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7/03/2004

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Pre-Training Camp Positional Grades

With training camp looming less than 4 weeks away, I'll take a look at our pre-training camp positional grades, once camp has completed, we'll revisit and see if we have improved by position.

Quarterbacks
Let's be honest here, We have some "potential", but potential does not win games. Quincy Carter has been under Parcells system for a year now, so he should have a better season, the key will be his ball throwing decisions - will he get flushed out of the pocket and throw a senseless INT? or will he clutch it out? Then we have Veteran QB Vinny Testaverde...Testaverde was brought into Dallas to Mentor the heir apparent Drew Henson, BUT should QC fail to be productive early, we could see Vinny in the game. Vinny will mentor all our young QBs, along with Sean Payton the QB corps should be better improved. Vinny has been productive everywhere he has played, so his presence will be valuable this season. Drew Henson is the next guy on the depth chart. He hasn't played football in years, but that didn't stop several NFL clubs from taking a look at Henson at the Texans private workouts. He has the prototype NFL build, and NFL arm. For now, Henson is a season project - we all know this. Romo is a fans favorite, and although he has not played in any regular season games, he has a strong arm, and his style of play is reminiscint of Brett Farve, Romo qualifies to be on the practice squad this year, after that he will probably make the move into our lineup after Vinny Retires in 2005. Hutch will be gone.
Overall Pre-Training Camp Grade: C+

Running Backs
Are running back are young a raw. Rookie RB Julius Jones will be penciled in as the starter, but we can expect the rookie to share the load for now with Veteran RB Richie Anderson. Parcells has moved Richie to the running spot, so the 1 - 2 punch could be lethal this year. Julius is shifty, well balanced and elusive. I expect to see some Emmitt-like runs from Julius this year. RaShard Lee is another young back to look out for this season. Lee will probably battle it out with Cason for the backup spot, more now since Bickerstaff is out for the year. Expect to see multiple backfield formations, with Julius as the featured back, and Richie coming in on third down plays.
Overall Pre-Training Camp Grade: B+

Fullbacks
Fullbacks is an interesting position this year, since Parcells is moving Richie from FB to RB. Training camp will be very pivotal for the FBs that we have. Jamar Martin is reportedly in Parcells doghouse for showing up out of shape and overweight. Parcells is looking for "his guy" at FB. Parcells brought rookie Lousaka Polite who has good ball catching skills along with blocking skills - his scouting report sounds similar to Richie. Parcells likes FB to catch from the backfield and Polite will make a serious run. We also acquired Barnes from Tampa Bay, who is mainly a Special Teams specialist, but he will be in the hunt as well. Overall the FB spot is totally open, and really is a question mark for us. Inexperience and youth make the FB spot weak right now. Again, there is potential, but we'll have to see if that will manifest into solid quality play this year.
Overall Pre-Training Camp Grade: C-

Tight Ends
It's been a very long time since Cowboys fans have been excited and confident in the TEs position. Well this year we have some great expectations, and we have some great guys in the TE corps. Jason Witten...one word "Tough" this was one of the bright spots in last years stagnant offense. Witten exhibited he could follow his routes through, catch the ball, block, and take big hits... all of this while playing with wires in his jaw. Witten has had a solid offseason workout and has been hard at work. Fans are awaiting his dominating year this year. In addition, Campbell will be back, and he is another solid TE with good catching hands and great blocking. We also have Robinson, who's only job is to snap, and he's been rock solid thus far. Cowboys drafted a true monster type TE in Sean Ryan from Boston College, expect Ryan to be involved in SPecial Teams play and in the offensive blocking schemes, this guy is huge. We also have James Whalen who has been plagued with nagging injuries, but when he is healthy he is a star on Special Teams, Whalen could be on the bubble this time around though.
Overall Pre-Training Camp Grade: A

Wide Receivers
Early last season there was talk that we had one of the best Trios in the league with Galloway, Glenn, and Bryant...Well, that talk quickly faded after we got out to a fast start, but quickly faded. Galloway is gone, in his place with have "The Key" - Keyshawn Johnson. Keyshawn will be an immediate boost to player moral/motivation and leadership, especially playing for Parcells again. We have Terry Glenn who was very-very streaky, you just never knew which Glenn was going to show up. Glenn had some great games, but then he had some lameduck games. Then we have the volatile Antonio Bryant who had one good game in NY, but quickly faded into the distance. Dropped balls plagued AB the entire season, and fans question his play - was the dropped balls caused by off-the-field issues; drugs, women, partying or was it a depth perception issues - a visual impairment? Well, this offseason we came to learn that AB infact DID HAVE and visual problem, he had blurred vision. AB had lasik surgery, so this should be a nonissue this year. This is make or break for AB, he needs to shutup and be the playmaker he thinks he is. Another notable WR in our depth chart is another fan favored hopefull in Randall Williams. Williams reportedly runs a 4.3-4.2/40, that is just blazing speed. Williams has always shined in the preseason, but has never been given the real opportunity to shine in the starting three. Williams is a big receiver, with a solid build. Williams will probably have a bigger role this season. Two other rookie WRs to watch this camp will be James Newson and Brandon Middleton. Newson has good size, the only knock on Newson is his speed - kinda slow/average. Middleton the other interesting WR to watch, coming out of college Middleton was ranked in the top 15 for WRs in the NCAA, makes plays after the catch and has stated his style of play is similar to Carolina's Steve Smith, both similar builds in size.We have some options this year at WR, but Keyshawn and Glenn are not getting any younger.
Overall Pre-Training Camp Grade: B

