough to twist his body around in mid-air and make a diving interception, drawing howls of approval from his teammates.
Defensive play of the day … honorable mention: If not for Floyd's aerial acrobatics, the honor would have gone to safety Barry Church, who was able to rip the ball out of the hands of tight end/long snapper Daniel DeVega after the rookie from Texas A&M-Commerce made a catch over the middle.
Strong mind, strong hands: Bryant made one of the more impressive catches of the day when he snagged a pass from quarterback Matt Echols toward the end of the practice session … while wrestling the ball out of the hands of Floyd and enduring an accidental shot to the head by Floyd.
The first step: Seventh-round draft choice Sean Lissemore, a defensive tackle from William & Mary, is very quick for a player who is listed at 298 pounds. After the practice session, Lissemore was one of the players head coach Wade Phillips singled out for having had a strong camp. Phillips pointed out that Lissemore had run track — as a sprinter — in high school, and said that every team wants defensive linemen with quickness. If nothing else, Lissemore has plenty of that.
Mini-camp observations — Sunday
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