Dallas Cowboy Central Season Preview Part One
I picked this up on another site.
What’s your take?
I will put this in four installments.
Dallas Cowboy Central Season Preview Part One
State Of The Team
A training camp preview.
A collective effort from the DCC staff.
With the seemingly never ending offseason winding down and the 2004 season coming into focus, let's take a few sane moments to access where this team stands before the madness begins.
9-10 - Franchise player
7-8 - Solid starter
4-6 - Marginal starter/quality backup
2-3 - Subpar
1 - Camp body
I - Incomplete
9-10 - Outstanding
7-8 - Solid
5-6 - Average
3-4 - Below average
1-2 - Poor
(Players will be listed in order of our projected depth chart going into training camp)
Quincy Carter - It was mentioned last year that this was Quincy's last chance to prove himself to be a legitimate starting QB for the Dallas Cowboys. Now the same is being said again, only this time it is factual. Carter's tumultuous ride the last three seasons all comes down to this. Play well or not only lose the starting job but your roster spot on this team. We are well past the flashes stage of his development, it's time to show consistent play and allow our offensive coordinator to gameplan without the huge hindrance of having to hide the starting QB in your scheme. Quincy has the ability, but now it's time for him to show that he has the mental makeup to lead the team in something other than interceptions. .----------Grade - 4
Vinny Testaverde - The ideal veteran backup QB. The only problem is, in Dallas, he may be asked to start. At 40 years of age, this is a very tall order to say the least. Vinny is perhaps Quincy's superior in all facets of QB play minus mobility and showed in limited playing time last season with the Jets that he still has enough in the tank to bail a team out for a short period of time. Expecting Testaverde to be this team's starter for the majority of the season is a dicey proposition at best.-------Grade - 6
Drew Henson – Henson represents the future hope and the unknown. Originally drafted by the Houston Texans with the sole intention of trading, he was dealt to the Cowboys for a 2005 third round choice. Henson had a considerable layoff from football after an unsuccessful try at professional baseball with the New York Yankees. At this point, anyone who claims to be able to project Henson’s future is basically lying and relying on glimpses of glory from his past at Michigan. Collegiate QB's bust every year, even first rounders, even four year college veterans, even the draftees making the immediate jump to the pros. If we can't know about them, how can we possibly have a clue about Henson? What we do know is that Drew's roster spot is cemented in as the 3rd QB heading into week 1 as he begins his journey where so many other talented players have failed.----------Grade - INCOMPLETE
Tony Romo – If all things were equal, this is perhaps the guy Bill Parcells would most like to see under center against the Vikings in the opener. He has the moxie Parcells loves in his signalcallers. Unfortunately, things aren't equal and Romo must count on a Quincy Carter breakdown in camp to win a roster spot.-------Grade - 3
It's been several years since the Dallas Cowboys have been solid at this position and this year is no different. What exists is a quality veteran on his last NFL legs, a coach killing tease unable to handle the mental part of the game and two projects, one of them being a player who hasn't played football in four years. Expect Quincy to fold under the pressure of a real NFL QB vying for his starting spot, Testaverde to be your starter early in the year and Henson to see some playing time via injury or playing out the string of a non playoff season. We quite possibly could have something to look forward to if Henson shows promise during this dress rehearsal.----------Overall Grade – 4
Julius Jones - Dallas created some head scratching from the pundits when it passed on more heralded tailbacks this past April in order to trade with Buffalo for a first round choice in 2005. The club settled on Jones with their second round choice obtained from Buffalo. The younger brother of former Cardinal and current Bear, Thomas Jones, Julius had a checkered history at Notre Dame before finishing his final year with 1268 yards and 10 TDs. His senior year with the Irish was a comeback of sorts after missing his entire junior campaign due to academic ineligibility. As a tailback, Jones is slightly undersized but has an extra gear that compensates for his stature and appears to have all the tools necessary to become an outstanding receiver out of the backfield. The Cowboys will be counting on his speed, quickness, elusiveness and burst as he is projected to carry the load in the running game. Jones must be able to compensate for his weakness with pass blocking in order to be the complete three-down tailback as he is expected to be. One major concern is his ability to carry this load as he only was able to start 17 of 45 games during his stay in South Bend. There is also a concern with his inability to break tackles and, according to scouts, a fumbling issue. Without a viable alternative in reserve, immense faith is placed in Parcells' eye for talent as well as the anticipation that Jones can overcome these limitations. Given the fact that he is a rookie and there are many unanswered questions, Jones will remain an unknown, albeit crucial, component of the offense's success in 2004 until he can demonstrate his talent.-----------Grade - INCOMPLETE