Offensive Line
The big story this offseason was centered around Pro-Bowl Guard Larry Allen. Parcells, Jones, and LA have seemingly diffused the impasse for now. LA has been hard at work at the Cowboys facility working out with teammates. We know Allen and Flozell will have the leftside anchored down. Center should be very competitive this camp. Al Johnson will probably end up taking over at Center after being out last year from injury, but Matt Lehr will challenge and will make Johnson earn his spot. RT is up in the air right now as well with Torrin Tucker and Rogers in the thick of it, but second rounder Jacob Rogers is expected to make his way into the staring rotation as well. RG will be battled out between Andre Gurode and rookie third rounder Stephen Peterman. Its forseeable that we could have the right side played by two rookies, training camp will be interesting to see this year. We do have depth on the Oline as well.
Overall Pre-Training Camp Grade: B

Secondary
Little by little our secondary is shaping up to be one of the most dominating in the league. Here we go - the bright spots at our secondary are: LCB Terence Newman, SS Darren Woodson, and FS Roy Williams...RCB is the only missing link right now. Who will play opposite TNew? Right now, we're hearing Pete Hunter is the favored CB, Hunter has great height, and very speedy for his size. Alot of fans remember the bad play of Hunter last year, but he was playing out of position caused by Mitchells injury for that nickel slot. Hunter was inconsistent and burnt several times, but in 2004 Hunter returns to his natural spot at RCB. Hunter will be closely looked at by EVERYONE, and if there is any hesitation or inconsistent play, look for rookie CB Bruce Thorton to take his place. Thorton played very well for the Bulldogs and was their team captain for the #8 defense in NCAA. Thorton has great leadership and cover skills. Thorton made some noise during minicamps while he brokeup several passes, we'll see how he does against the veterans in camp with pads. Either way, Thorton will add solid depth at RCB,maybe in the nickel slot later. Parcells also added some depth in drafting Nate Jones and Jacquees Reeves.
Overall Pre-Training Camp Grade: B+

Linebackers
Our linebacker corps have always been solid for years, and this year is no exception. We will continue to see probowl play from MLB Dat Nguyen, Strongside LB will be played by AL Singleton, and perhaps one of this years most competitive spots at Weakside LB will be between Dexter Coakley and 2nd year player Bradie James. During minicamp, we got a preview of the LB lineup when James started over Coakley, which lit a LB contraversy by the media. Fans alike had James pegged to replace Singelton who is older and slower. We'll all watch how this plays out. Either way, LB will be solid once again. Hopefully Dat will his his deserved Pro-Bowl Nod this year!
Overall Pre-Training Camp Grade: A

Defensive Line
Another area of excited anticipation from fans comes because of the arrival of LE Marcellus Wiley. The past few years LE has been played by Greg Ellis who was playing out of position. With the arrival of Wiley, we'll see Ellis playing at his natural RE spot. Wiley could be what Haley was for us in the 90s. Wiley plays hard on every play, and has bigtime playing capabilities. Parcells has praised Wiley's offseason workouts and dedication to the team. Wiley will help add pressure, and allow someone two make plays in the backfield and visa/versa. With the addition of Wiley, we will see more sacks from Glover, and Ellis, in turn these sames players will help Wiley regain his confidence now that he's around quality defensive players. The only question mark in the Dlineup is the DT spot next to Glover, will it be Blade or Stewart, and will that person stay consistent the whole year. The only knock I had on Blade last year, was that he played fiercely early on, but he quickly faded and we saw more and more rotation in his spot. We'll see who comes to play this year.
Overall Pre-Training Camp Grade: A-

The 2004 Offseason has been very exciting and interesting thus far, and I'm sure we'll have some more surprises during camp and the preseason.

Our outlook for this season should be positive, We'll be under Parcells 2nd year rebuilding plan, so realistically we should make the playoffs again, BUT year 3+ is where the domination will be in full gear. The master of the draft made some noise by skipping out on Jackson, but what the mainstream media does not understand is that Parcells does his homework, and is very calculating in his decision making.

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