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News: New USA Today Team Report

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by junk, Jul 26, 2004.

  1. junk

    junk I've got moxie

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    Inside Slant
    Never mind the early posturing by owner Jerry Jones.
    The Cowboys needed veteran running back Eddie George, who was in Dallas Friday (July 23) and signed a one-year deal worth $2.2 million.

    And George, who was released by the Titans two days earlier for salary-cap reasons largely because they felt he had passed his prime, needed the Cowboys.

    The Cowboys gave him the money he wanted and the opportunity to show the Titans and the rest of the league he can still be a productive back, even though he averaged only 3.3 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns last season.

    The Cowboys, who have been searching for a lead running back since Emmitt Smith's departure two years ago, know George, 31, is not what he used to be.

    Yet, he is exactly what they need — an experienced runner to pair with rookie Julius Jones in a running back-by-committee situation.

    The Cowboys will likely give George 12 to 15 carries a game. He is certainly a back who can gain the tough yards inside and has pass catching abilities to give Quincy Carter a reliable target out of the backfield.

    The Cowboys still have high hopes for the speedy Jones but George allows them to bring him along slowly. He can cut his teeth as a kickoff returner and change-of-pace runner behind George.

    Remember also that Bill Parcells has had some good success with veteran running backs late in their career. Just ask Ottis Anderson, who helped the Giants win a Super Bowl title.

    NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

    —QB Chad Hutchinson's much anticipated departure from the Cowboys is expected to come as early as Friday.

    Parcells said he is not taking five quarterbacks to training camp and Hutchinson, who lost his starting job to Quincy Carter last season and looked horrible this spring in NFL Europe, is the odd man out. Carter, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson and Tony Romo are the quarterbacks the Cowboys plan to take to camp. Including Hutchinson, the Cowboys will have to make a total of four cuts to reach the NFL mandated roster limit of 85 for the start of training camp.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've played with eight different quarterbacks, four or five different coordinators, four different head coaches in my 71/2-year career. That's a lot. It's not about how many pass receptions you get. Stack my numbers over a career so far with any of the top receivers that the league considers top receivers in the game, and I'll go toe to toe with any of them. Any of them in the class of '96, you put them up toe to toe with me and none of them have a Super Bowl ring except me. That's important." — Cowboys receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

    QUARTERBACK: Starter — Quincy Carter. Backups — Vinny Testaverde, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, Tony Romo.

    Never mind the offseason additions of Testaverde and Henson, this is Carter's job to lose. He improved greatly in his first season with Bill Parcells and should be better in year two. Although he took the Cowboys to the playoffs with a 10-6 record, he has to be better to hold on to his job. His 22 interceptions to 17 touchdowns won't be tolerated in 2004. Unlike last year, the Cowboys have a viable alternative in Testaverde, who was brought to push Carter, take over if he falters and groom Henson to be the quarterback of the future.

    RUNNING BACKS: Starters — RB Eddie George, FB Richie Anderson. Backups — RB Julius Jones, RB Aveion Cason, RB ReShard Lee, FB Jamar Martin, FB Darian Barnes, Lousaka Polite.

    Jones was next up in the search for Emmitt Smith's successor. The rookie from Notre Dame has the toughness to run inside and the speed to go the distance. His hands are questionable and he needs experience. That's why the Cowboys brought in George. He is a proven runner who will get 12 to 15 carries a game and allow Jones to be brought along slowly. Anderson will also help out by playing more running back than fullback this year. He will serve as the third-down back and be part of the running back committee that will include George, Jones, Lee and Cason. Martin, Barnes, Polite will likely be fighting for one spot. Barnes and Polite can contribute on special teams, which might give them the edge over Martin.

    TIGHT END/H-BACK: Starters — TE Dan Campbell. Backups — Jason Witten, James Whalen, Jeff Robinson, Sean Ryan.

    The Cowboys are pretty much set at tight end as any team in the league. Campbell is a standout run blocker, and Witten could be an emerging star. He was a big part of the Cowboys pass offense at the end of last year, and his role as a pass catcher will only increase in his sophomore year. Look for him and Keyshawn Johnson to give Carter two solid options on third down. Ryan will make the team as run blocker and special teams ace, likely costing the undersized Whalen his job.

    WIDE RECIEVERS: Starters — WR Keyshawn Johnson, WR Terry Glenn. Backups — Antonio Bryant, Randal Williams, Zuriel Smith, Patrick Crayton, Cedric James, Dedric Ward.

