Cowboys’ wide receiver Dez Bryant saw his rookie training camp and season cut short from unfortunate injuries but played well enough despite not having a clean grasp of the offense to at times show magical brilliance.
As confusing of an offseason as it was for Bryant, his head coach provided a quality benefit for Bryant in the hiring Jimmy Robinson as his new receivers coach. Robinson is about technique and discipline, which Bryant truly lacks.
When you study Packers receivers Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, they were all outstanding route runners that knew how to use their ability to gain separation for Aaron Rodgers to deliver the ball.
There is no doubt that Bryant has more than enough talent to do what these Packers receivers do, but he doesn’t know how to set defensive backs up with his routes. An example of that was when Bryant was trying to run the “shutter-go” on Mike Jenkins in one-on-one.
A shutter-go is when the receiver starts his route with a full burst from the line, settles like he is going to make a cut, then explodes past the defender on a vertical path as the defender breaks forward to cover the break. Bryant did such a poor job of selling the route that it did nothing in the way of taking Jenkins out of the coverage.
Tony Romo, feeling that Bryant was going to have success in the execution of the route, let the ball fly where he thought Bryant would be, but Jenkins was right there to make the interception with Bryant nowhere in the picture.
When you watch Bryant run routes, there is no crispness to them like Miles Austin. Austin runs routes at the same speed even when he goes in and out of breaks. It’s hard for defensive backs to get a gauge on when he is going to break or go vertical. Austin is disciplined in the speed, depth and completion of routes.
The best plays that Bryant makes are when he can go vertical or carry his route across the field. Where Bryant is an outstanding receiver is when the ball is in the air. His ability to go get the football is outstanding, but there needs to be much more than that.
It will be Robinson’s job to teach Bryant there is more to being an NFL receiver than just swimming your man at the line and trying to get vertical. Bryant will need to learn that when the depth of the route calls for 12 yards, you run in at 12 and not at 10 or 14. He needs to learn that on the fourth step on the slant he is to plant his outside foot and get inside because the quarterback needs him there or it is probably going to be an interception.
There is so much promise for Bryant but still so much to learn.
*The first day of practice in training camp is always the best day because it means the start of the season, but if you ask any scout he will tell you that the first day of pads is truly the best day.
There is a different sense of purpose and evaluation when the players put on the pads. As Jason Garrett said, it’s more like real football. Scouts get something out of these types of practices because the coaches are putting their players through drills that can better paint a picture of where your team will be physically.
When the dress of the day is shells, you see more of the athletic side of your team. In full gear, you get the physical side. In this new NFL, coaches have to make adjustments to the way they practice. No longer are there the days of the Jimmy Johnson brutal practices in Austin that helped forge two Lombardi trophies for Jerry Jones.
Speaking of Jones, it was interesting to listen to him talk about the benefits in the way that teams will practice going forward in the future. If Jones could just remember how he won those Super Bowls with Johnson, he might change his tune.
The one thing that the Cowboys proved last season is they didn’t know how to practice under Wade Phillips, and it showed in the way they played. When Garrett took over at midseason, it was evident that a change needed to be made and he did it with much better results.
I am not saying that you need to kill your players, but you can’t baby them either because the league has already done that for these coaches. It will be up to Garrett and this staff to teach them how to practice better not only in pads but in shells as well.