1. Dez Bryant and Tony Romo have only been on a practice field together a handful of times since the end of the 2014 season due to injuries and Bryant’s contract hold out last summer.
Although they tried to get some time together before training camp, the rust between the two showed during the first padded practice Monday. The timing was off. So much so that Romo and Bryant did not connect on a single pass in 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s or the team drills, probably for the first time since Bryant was drafted in 2010. Neither player seemed too worried. Romo said they have played enough together to know that the timing will come.
2. Bryant was rusty and struggled catching the ball. Again for him to be shut out of a single catch in practice was shocking. But an example of Bryant’s growth is that he didn’t get emotional and frustrated in practice. There was a little trash talking with cornerbac Morris Claiborne but nothing over the top. Bryant is more focused on getting in shape, getting his body right so he can run all day and return to “beast mode,” as he said.
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3. Speaking of Claiborne, the oft-criticized cornerback was the star of practice on the first day of pads. He was all over the place. He batted down two balls intended for Bryant. He also had a diving pass deflection of another pass from Tony Romo. He looked good. He looked like he is ready to finally prove himself. The question is whether he can sustain it on the field and stay healthy. The Cowboys have seen good starts to camp before from Claiborne only to end up being disappointed.
4. The Cowboys need playmakers, so keep an eye on rookie defensive back Anthony Brown. The sixth-round pick from Purdue jumped off the page in the first padded practice with two interceptions off Romo. Some of that had do with timing issues with Romo and his receivers. But give Brown credit for finding the ball and coming up with interceptions. The Cowboys’ cornerbacks had a pathetic two interceptions combined last season.
5. Another rookie to watch is undrafted free-agent receiver Andy Jones. He is big (6-1, 211 pounds), fast and catches everything. Despite catching 144 passes for 2,120 yards and 17 touchdowns in his college career, Jones is a relative unknown because Jacksonville University plays non-scholarship football. No NFL players are among its alumni. Jones has a good chance to be the first. He is turning heads so far at Cowboys camp.