Eddie George – This respected veteran tailback was released by the Tennessee Titans on July 21 and signed by the Cowboys to an incentive laden contract two days later. George is a physical power runner, solid blocker and underrated receiver who clearly has been affected by the rigors of eight years of NFL pounding. But the fact that he has not missed a scheduled start in his career despite the numerous injuries to his knee, toe and shoulders and heavy workload speaks volumes about his toughness and reputation as a true warrior. It is anticipated that George will provide the Cowboys with a viable veteran option to ease Jones’ transition into the offensive gameplan. It would be very surprising if Parcells attempts to use him as frequently as George is used to. If George is indeed healthy, can understand his position on the team and Parcells is able to utilize him correctly and selectively, this has the potential to be an outstanding pickup.----------Grade - 6
Aveion Cason - Originally obtained in a draft day trade in 2003 with Detroit, Cason is considered a pet project of offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon. Due to his size, Cason does not bring much to the table outside of filling a reserve specialty role as he has done his entire career. At only 5'10" and 204 pounds, Bill Parcells has made it clear that his ability is suited more for a third-down scatback role more so than every down or even light backup duty. His ticket to the team is being able to shine catching the football and perhaps even in the kick return game.-------Grade - 4
Erik Bickerstaff - Bickerstaff is bigger back who was signed off the streets in 2003 after a career at Wisconsin that consisted of one official carry for one yard. After showing some promise as a change of pace and special teams player in 2003, it was anticipated that he would be able to compete for a role as a backup in 2004. Unfortunately, it is expected that he will be placed on injured reserve and miss the entire 2004 season after tearing his Achilles' tendon in a team workout in June.----------Grade - INCOMPLETE, due to injury
ReShard Lee - Lee is considered a wildcard at the position after he spent last season out of football recovering from a knee injury he suffered in training camp. There is very little known about Lee save his productivity at Middle Tennessee State (where he demonstrated explosiveness as a part-time starter) and from a controlled scrimmage and two preseason games where he carried the ball twelve times for forty-four yards. Lee is considered to be an individual of high character (came out early in last seasons draft to support his family, only to go unselected in the seven round draft process) and has the reputation for being a durable, yet agile, workhorse runner who is still in need of refinement.-------Grade - Incomplete
After enjoying an embarrassment of riches for nearly thirty years, the Cowboys find themselves at a crossroads with this vital position. The Troy Hambrick experiment luckily ended after one year and the team was almost forced to select a running back early in the draft. Jones will have to overcome his limitations and in fact, exceed expectations if the team is enjoy any appreciable measure of offensive success. The signing of George alleviates some of the pressure on Jones to produce immediately, but it is clear that he is the future.----------Overall Grade – 5
Richie Anderson - Anderson, who was theoretically the team's offense MVP in 2003, is listed as a fullback, but may be asked to play a different role in 2004. Anderson's acquisition was a key one last season for the Cowboys as they benefitted from his experience, leadership and pass catching ability. The plan for now is to scale back Anderson's time as a legitimate fullback and regulate his play to third down duty and backup tailback. The rationale is to limit Anderson's obvious weakness, which is lead blocking. It is anticipated that he will touch the ball more, either carrying it or being a secondary receiver out of the backfield. This philosophy should keep him fresh for the latter half of the season, but may not be that effective, particularly if he is asked to carry the ball frequently.-----------Grade - 7.