    There is no question that the presence of Keyshawn Johnson has improved the Cowboys' receiver corps. He is a standout blocker, and his size and toughness give Carter a chain-moving target on third down. Johnson should complement the outside speed of Bryant and Glenn. After the top three, however, questions abound. Ward was brought in to give the Cowboys increased depth, but he fractured a bone in his foot in June and will be sidelined at the beginning of training camp. The other receivers on the roster have a combined three career catches although the team expects Williams to emerge as player in his third year.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters — LT Flozell Adams, LG Larry Allen, C Al Johnston, RG Andre Gurode, RT Jacob Rogers. Backups — G Tyson Walter, T Javier Collins, T Kurt Vollers, G Justin Bates, G/T Torrin Tucker, G/C Matt Lehr, C Gennaro DiNapoli, G Stephen Peterman.

    The only sure thing on the offensive line is Adams, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season. However, the Cowboys are excited about the potential of this group. Allen is in much better condition than he was a year ago and should have a bounce-back season. Johnson has recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him a year ago and should be an upgrade at center. Gurode will have to be better or he will lose his job to promising rookie Peterman. Rogers, a rookie second-round pick, will get first dibs at right tackle. However, he will be pushed by Tucker.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters — DE Greg Ellis, DT Willie Blade, DT La'Roi Glover, DE Marcellus Wiley. Backups — DE Erik Ogbogu, DT Shaun Smith, DT Daleroy Stewart, DT Leo Carson, DT Jermaine Brooks, DE Kenyon Coleman.

    The Cowboys haven't had a player with double-digit sacks since Tony Tolbert had 12 in 1996. They are hoping Wiley changes that. He went to the Pro Bowl three years ago with 13 sacks in 14 games during his first season with the Chargers, but he has had only nine sacks in the two seasons since. Wiley will be an upgrade over Ebenezer Ekuban, the 20th pick in 1999, who had only 13.5 sacks in his five seasons in Dallas. If Wiley doesn't get double-digit sacks, Ellis or Glover might do it. Ellis has led the Cowboys in sacks the last two years. And Glover, a four time Pro Bowler, has 11.5 sacks the past two seasons, giving him 61.5 since the start of the 1997 season. Blade started off well last year before slumping back to mediocrity. His starting job and roster spot could be in jeopardy. Carson, Brooks and Smith and Stewart are all potential starters alongside Glover. All also give the Cowboys solid depth at the position.

    LINEBACKERS: Starters — LB Dexter Coakley, MLB Dat Nguyen, SLB Al Singleton. Backups — Jamal Brooks, Bradie James, Keith O'Neil, Markus Steele, Scott Shanle, Kalen Thornton.

    Parcells grew to love Nguyen (5-11, 243) and Coakley (5-10, 236) last season. Nguyen (140 tackles) and Coakley (110) were the leading tacklers on the league's No. 1 defense — big reasons the Cowboys allowed only 253.5 yards per game. However, he still prefers bigger linebackers, which is why James is being given an equal shot at replacing the three-time Pro Bowler Coakley at weak-side linebacker. Either way, look for those two to split time at the position. They are set on the other side with Singleton, who, at 6-2, 228, better fits Parcells' mold. Singleton had 57 tackles, a sack, two interceptions and seven quarterback pressures in his first season in Dallas.

    DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters — CB Terence Newman, CB Pete Hunter, FS Roy Williams, SS Darren Woodson. Backups — CB Donald Mitchell, CB Andrew Davison, S Tony Dixon, S Keith Davis, S Lynn Scott, S Tom Crowder, CB Jameel Powell, CB Bruce Thornton, CB Jacques Reeves, CB Nathan Jones.

    Roy Williams, the eighth pick in 2002, was a defensive player of the year candidate and a Pro Bowler after finishing fourth on the team with 86 tackles last season. Although Woodson has been replaced as the defensive leader by Williams, the veteran remains productive. He finished third on the team with 99 tackles and was the leader in passes defensed with 15. Terence Newman, the fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft, certainly lived up to his rookie hype. He had a team-leading four interceptions, including three against the Redskins on Dec. 14. He will have to be even better this season as the Cowboys will play without Mario Edwards (Tampa Bay) on the other side. Hunter, Thornton and Powell are vying for the starting job. All are inexperienced and will need safety help to survive, meaning that Newman will have to handle things by himself on the left side.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Billy Cundiff, P Mat McBriar, P Ryan Flinn, LS Jeff Robinson, KR Zuriel Smith, KR Patrick Crayton.

    Cundiff and Robinson are the only sure things right now on special teams. Cundiff was 23 of 29 in 2003 with three field goals of at least 50 yards last season. Cundiff tied the NFL record with seven field goals, including a 52-yarder on the final play of regulation in a 35-32 overtime victory over the Giants. Robinson is simply the league's best deep snapper. Disappointing punter Toby Gowin was cut in the offseason, leaving unknowns Mat McBriar and Ryan Flynn competing for the job in training camp. McBriar is the early favorite. The Cowboys will head into training camp also looking to replace Zuriel Smith on returns. Crayton showed a lot of promise in minicamp.


    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/cowboys/home.htm

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