Is Dez Bryant’s big-play ability a remedy for Cowboys’ offensive woes?
IRVING – Could Dez Bryant be the tonic the Cowboys’ offense needs?
The first-round draft choice returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since suffering a high right-ankle sprain at the Alamodome. There’s a chance he could play Thursday against Miami in the preseason finale, but if the first-team offense isn’t playing, playing Bryant does not make much sense.
When the Cowboys drafted Bryant, the good news was that they didn’t need him to be a savior. With Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton, Bryant could be afforded time to learn and ease his way in.
Maybe that’s not the case anymore.
The Cowboys did not have trouble putting up yards last season or coming up with big plays in the passing game, but they did have a hard time scoring points.
Bryant’s big-play ability could help set up easier scoring drives. He and Tony Romo did not have a difficult time connecting during their abbreviated work in San Antonio. Bryant didn’t always go to the correct spot. He didn’t catch every pass thrown his way. But he was able to make up for those miscues with talent.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones believes it won’t take long for Bryant to make plays, even if he doesn’t play in the preseason.
“Same as he did in San Antonio when he got out on the field,” Jones said when asked about the impact Bryant could make.
Q: With Dallas’ offensive struggles in the preseason, do you think they will get things together by the start of the regular season? Or is this a long-term problem?
ARCHER: The ability is there to be among the best units in the NFL. I’m not getting too carried away with the preseason work. It’s a concern but not a major deal-breaker. I think when they get everybody back, from Dez Bryant to Kyle Kosier to Marc Colombo, things will be better. You’re not going to see much different Thursday, so this team will have to build its confidence in practice before it plays the Redskins.
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Q: This has probably already been beaten to death, but the preseason hasn’t looked good for the ‘Boys. Is this more the result of their vanilla offense/defense or is it that they once again may not be as good as they and many others think they are? I know we will all know soon enough, but just wanted your take.
Kevin Clark, Evanston, Wyo.
ARCHER: Kevin, it’s a question worth asking. Has everybody overrated the Cowboys’ talent? Maybe. I feel sorry for the flavor vanilla. It has to have such a complex for the way it’s been bandied about the last week or so. I think the lack of a game plan has played a part in the poor showing, but they didn’t look this bad the last couple of preseasons when they weren’t game planning.
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Q: What are we going to do about the inability to score touchdowns inside the red zone? We are not clicking on all wheels.
ARCHER: Let me be a wise guy and say, score all of their touchdowns from outside the 20. Tip your waiters and waitresses, I’ll be here all week.
No, I think they need to find a way to execute better in the red zone. The really good red zone teams run the ball into the end zone. The Cowboys haven’t done that well since 2007. I think that’ll be a focus this year, as well as getting Jason Witten involved more from the 10-15-yard line. He needs to be a bigger part of the offense when they are in the red zone.
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Q: Outside of Miles Austin, who are the next Cowboys who will be seeking new contracts with significant signing-bonus money?
Donald Griffin Jr.
ARCHER: Depends on your definition of significant. There is not another player in Austin’s category if you’re talking big money, like, say, $25-million-plus guaranteed. The Cowboys have players they’d like to keep – Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher – but they would not cost as much as Austin. It will be interesting to see if they make extension offers to guys like Jason Witten and Jay Ratliff in the next year or so. Those two could be in position for a “significant” raise, too.
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Q: Should there be a strike or a lockout next year – a “lost year,” in effect – what happens to players’ contracts? For example, Dez Bryant has a five-year contract, presumably ending at the end of the 2014 season. Would having “no play” in 2011 count as a year on players’ contracts?
Mark Hertelendy, Easton, Md.
ARCHER: Good question, Mark. A year is not added onto the contract if there is no football next season, so Bryant’s contract, to use your example, will still end in 2014.
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Q: Where do you think the Cowboys will be in regard to being ready for the season opener in Washington?
ARCHER: They won’t have generated much goodwill from the preseason work but that doesn’t mean they won’t be ready for Washington, either. For all of the carping about Wade Phillips’ training camps, the Cowboys have never been a team to start slowly. I think they’ll be ready to go for the Redskins. Does that guarantee a win? No, but I think you’ll see better execution out of the regulars.
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Q: I was watching Robert Brewster doing a great job at left tackle. Has there been any thought about starting him and moving Free to right tackle?
ARCHER: Well, I don’t believe Brewster has done that great of a job at left tackle. He’s not athletic enough to handle speed rushers over there. He’s a right tackle and probably more of a guard. Alex Barron is the backup left tackle anyway. If Marc Colombo were to miss a significant amount of time, then I can see the Cowboys moving Free to right tackle, but they like everything they have seen from Free in the preseason and in camp.