Jamar Martin - Martin recorded his first action for the Cowboys last season after missing his rookie year with a knee injury. Regarded as a one-dimensional blocking fullback, Martin will face a tough road making the team. Due to Parcells' expectations, he must improve his ability to catch the football and also become more active in the special teams coverage units. One plus in his favor was the prowess he showed as a blocker late in the year and Dallas would be wise to consider that one thing he does very well when evaluating his future as he has the potential to at least develop into a player in the mold of Sam Gash.-------Grade - 5
Darian Barnes - Barnes, dubbed "Sponge Bob Squarepants" by his former teammates was obtained in a draft day trade with the Buccaneers. His history with Parcells and versatility gives him a leg up in the competition for perhaps one roster spot. He is regarded as an adequate blocker and receiver, who excels on special teams.----------Grade - 4
Lousaka Polite - Polite, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Pitt, should be able to provide stiff competition to the incumbents for a roster spot. Polite has the reputation of being tough, dependable and unsung from his days with the Panthers. If he can show he can catch the ball, play special teams and block adequately, he will be hard to keep off the squad.-------Grade - Incomplete
With Anderson expected to be more of a quasi-tailback and third down specialist, there is perhaps one roster spot available and three talented players competing to fill it. Given the offense's reliance on the running game, a blocker is needed, but Parcells' almost maniacal commitment to special teams may prompt him to keep the player that functions best in that role.----------Overall Grade – 6
Keyshawn Johnson - A three-time Pro Bowler and former number one overall draft pick, Johnson enters the 2004 season as the number one receiver for the Cowboys, after a rare player-for-player swap for WR Joey Galloway. Johnson played 3 seasons for coach Parcells with the Jets (1997-99), where he averaged 80 catches and over 1,000 yards per season. After a tumultuous tenure with the Buccaneers, where he both won a Super Bowl in 2002 and was deactivated for the last 6 games of 2003, he will hope to rekindle his past success under the coach that he appears to respect and admire. Despite his loquacious, boastful nature, Johnson is what he is, a possession receiver. On this team, that's not a bad thing. Never known for his speed, he may be even slower at age 32. Former coach Jon Gruden, whom Johnson clashed, reportedly stated that the WR runs a 5.0 forty yard dash. While is probably not that slow, he will not make the same types of plays as the man he replaces, speedster Galloway. He will, however, do the "dirty work" at the WR position. Block for the running game, make the tough catch on 3rd down, and go over the middle. This dimension has been sorely lacking from the WR corps of the Cowboys since Michael Irvin was forced to retire. His lack of speed limits his potential scoring chances, as he has only averaged 3 TDs per season his last three in Tampa Bay. While he has played with Pro Bowl-caliber QBs in Vinny Testaverde and Brad Johnson, he has also posted similar numbers with the likes of Glenn Foley, Rick Mirer, and Ray Lucas. Even with the uncertain QB situation on Dallas, Johnson can still be reasonably expected have a typical season for him: 70-80 catches and 950-1100 yards.----------Grade- 8
Terry Glenn - Glenn led all Cowboys' receivers in yards and touchdowns in 2003 with 754 and five. He started last season with a pair of 100-yard efforts (he missed most of two games with injuries), but averaged only 38 YPG in the games after. He was inconsistent, with 75 yards and 3 TDs against Detroit, followed by 26 yards against Tampa, followed by 73 yards against Washington, followed by 3 catches and 27 yards combined against Buffalo and New England. In other words, he struggled against good defenses, as did the entire offense. Whether he was a victim of inconsistent play at QB or his own skills were at fault, is open for debate. It is most likely a combination of the two. At this stage in his career, Glenn is a good 2nd receiver, but cannot be counted on to be much more than that. The potential problem, of course, is that Keyshawn Johnson may be a 2nd receiver at this point as well, leaving the team without a "game breaking" starting WR. Barring injuries, Glenn is good for a 600-700 yard season and will probably lead the WRs in TDs for the second year in a row.----------Grade- 6
