The Cowboys kicked off training camp and the first day provided some answers to questions fans have to be wondering about their team. Looks like Dez Bryant and Felix Jones will see their duties expanded and the receiving unit is looking for some depth.
Not holding back on returns: While the Cowboys have been reluctant to use starters or prominent contributors in the return game in recent years, it appears the club has changed its tune this season. Cowboys VP Stephen Jones, the director of player personnel, said he expects WR Dez Bryant and RB Felix Jones to handle the majority of the return duties in 2012.
Bryant had two punt returns for touchdowns as a rookie but only had limited opportunities last year when he became a starting receiver. Jones had a 98-yard kickoff return for a score in 2008, but was removed from the duties the last couple of years when his offensive role increased.
“We think that’s really going to do wonders for our kicking game,” Stephen Jones said. “We’re going to let them work on it from the get go. Obviously, we didn’t do it with Felix last year because he was the starting running back and we didn’t do it with Dez. This year, we think it’ll make a big difference. Both guys were top guys come out of college. By letting them work on it every day, (special teams coordinator) Joe (DeCamillis) thinks it’ll make a big difference.”
Rookie safety getting much-needed work: If any player needed to get back on the practice field it is rookie safety Matt Johnson, a fourth-round pick from Eastern Washington. Johnson passed his physical on Sunday after sitting out a few days with a strained hamstring that landed him on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform).
The Cowboys have high hopes for Johnson, despite him missing all but one practice this summer because school classes at EWU didn’t conclude until late June, making him ineligible to participate. Then he suffered the hamstring setback, but it appears Johnson will get to work his way back into practice.
With starter Gerald Sensabaugh (knee scope) expected to miss a few days of practice, it will give Barry Church and Brodney Pool a chance to take all first-team reps. But don’t be surprised if Johnson works his way into the mix as well.
Still looking for WR help: While the Cowboys have said there is only minimal interest in acquiring another receiver, they have made a few attempts to improve the position over the last two weeks, but to no avail.
Two weeks ago, the Cowboys had a third-round claim for Baylor WR Josh Gordon in the NFL Supplemental Draft. Gordon went in the second round to Cleveland. Last Friday, the club tried to claim recently-cut wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe, but was beat to the punch by the Redskins.
The Cowboys have a host of young receivers vying for the final three or four spots. Other than Kevin Ogletree, who has 25 career catches, no one from the group of Andre Holmes, Raymond Radway, Cole Beasley, Danny Coale and Dwayne Harris has ever caught a pass in an NFL game.
Monitoring Ratliff reps: Four-time Pro Bowler Jay Ratliff hasn’t been too active this offseason because of plantar fasciitis in his foot. While he’s been cleared to practice, it’s likely the Cowboys will heavily monitor his reps, especially after the club gets into the daily grind of camp.
That will likely put more emphasis on a position battle for that backup spot between Josh Brent and Robert Calloway. Brent enters his third season but Calloway, after spending a year on the practice squad, has made a good impression this summer and figures to compete.