If Bryant can stay away from off-the-field troubles, and can do a better job of running routes and gaining Tony Romo's trust, Bryant could have an 85-catch, 1,300-yard, 10-tocuhdown season. He made some dazzling plays the two days I watched him. He's clearly a fan favorite, playing to the crowd.
Bryant caught 45 passes for 561 yards and six touchdowns last season in 12 games with two starts.
"He missed so much time last year," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "I think we had six or seven days with him in camp and he missed five or six weeks. He did an amazing job for not having much football in our system. I thought his transition was good. It really looks like he's come back physically this year. He handled his rehab well and looks healthy."
The fans seem to love him. He clearly played to the crowd here and there were a lot of No. 88 jerseys in the stands -- and not with Irvin on the back. At one point, fans were throwing jerseys, shoes and other things to him in the tunnel below so he could sign them. He signed a few and threw them back, but then a guard ended that.
"You throw anything else and we are keeping it," the guard said.
"You heard the man," Bryant said smiling. "I can't."
As for Smith, the team's first-round pick, he impressed with his athletic ability. His feet are already impressive. There were several drills where he had problems because of mental breakdowns, but the thing that impressed the coaching staff was that he didn't let it get him down. He continued to fight.
Smith is playing right tackle, with Doug Free the left when he can practice this week. Free was a free agent and re-signed with the Cowboys last week, but can't practice until the CBA is ratified.
Here are some other observations
---Romo doesn't appear to have any problems from the broken clavicle that forced him to miss 10 games last season. He was throwing with velocity. I asked Garrett is Romo was all the way back. "Absolutely, yes," Garrett said.
---The Cowboys have issues at safety. They need to sign a player and are attempting to do that. One name that is possible is Abram Elam, who played for new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Cleveland last year. The Cowboys had a bunch of kids working in the back end during the two days I watched. Alan Ball, a projected starter, is another player who can't work until the CBA is ratified.
---Nose tackle Jay Ratliff is down about 20 pounds. He looks lean. That's a good thing in Ryan's defense. Ratliff will be moved around a lot and the loss of weight will help. Ratliff is one of the top nose tackles, but his play tailed off some last season.
----After Austin and Bryant, the Cowboys are thin at receiver. But with Witten and Marcellus Bennett, the Cowboys can use both of those guys to help compensate. That's their 12-personnel package, which Garrett will use a lot. Kevin Ogletree is the leader to be the No. 3 receiver. Having a tight end like Witten who can split out is a big plus for Garrett, who will call plays again.
---The weak spot on the offensive line is right guard. Montrae Holland is working with the first team, and actually had a couple of nice blocks Saturday, but look for the Cowboys to nose around for a veteran. One name that has been mentioned is Brian Waters, who the Chiefs released last week.
---One thing's for certain about these Cowboys: Garrett has instilled more discipline. The practices seem crisper than a year ago. Garrett also has a three-hour practice each afternoon, which is long. But the veterans get to take off the first hour or so.
---With Marion Barber let go, Felix Jones is clearly the No. 1 back. He has to be better running inside than he has been his first three years. Rookie DeMarco Murray will also play, but he's battling back from hamstring injury and not practicing. Tashard Choice is also out with a calf injury. Keep an eye on second-year player Lonyae Miller. He has impressed some observers.