- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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We have our first post-rookie minicamp mailbag, and some of you want to know about Dez Bryant. Our opening question concerns the Cowboys' ability to reach the Super Bowl. I like the Cowboys' chances, but with the rugged schedule, it's going to be tough. Another reader asks why the Cowboys didn't draft a quarterback. Is this a shot at Romo? Some of you are worried about the safety and left tackle spots. No fear, Alan Ball and Doug Free are here.
Now to the questions:
Q: If Dallas plays collectively as good as it did in the latter part of last season (minus the playoff game vs. Minnesota) and Dez Bryant produces as well as all the Cowboy fans pray that he will, could the Cowboys have, potentially, the best team in the league, and/or a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl? -- David Wyatt (Baton Rouge, La.)
A: This is a hard question to answer with the regular season so far away. The Cowboys have the third-toughest schedule in the NFL and face difficult road games against Indianapolis, Minnesota and Green Bay. Dallas will be the favorites to win the NFC East this year, but how they handle these road games will determine a lot. You think the Eagles don't remember getting beat three times last year? Yes, Keith Brooking wants revenge on the Vikings for when they ran up the score, but can the Cowboys' offensive line contain the Vikings' pass rush in 2010? Dallas is a legit contender for the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium, but it's not going to be easy.
Q : I have not heard anything about Terrell Hudgins. Looking at his college highlights he looked like a young T.O. I know Dez is the star of camp, but with Terrell's college career (broke Jerry Rice's records) do you think he will get a fair shot? -- Darrel Simien (Port Arthur, Texas)
A: The problem Hudgins faces is he's behind too many players. We're not talking about Bryant, Williams, Austin and Crayton. He's behind Manuel Johnson and Jesse Holley, guys who have a year of experience on him and will get more reps in practices. Johnson and Holley are battling to move up the depth chart and could head to the practice squad for another season. Hudgins didn't participate during the rookie minicamp due to an illness. That's not his fault, but when you're not on the field it allows other players to get more chances to show the coaches what they can do.
Q: I think as a team we are great in a lot of positions. Although I don't think we're solid at free safety, I think Alan Ball can play and I really have a lot of confidence in Michael Hamlin. I think if given the right chance, he can outdo our other safeties and can be a great starter. What do you think? -- Nicholas (Pottsville, Pa.)
A: Nicholas, Ball is the projected starter at the free safety position. The Cowboys are not interested in Darren Sharper, so let's move on from that please. It's Ball's job to lose and Hamlin, who battled a broken wrist for most of the season, will also get a long look.
Q: I am very excited about the Cowboys' draft class this year, however I was a little disappointed we didn't address the left tackle position through the draft or free agency. Have you heard anything that we are going to pick up anyone via free agency or through a trade? I am hearing good things about Doug Free, just not sure about having him be the anchor of our offensive line. -- Greg (Farmington, Utah)
A: The Cowboys released Flozell Adams because they believe Free is ready to take over the starting left tackle spot. Jerry Jones said Free has the necessary skills to move from the right tackle spot to the left side, and that's a good thing. The reason you draft players is so they can eventually move into your starting lineup. Free, a fourth-round pick in 2007, outperformed Pat McQuistan and won the swing tackle job. When Marc Colombo was lost for the bulk of the season with leg and ankle injuries, the Cowboys pushed Free into the position and he was one of their most trusted linemen.
Q: Although he is a very good tackler, I see a lot of Bobby Carpenter in Sean Lee. He has an inability to shed blockers and get to the ball and when he does get there he is usually one of the last to do so. No doubt he had a good college LB coach but I don't see a hint of Brooking in his play. How are the coaches comparing him to Brooking? -- Tom (Chicago)
A: Lee is going to back up Bradie James' spot in the inside linebacker position and compete with Carpenter for the nickel linebackers job. Brooking's age (he turns 35 in October) raises concerns about his level of play for the future, which is where Lee comes in. The Atlanta Falcons were proven wrong about Brooking when they declined to give him a new contract after the 2008 season. Brooking played well last year, but as I said, his age and a younger player waiting in the wings means something. After the rookie minicamp, coach Wade Phillips said Lee knew a third of the playbook and recognized offensive formations.
A: I don't believe the Cowboys want Gaither. He's got some motivational issues to work out, so I'm not sure they want him on the squad. The Cowboys are not just going to give away Crayton, but I do believe he will be with the team in 2010.
Q: Why didn't the Cowboys draft a quarterback? -- Deannieus (Washington, D.C.)
A: I assume you're asking me this question not because of Tony Romo or Jon Kitna, who is a quality backup, but because of Stephen McGee. He battled injuries toward the end of the preseason. Quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson spoke highly of McGee's work in the offseason. McGee is working on getting rid of the ball faster and becoming consistent in completing his passes. Dallas likes the three quarterbacks it has, especially the starter in Romo. It will be interesting to see how McGee performs in the OTAs and minicamps.
