News: Eatman: Still Standing On The Corner

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by NOVA 22, May 10, 2004.

  1. NOVA 22

    NOVA 22 Member

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    Sorry if this is a repost from mentions T-New with 15lbs of new upper body muscle. with him, AB and Cason all bulking up so much, should we be wondering if BALCO came out to the Ranch?

    Still Standing On The Corner

    Nick Eatman Staff Writer
    May 6, 2004, 5:55 p.m. (CDT)

    IRVING, Texas - Looking back to the beginning of free agency, a lot of people had their opinions what the Cowboys would do at cornerback.

    Sign a veteran free agent was the most popular guess. Names such as Bobby Taylor, Antione Winfield and Troy Vincent were all thrown around.

    And the Cowboys had the money to sign one, if not two or three cornerbacks this off-season. But Bill Parcells and the Cowboys chose not to jump headfirst into that feeding frenzy that saw cornerbacks get paid in record form.

    So they stood back and waited until the draft.

    And the draft experts had the Cowboys taking a cornerback somewhere in the first three rounds. But that didn't happen as the club picked a running back and two offensive linemen with their first two picks.

    Now the Cowboys finally addressed the position on the second day of the draft, taking Georgia's Bruce Thornton in the fourth round, and then two more cornerbacks - Nate Jones of Rutgers and Purdue's Jacques Reeves - in the seventh round.

    And Parcells hasn't ruled out adding a veteran cornerback here before training camp, possibly after June 1, but the possibilities are running out.

    "Well, there aren't just any corners out there, you know down there at the 7-11," Parcells said last week. "I'd be interested in improving (the position) if we could."

    So here we stand less than three months before the Cowboys head to California for training camp, and Pete Hunter remains the leading candidate to start at right cornerback.

    Yes, 2002 fifth-round pick from Virginia Union . . . Pete Hunter.

    Fortunately for the Cowboys, the left side should be in good hands, as Terence Newman returns for his second season. Newman finished second to Baltimore's Terrell Suggs in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting last year, garnering plenty of respect from several opposing teams who often refused to throw in his direction.

    Newman did have some rookie setbacks, even in the playoff loss to Carolina, where he gave up three long passes, including a touchdown pass to Steve Smith.

    But all in all, Newman should be much improved heading into his second season. The All-Rookie team performer has added about 15 pounds to his upper body and should be more physical at the line of scrimmage.

    So let's go back to the right side again, and it's still Hunter over there penciled into the starting spot, which became vacant when Mario Edwards signed a six-year deal with Tampa Bay. The Cowboys never really conducted serious negations with Edwards, who received a $2 million signing bonus to become Tampa Bay's third cornerback behind starters Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly.

    And maybe Hunter is Parcells' guy all along. But one thing is certain - the job won't be handed to anyone.

    "I think we'll start there with Pete Hunter, and maybe put this

    Thornton there," Parcells said of the right cornerback spot. "And a kid we were trying to develop almost all last year - Jemeel Powell. And probably another free agent or seventh-round pick, (Jacques) Reeves, they will probably play there."

    At left corner, Parcells has Newman as the starter, with five-year veteran Donald Mitchell and rookie Nate Jones as the backups.

    Jones was drafted more of a kick-return specialist, but if he can fight for a spot on the nickel defense and can cover kicks on special teams, that will increase his chances of making the team.

    Mitchell will likely assume the role of nickel cornerback, where he was expected to play last year before a high ankle sprain forced him to spend the entire season on injured reserve.

    Mitchell played in the slot for most of the 2002 season in Tennessee, earning nine starts that season when Titans' opponents began the games with three-receiver sets.

    Hunter tried to fill that role early last season, but struggled in the middle of the field, getting called for holding penalties and allowing a few big plays. But he played better towards the end of the season, and was able to show off his speed on several plays, which encouraged the coaching staff.

    And playing on the outside is different, especially when you have the size and speed as Hunter, who should be able to use his strength more to his advantage.

    Now if the Cowboys indeed look to add insurance at the position, they'll have a few options, but not many.

    Green Bay's Mike McKenzie, who started 14 games last season, is unhappy with his situation and has asked to be traded from the Packers, who drafted two cornerbacks in the first three rounds, including Arkansas' Ahmad Carroll in the first round.

    McKenize signed a five-year, $17.1 million contract extension before the 2002 season and has three years remaining on his contract. But he wanted to redo the deal this off-season. He also recently lost his agent, Brian Parker, who reportedly dumped the cornerback, leaving McKenize looking for what would be his fifth agent in six years.

    Last year, McKenize had 58 tackles and four interceptions, including a 90-yard touchdown return against Chicago.

    The Falcons could part ways with veteran cornerback Tyrone Williams, who missed nine games to injury last season, after June 1.

    And let's not forget about New England's Ty Law, who has been involved in a nasty dispute with the Patriots' front office this spring, calling head coach and general manager Bill Belichick a "liar" about the way his contract has been handled.

    Law, 30, has two seasons remaining on his current contract, which calls to pay him around $8.5 million in base salary this season. The Patriots have said they are willing to keep Law and his contract this season, but don't rule out a trade for the right price.

    But if the Cowboys seriously wanted to add a veteran, they likely could've done it by now.

    Getting help at the position now will hinge on just how confident they are with Hunter and Thornton, who said he's not dismissing himself from the competition as well.

    "I like where I am, not only because I've been a big Cowboys fan," Thornton said. "But I think I have a chance to play early on. I don't know if that means the starter, but they told me I would compete for the job. I couldn't ask for anything better. I just hope I can get the job done."

    If not, and if Hunter stumbles too, maybe that will be when the Cowboys finally get some veteran help at cornerback.

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