SAEN | Several Cowboys on hot seat
Several Cowboys on hot seat
Web Posted: 07/30/2004 12:00 AM CDT
Express-News Staff Writer
OXNARD, Calif. — Temperatures are expected to stay in the low 70s during the three weeks the Dallas Cowboys will train in this coastal town 60 miles north of Los Angeles.
But that's not to say there won't be any heat during camp. With at least nine starting jobs up for grabs, some holdovers from last year's 10-6 team will sweat as if they were back in steamy Texas.
Vinny Testaverde will attempt to unseat Quincy Carter at quarterback. Bradie James will push Dexter Coakley at weakside linebacker. Tight end Dan Campbell will try to beat back a challenge from Jason Witten.
Other intriguing competitions will take place at tailback, fullback, right offensive tackle, the defensive tackle spot opposite Pro Bowl lineman La'Roi Glover, right cornerback and punter.
The fun begins Saturday at Oxnard's River Ridge complex. What follows is a look at each position:
Spots open: 3
2003 starter: Carter
Breakdown: Carter guided the Cowboys to the playoffs last season, but he failed to gain Parcells' stamp of approval after throwing 21 interceptions. If Carter doesn't show improvement in camp, the 40-year-old Testaverde will win the job. Rookie Drew Henson, meanwhile, will sit, watch and learn.
Spots open: 5
2003 starters: Troy Hambrick (now with Oakland Raiders), Richie Anderson
Breakdown: Newcomer Eddie George desperately wants to prove he's still an elite back. Parcells has faith in George, but he's determined to give rookie Julius Jones every opportunity to carry the load. Anderson, last year's starting fullback, should see more time at tailback. The fight for the fullback spot should be one of the camp's best, with Jamar Martin, Darian Barnes and Lousaka Polite slugging it out.
Spots open: 5
2003 starters: Joey Galloway (now with Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Terry Glenn
Breakdown: Like George, Keyshawn Johnson wants to prove he's still an elite player. Glenn should be good for another solid 50-plus catch season but needs to reduce his drops. Antonio Bryant wants more balls thrown his way but must first learn to run stronger routes. Dedric Ward could help if he can recover from a broken right foot. Randal Williams will get one more chance to prove he can do more than play special teams.
Spots open: 3
2003 starter: Campbell
Breakdown: Witten came on strong during the second half of last season, which prompted Parcells to promise to get the second-year player more involved in the offense. Campbell is an outstanding blocker, but he can't match Witten when it comes to receiving. Rookie Sean Ryan's blocking ability could make him a factor in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Spots open: 9
2003 starters: Flozell Adams, Larry Allen, Matt Lehr, Andre Gurode, Kurt Vollers
Breakdown: Question marks are plentiful here, starting with whether Allen can once again be a dominant guard. Gurode needs to show more consistency or he could lose his job to rookie Stephen Peterman. Al Johnson gets another shot at center after a knee injury forced him to miss his rookie season. Adams wants to prove his Pro Bowl season last year wasn't a fluke. Torrin Tucker, Javiar Collins and rookie Jacob Rogers will compete at right tackle.
Spots open: 9
2003 starters: Greg Ellie, Glover, Willie Blade (released this week), Ebenezer Ekuban (now with Cleveland Browns)
Breakdown: Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer relied on his blitz packages to produce pressure on the quarterback last season, a strategy that put too much pressure on a so-so secondary. The addition of end Marcellus Wiley should cut down on the blitzing. Ellis and Glover should be solid again at end and tackle, respectively. Daleroy Stewart, Jermaine Brooks and Leo Carson are candidates to replace Blade.
Spots open: 6
2003 starters: Al Singleton, Dat Nguyen, Coakley
Breakdown: Nguyen won over Parcells with a strong season in 2003. Despite his past Pro Bowl appearances, Coakley could lose his job to James, who has the backing of Parcells. Singleton was solid on the field and strong in the locker room last season.
Spots open: 10
2003 starters: Mario Edwards (now with Buccaneers), Terence Newman, Roy Williams, Darren Woodson
Breakdown: Edwards was the weak link of the NFL's top-ranked defense last season. He left via free agency, leaving Pete Hunter, Jemeel Powell or rookie Bruce Thornton to compete to start opposite Newman. Either way, it will still be a position attacked by opposing quarterbacks. Much is expected of second-year player Newman, who had a strong offseason. Williams is arguably the NFL's best headhunter. If Woodson can't return from back surgery, Parcells might look for a veteran safety.
Spots open: 3
2003 starters: Billy Cundiff (kicker), Toby Gowin (punter, now with New York Jets), Jeff Robinson (snapper)
Breakdown: Parcells considers Robinson the only player who is a lock to keep his job. He's an excellent snapper and can fill in at tight end. Cundiff is expected to handle kickoffs now that Gowin is gone. Mat McBriar and Ryan Flinn are the only punters in camp, but a veteran could be on the way.
Notebook: The Cowboys agreed to terms with Julius Jones and Bruce Thornton on Thursday before about 70 players flew from Dallas to Oxnard aboard a team charter.
Jones, a second-round selection from Notre Dame, received a six-year deal with a signing bonus of more than $1.8 million. Thornton, a fourth-round pick from Georgia, agreed to a four-year pact worth about $1.75 million.
Jacob Rogers is the only draft pick without a contract.