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Cowboys' wideouts a bit shakier than steady Witten

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Cowboys' wideouts a bit shakier than steady Witten

IRVING, Texas (AP) Dez Bryant dazzles one play and drifts the next. Miles Austin piles up touchdowns when he's not hurt. Kevin Ogletree stars on a big stage then virtually disappears.

Tony Romo has one of the ugliest numbers in the NFL with 13 interceptions, easily the most even though there are five rookie starters throwing plenty of passes. Still, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback is at least sharing the blame with wide receivers showing to be shaky alternatives to steady tight end Jason Witten.

Even when Bryant makes a brilliant play, something goes wrong. His leaping catch in the back of the end zone appeared to complete a crazy comeback against the New York Giants on Sunday, but the touchdown was overturned when replay showed his fingers hit the ground first - inches out of bounds.

Earlier, Bryant wasn't sharp enough on a crossing pattern and cost Romo the first of four interceptions against the Giants. He caused the first of five picks by Romo against Chicago by running a ``go'' route when Romo was expecting a ``stop.'' The easy touchdown that resulted sparked a Bears blowout.

``We trust him to run the right routes, the routes that we ask him to do,'' said coach Jason Garrett, whose team visits undefeated Atlanta on Sunday night. ``He's gotten a heck of a lot better at it. He just needs to do it more consistently.''

The Cowboys posted plenty of pleasant numbers against the Giants. Romo threw for a career-high 437 yards, and Dallas had three 100-yard receivers in a game for the second time in franchise history. The other was in 1963. Witten set a team record with 18 catches and had a career-high 167 yards, while Austin caught nine passes for 133 yards and Bryant five for 110.

But even Garrett, not one to talk specifics very often, brought up one of the balls Austin didn't catch. Romo's second interception against the Giants was a throw the quarterback hopes - sometimes even expects - to be an incompletion at worst. Austin didn't react quickly enough, and wasn't in position to knock the ball away from New York's Corey Webster.

The play reminded Garrett of Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, the favorite target of Hall of Famer Troy Aikman.

``Michael Irvin's greatest trait, Troy Aikman would turn and throw it, 1-on-1, nothing bad is going to happen,'' Garrett said. ``He's going to catch it or he's going to knock it down. Somehow, some way, 1-on-1 at the end of the day, Miles has got to knock that ball down.''

Witten was actually part of the problem early in the season when he was trying to play with a lacerated spleen. He was dropping passes and understandably having a hard time getting around. It didn't him long to turn back into Witten, though. He's been the team leader in catches three of the past four games and is third in the NFL with 51.

``They're almost like running plays when you throw the ball to that guy, because he's so consistent and so reliable,'' Garrett said.

Those words have not been used to describe Dallas receivers in recent years. Bryant's production has been sporadic since he fell to the Cowboys late in the first round of the 2010 draft because of character questions. Since then, he's been the target of lawsuits over unpaid jewelry bills, and still has criminal charges pending after a domestic disturbance involving his mother.

Austin battled hamstring issues and declining production for two years after a breakout season in 2009. He's on track for a third 1,000-yard season if he stays healthy, and he's still scoring touchdowns. But he never explained his role in a clock management breakdown when the Cowboys had to settle for a 51-yard field goal that they missed in a 31-29 loss at Baltimore.

A week later, a fumble by Austin on a long completion against Carolina gave the sluggish Panthers life in the first half before the Cowboys rallied to win in the fourth quarter.

``We have to do a lot of things better,'' Romo said. ``It not just one thing. We need to throw it better. We need to run routes good. We need to block. It comes down to a lot of things that make for turnovers sometimes.''

Ogletree has held on to the third receiver spot essentially because he had a career day in the opening win against the Giants. Since those eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns, he has just 13 grabs for 134 yards and no scores. He was shut out in the rematch with New York.

``Production for me is wins,'' Ogletree said. ``We've got to do a better job of closing ballgames.''

Bryant thought he had closed the game against the Giants, and that was after he helped dig the 23-0 hole for Dallas with a botched punt return that led to one of six turnovers. Then there was the botched route on the Romo throw, which he acknowledged.

``I don't want to say I let him down, because I know Romo believes in me,'' Bryant said. ``As you can see, as the game went on, he was still coming at me.''

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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NBA

Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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Capitals Draft Tracker

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Draft Tracker

The 2018 NHL Draft starts on Friday with the first round and runs through Saturday. Here's a running tracker of the Caps' picks.

1st round, 31st overall: D Alexander Alexeyev, WHL, 6'4", 196 pounds

The Caps' first first-round pick sine 2016, Alexeyev is a smart two-way defenseman with good size.

Read more on him here.

2nd round, 46th overall (from Florida, via New Jersey): D Martin Fehervary, Allsvenskan (Sweden), 6'2", 194 pounds

A physical style defenseman who is very strong in his own end, but does not have much offensive upside. Sort of a throwback style of play which makes him a surprise pick this high.

2nd round, 47th overall (From Colorado): F Kody Clark, OHL, 6'1", 179 pounds

Kody Clark boasts an NHL pedigree as the son of Wendel Clark, a first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs who recorded 330 goals and 564 career points in 763 NHL games.

3rd round, 93rd overall: F Riley Sutter, WHL, 6'3", 203 pounds

Riley Sutter also boasts a strong NHL pedigree as the son of Run Sutter and nephew of Darryl Sutter.

Riley is a power forward who played alongside Caps prospect Garrett Pilon on the Everett Silvertips in the WHL and recorded 53 points in 68 games. last season

4th round, 124th overall: 

6th round, 186th overall: 

7th round, 217th overall: