Commentary

Dez Bryant drawing lots of attention

Wide receiver has star quality and has been a popular topic during Cowboys' offseason

Updated: March 6, 2011, 2:03 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

It would seem the most talked about player in the offseason when it comes to the Cowboys' universe is Tony Romo.

Should Romo play golf? Is he an elite quarterback? Does he care enough about football? Can he lead the team to a Super Bowl?

Well, now for the first time since Romo became the full-time starter in 2006, someone else has taken over the Cowboys' universe in the offseason: Dez Bryant.

It seems people can't get enough of Bryant.

Will he stay healthy? Can he become the next Drew Pearson or Michael Irvin? Does he know the playbook? Will he stay out of trouble?

People love to talk about Bryant, and there are reasons why.

Bryant isn't an accomplished receiver yet, but he was the Cowboys' most explosive offensive threat in 2010. He scored six receiving touchdowns before a fractured ankle ended his season in early December. He averaged 12.5 yards per catch and had 45 receptions and only two drops. On special teams, Bryant made special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis' life easier. He returned two punts for scores and averaged 24.4 yards per kick return.

Former wide receivers coach Ray Sherman called Bryant a freak talent. New receivers coach Jimmy Robinson can't wait to work with him.

Currently Bryant is rehabbing from a fractured right ankle and is doing some light jogging.

"My rehab is fine," Bryant told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "I've been hearing a lot of stories about how Michael Irvin came off his ACL [in 1989] and how he was so ready to get back out there. I kinda feel the same way, that's where my mindset is. His story motivates me so much of getting back out there [it] just makes me want to work hard, and that's what I'm doing each and every day."

Bryant had a close relationship with Sherman, whose departure stunned him. In comes Robinson, who has worked with his share of talented receivers, from Andre Rison to Donald Driver.

Robinson has a different style than Sherman's. He demands, demands, demands perfection. If receivers don't like it, so be it. The "Keepin' It Real Thursday's," a Sherman staple allowing players a chance to vent with no retribution, are most likely gone.

Robinson understands that players will get upset and want the ball, but the yelling and screaming on the sidelines won't be met with a positive response.

There was the perception that when Bryant was yelling on the sidelines he was disrespecting the coaches. Bryant said he's just passionate about the game, and Jason Garrett supports him in this. But there are times when Bryant has to channel those emotions for the field and not the sidelines. That will come with maturity and Robinson hopes to work on it with Bryant.

"A great guy [and] I'm looking forward to working with him, not only me but the rest of the guys," Bryant said. "I felt like he just left a great group of receivers that I really think highly of, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, a great group of guys. The way they run routes and the way they catch the ball and how they get to open spots, and I know he's got a lot to do with that."

Yes, Bryant is one of the most talented players on this Cowboys roster, and because of that he's surpassed Romo for the most talked about for now.

Now he has to produce on the field.

On to the mail.

Q: If The Cowboys do get a quarterback it will probably be in the third or fourth round, don't you think? Also, since the Redskins released Clinton Portis, do you think the Cowboys would pick him up? -- Daniel Ciccarone (Eagleville, Pa.)

A: Daniel, there could be some talent in the third round when it comes to the quarterback position. Maybe Ryan Mallett is there, and I do like the poise of Andy Dalton and there is lots of potential in Colin Kaepernick. Stephen McGee is the future backup to Tony Romo but it seems the quarterback spot has some talent in it this year's draft. Regarding Portis, no way would the Cowboys consider signing him. He's on his last legs and the Cowboys have fresh legs in Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. If the team retains Marion Barber -- he's due a $500,000 bonus in June -- it allows them to be more physical, and he's a better player than Portis at this stage of their careers.

Q: Has Jerry Jones lost his mind? Doug Free hasn't been franchised, O.J. Atwoge isn't being talked to by Dallas, and he might draft Cam Newton at No. 9! I know there's CBA uncertainty but c'mon man. -- Tim (Alabama)

A: No, I think Jerry Jones has done the right thing with Doug Free. Why give the man a $10 million contract after just one season as the full-time left tackle? If opposing teams want Free they must give up two picks -- a first and a third. Atwoge didn't have as good a year in 2010 as he did in 2009 and that might give the Cowboys pause. However, there are some safeties worth looking at in the second round who would be upgrades over Alan Ball at free safety and quite possibly make more plays than Gerald Sensabaugh at strong safety.

Q: Would there be any purpose for Cowboys to bring in [Tommie] Harris? Is he even a fit in this defense? -- Peter McConnell (Oklahoma City)

A: I would say no on Mr. Harris. I don't think he can play at nose tackle in the Cowboys' 3-4 scheme and I'm not sold on him playing defensive end. There is too much talent in this draft, especially at the defensive end positions, to take a shot on Harris. I like Stephen Bowen over Harris in the nickel and dime packages. Jay Ratliff is a quality nose tackle that had an off year, so just say no to Harris.

Q: Calvin, Do you think the Cowboys will either take the corner from Nebraska and if they don't, should we trade down and collect picks and use those to draft depth and starters in the late first, second/third round? -- Chris (Dallas)

A: In 2009, the Cowboys drafted depth -- 12 picks -- and just one, David Buehler, emerged as a solid player. The Cowboys, coming off a 6-10 season, shouldn't trade down. Stephen Jones said it best a few weeks ago regarding the draft: "Get the best player available." He's right. The Cowboys can't afford to get backups. It's time to either create competition at a position, like draft a defensive end to challenge for a starting spot or upgrade a spot like cornerback, safety or tackle.

Q: Why is Michael Huff not in the conversation for players the Dallas Cowboys should be interested in during free agency? He is a Dallas kid, a UT kid, a Rob Ryan kid and a talented rising star in the league now that he is adjusted to the speed and responsibility of an NFL safety. -- Brad (New Orleans)

A: Considering where the Cowboys have gone at the safety position, mainly in free agency, they've been dealt mixed results. Ken Hamlin and Gerald Sensabaugh had at least one good year, but that was it. Hamlin cashed in for a big money deal and Sensabaugh is searching for one. Both players were taken off the free-agent market. Nothing against Huff, but I like Abe Elam and OJ Atogwe more than him.

Q: With Sensabaugh and [Marcus] Spears testing free agency and the team offering Stephen Bowen a long term deal, I think they will sign a safety in FA since we do have some backups, and with the new coaching staff they might feel some of the young guys can play in their system. What do think Mr. Watkins? -- Anson (Indianapolis)

A: I don't like it Anson. Draft a safety, if a quality one is there, and don't forget Danny McCray and Barry Church are on the roster. McCray and Church are two young players with potential. Nothing wrong with having veterans on the team, but if the younger players can produce more, stick with them.

Q: How come so many of Dallas' rookies don't seem to produce? Is it the coach or management? -- Phil (Bosie, Idaho)

A: I guess you forgot about Dez Bryant and Sean Lee last year? How about waiting on Doug Free, and as you saw, he can play a little bit. Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins, both first-round picks, are starters and have made an impact. When given the chance, Tashard Choice has also produced. Yes, it seems the Cowboys miss on some draft picks and the blame game there goes to many different factors. You could blame the scouts for the misevaluation of the player, the coach for not getting the most out of the player and the player himself for a lack of production.

Q: If the Cowboys trade down, could they get both Nate Solder and Rahim Moore? -- Andrew (Dallas)

A: I wouldn't trade down in this draft to get Moore, who might be the best safety in this class. Solder is someone I liked and thought was pretty good at the Senior Bowl. But he's going to be around late in the first round. The key for the Cowboys is to get the best defensive end or cornerback possible at No. 9.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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