Q: With the Cowboys' need for depth on the offensive line, why not look at a player such as Shawn Andrews. The left guard position is stable but not spectacular and with a Pro Bowl-caliber player, yet one with tons of baggage and question marks, available I say they make a play on him. -- Justin Lynch (Collinsville, Ill.)
A: Justin, you just said it. "Tons of baggage and question marks" rule out the Cowboys going after Andrews. The bottom line with the offensive line is the Cowboys like the starters and want to make their backups more versatile. The Cowboys are interested in a backup, but one who is not expensive.
Q: Now with Dez Bryant in the mix, what do you think the three-wide receiver set will look like for the Cowboys -- i.e., will Patrick Crayton still be a Cowboy on opening day? -- Oscar Solis (Edinburg, Texas)
A: As of now, the top three wide receivers are Miles Austin, Roy Williams and Dez Bryant. That could change if Bryant reaches his expectations. Saying that, I do believe Crayton will remain a Cowboy in 2010. The organization wants to trade him, but not give him away. The offers haven't been that good, so until something good happens, Crayton will drop to the No. 4 spot unless Kevin Ogletree outperforms him in training camp.
Q: If Pittsburgh was fined and its quarterback put on suspension for six games because of his morals, why can't a team ask a prospective player if his mother was a prostitute, which is a direct indication of the morals he was instilled with as a child? -- Nicole (Kerrville, Texas)
A: Two different issues. Just because your parents act a certain way doesn't mean you will act that way. Bryant was raised by different people, not his parents. He battled though a lot just to get to the NFL and currently has some good mentors in place to help him. He's never been in legal trouble and was late to a few games his freshman season. He was suspended by the NCAA for lying about his relationship with Deion Sanders. Bryant said he thought having lunch was a violation, but it wasn't. Lying was. Most, if not all, NFL teams have all sorts of information on players. The Dolphins knew about Bryant's troubled upbringing, so did the Cowboys. But Nicole, what does what a player's parents do have to do with football? Nothing.
Q: I know this question seems strange considering that we finished second in the league in total offense, but I really don't believe in stats. Bad teams can make your stats look more impressive than they really are. Do you believe that Jason Garrett can use all of his weapons to be as explosive as we should? This is his fourth year and I really just don't know? To me, he just doesn't know how to adjust. -- B.J. Bowman (Shreveport, La.)
A: You can question whether Garrett likes to run the ball. He does, but won't if the backs are not hitting the holes. That's nothing new. He's like most offensive coordinators. Saying that, I do think Garrett has done a good job. Sometimes you can have too many weapons and can't get people the ball. With the talent Garrett has, he has to find creative ways to get Austin, Williams, Bryant, Witten, Jones, Choice, Barber and Crayton the ball. It's a hard task, but one he must achieve.
Q: Drew Pearson sounds like he knows what it will take to fix Roy Williams. Has Drew offered to mentor Roy or assist the coaching staff? -- Jim Russell (Cibolo, Texas)
A: Pearson was an assistant coach under Tom Landry when his playing days were over and he knows the position better than most. Pearson has reached out to Crayton, Austin and Williams in the last few years. Pearson said he hasn't heard from Williams, who he would like to help. In our old-school series, Pearson explained what's wrong with Williams. Pearson said Williams hasn't made the adjustments necessary to take his game to another level. Cornerbacks control him at the line of scrimmage instead of the other way around, according to Pearson. There is a disconnect between Williams and Romo. The team denies it, but it's clear.
Q: How do you see the Cowboys using Dez Bryant, in the slot or out wide? -- Ahmed Abdelkader (Ashburn, Va.)
A: At Oklahoma State, Bryant played all over the field: slot, wide, in motion, everything. I would think if he's the third receiver, he might see time in the slot. He's got a physical presence, so it's quite possible the Cowboys might use that to their advantage where Bryant is able to push away small cornerbacks. He's not the fastest guy on the team, especially in a straight line, but he is very quick and in the open field is hard to catch.
Q: If Dez Bryant blows up in Dallas (in a positive way) will Roy Williams be dealt or phased out completely after this year? Also, who will start in the safety spots? -- Nick Chandler (Sachem, Long Island)
A: Nick, here's the deal with Bryant. If he does play well, which is expected, Williams will get cut. I doubt if the Cowboys will trade Williams during the season, especially if Bryant plays well. However, even Williams admits this could be his last season with the team because of the addition of Bryant. As far as the safety spots, Gerald Sensabaugh is the starter at strong safety and Alan Ball is the projected starter at free safety. Michael Hamlin will get a look at free safety as well, but it's Ball's job to lose.
4dEric D. Williams
4dEric D. Williams
3dMel Kiper Jr.