Antonio Bryant: An enigma wrapped in a puzzle. Probably has more natural talent than any receiver on the team, but has yet to show more than flashes. His combustible attitude caused him to slide into the 2nd round of the draft, behind the likes of Tim Carter, Reche Caldwell, and Jabar Gaffney. An injury to starting WR Raghib Ismail thrust Bryant into the starting line-up in 2002. He responded with 733 yards and 6 touchdowns, including a 7 catch, 170 yard effort in the finale against the rival Redskins. Expectations were high for the 2nd year wideout, but the next season did not go as well under new coach Bill Parcells. He was replaced as a starter by Terry Glenn, and had only 39 catches for 550 yards and only 2 TDs. The quantum leap expected by fans simply never materialized. Despite not being a starter, he led the team in dropped passes. Bryant, known for being immature, was recently thrown out of practice after an altercation with Parcells that resulted in Bryant throwing his jersey at the coach. Suffice it to say, Bryant is on a short leash. This season is truly boom-or-bust for Bryant. He will either continue to underachieve, or he will finally harness his talent and turn into the game-breaking WR he has the potential to be. If his performance doesn't match his bluster, this may well be his last year with the team.------------Grade - 5
Randal Williams - Parcells rarely runs four-receiver sets, so the fourth WR on the Cowboys will have to be a special teams player. Williams has impressive measurables, at 6'3", 220 lbs, and a reported (likely exaggerated) 4.1 forty. Despite this, Williams has yet to record a single catch in his 4-year career. That will probably not change this season. He makes his living on special teams, with ten tackles and a memorable touchdown on the opening kickoff against the Eagles. His speed and size will allow him to continue being one of the top ST players on the team.----------Grade - 3
Zuriel Smith - Smith, from small Hampton University, was handpicked by Bill Parcells to be his main kick returner. Smith had an mediocre rookie season, as he averaged only 7.1 yards per punt return and 21.5 on kickoffs, with no TDs. His biggest play of the season was one he didn't make, allowing a kickoff against the Giants to go out of bounds, setting up the dramatic win in week two. At only 166 pounds, Smith lacks the size to contribute as a WR in any serious capacity. With the added competition of Dedric Ward and Patrick Crayton, Smith will have to improve to keep his job for a second year.----------Grade - 3
Dedric Ward - Journeyman WR signed a few days after the Bryant/Parcells incident. Ward adds experience as well as a familiarity with the coaching staff. He had his best season as a Jet in 2000, with 801 yards on 54 catches. He has not, however, come close to those numbers since, averaging only 162 yards per season since with the Dolphins, Patriots and Ravens. He is an experienced punt returner, averaging 8.4 yards per punt return. His role on the team is uncertain, but he will add competition at kick returner, and is somewhat of an insurance policy should Antonio Bryant have a blow-up, provided he can rebound from a stress fracture in his foot.---------Grade - 3
Patrick Crayton - Another small-school kick return man. In college, Crayton was a jack of all trades, playing QB, WR, and KR. He led his team in passing and rushing last season (3,263 combined yards), but he will be primarily a kick returner for the Cowboys. He led NAIA, averaging 26.7 yards per return in 2001. He, along with RB Aveion Cason, Zuriel Smith, and Dedric Ward, will all be in the mix to be kick returners.----------Grade - Incomplete
James Newson - Newson left Oregon State as the school's all-time leading receiver, but went undrafted due in part to a horrible 4.85 40-yard dash time. He does have some skills, as he has decent size and good hands to offset his marginal speed. He can even return punts in a pinch. He will have a hard time making the regular roster, and is a candidate for the practice squad.----------Grade - Incomplete
Brandon Middleton - Another undrafted free agent, Middleton is coming off a great senior season at Houston, but only has marginal potential at the next level. He isn't outstanding in any area, with average speed, size, and hands. At this point, it's hard to see him as anything but a camp body.-----------Grade - Incomplete
A lot of the potential of the WRs for the Cowboys depends, obviously, on whom is getting them the ball. Even with the inconsistent Carter and the 40-year old Testaverde throwing them the ball, I expect the overall numbers for the WRs to improve. With past performance being the best predictor of future success, both veteran starters should have typical season for them. The wild card is Bryant, who must mature dramatically in order for the passing game to truly go to the next level. All-in-all, the passing game should be at the least slightly improved from last season, with the potential to be much better. Johnson should lead the team in receptions, wresting that title away from fullback Richie Anderson. Still, this is an average receiving corps, and their numbers should reflect that.----------Overall Grade - 6