3 Dallas Cowboys Saddled with the NFL's worst offensive backfield, Bill Parcells will have to scramble for solutions

August 31, 2003

In the second half of the Cowboys' grim preseason opener--a 13-0
loss at Arizona--it was time for some gallows humor in the Dallas
radio booth. Play-by-play man Brad Sham, who has seen the great
and the gruesome in his 25 seasons as a Cowboys broadcaster,
said, "I'm reminded of the time when Leo Durocher took over a
pretty bad Cubs team in the '60s. He said, 'I'll tell you, this
is no seventh-place ball club.' He was right. The Cubs finished
10th."

These Cowboys, complete with a new coaching savior in Bill
Parcells, couldn't be that bad, could they?

They could. They have so many holes to fill and are so deficient
at key positions, compared with other teams, that Parcells will
have to resort to his old standby--special teams--to be
competitive.

Dallas has arguably the worst quarterback-running back
combination in the league, which doesn't bode well for a team
that was last in the NFC in scoring last year--by a whopping 41
points--and has seen its total points decline in each of the past
four seasons. The amazing thing is that the Cowboys knew they had
Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson at quarterback and Troy
Hambrick at running back before Parcells took over and did
nothing to upgrade either position through free agency or the
draft. The receiving trio of Joey Galloway, Antonio Bryant and
Terry Glenn has speed, but can the quarterbacks, who completed
just 53.5% of their throws last year, get them the ball?

"If we can run it, watch out," Parcells said during training
camp. That's a pretty big if, especially with major questions
still to be resolved on the offensive line. Wisconsin's Al
Johnson was drafted in the second round and was practically
handed the center job; on Aug. 8 he underwent season-ending
microfracture surgery on his right knee. Seven-time All-Pro guard
Larry Allen, who had surgery to remove bone spurs from his left
ankle last December, looked like a shell of himself in training
camp. Parcells derisively took to calling him Secretariat,
mocking his lack of speed and quickness.

For the first time in his 16 seasons as a head coach, Parcells
has ceded control of the makeup and direction of his team's
defense to an assistant. Mike Zimmer, a highly respected holdover
from fired coach Dave Campo's staff, gets the honor, but there's
no guarantee Parcells will stick with him. Zimmer's group has
ranked 19th, fourth and 18th in total defense in his three
seasons at Dallas, producing only 73 sacks in 48 games, and
there's no magic pill on the horizon. The two defensive ends
(Greg Ellis, Ebenezer Ekuban) and the two outside linebackers
(Dexter Coakley and Al Singleton, a free-agent acquisition from
Tampa Bay) combined for 10 1/2 sacks last season. Zimmer is
hoping an improved secondary will cover better and longer so the
pass rush can be more effective. To that end, second-year free
safety Roy Williams, the Cowboys' first-round pick in 2002, seems
ready for a breakout season, and this year's top pick, Terence
Newman, brings his 4.35-second speed to start at left corner.

Gone is colorful special teams coach Joe Avezzano, who never met
a postgame TV or radio show he didn't like but whose outfit was
nothing to talk about. Replacing him is one of the most
underrated assistants in the NFL, former Bills and 49ers aide
Bruce DeHaven. At every stop Parcells has made early improvements
in the kicking game, and the Cowboys will be no exception.
DeHaven has persuaded Parcells to make one change, switching his
punt protection from man to zone. "He just wants to find the best
way to do things," DeHaven says. "He doesn't care whose idea it
is."

As he has done with the Giants, the Patriots and the Jets
previously, Parcells will turn over the bottom of the roster
throughout the season. "You're not just competing with the
players in this camp," he told the team early on. "You're
competing with any player from other teams that I can get my
hands on." Cowboys fans be forewarned. This may be a long season,
but it won't be a boring one. --P.K.

COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES HELP WANTED Coakley has great speed, but the Cowboys need him to get to the quarterback more often. COLOR PHOTO: NFL PHOTOS BRYANT COLOR PHOTO

UNDER THE GUN

This summer, Bill Parcells looked at film of the '60s Packers
to see how Vince Lombardi used fullback Jim Taylor in a
ball-control offense. That gives you some idea of the
ground-hugging offense Parcells would like to employ in Dallas
with 239-pound TROY HAMBRICK. "I'm no Marshall Faulk," says
Hambrick. "I'm a boulder, and I like to roll downhill."

ENEMY LINES
An opposing scout's view

"Everyone says the offensive line is going to be the best unit on
the team, but I don't see it. I hear Larry Allen's not healthy,
and I know how much Bill Parcells loved rookie center Al Johnson
before losing him for the season with a knee injury. The other
centers, Gennaro DiNapoli and Matt Lehr, are roster-fillers....
Quincy Carter is a better quarterback for this offense than Chad
Hutchinson because his mobility will be vital behind that
line.... I don't trust Troy Hambrick to be an every-down back.
He's never done it.... Antonio Bryant will be as big a star as
Michael Irvin if they can find someone to get him the ball.... On
defense, Parcells will pay for the sins of the Cowboys' past
drafts. Ebenezer Ekuban is a flop who's never been quick enough
to turn the corner against NFC East tackles.... I like the
addition of Al Singleton, just because he plays every down as if
it's his last. But he can get pushed around trying to rush on the
strong side.... Terence Newman was the best player in the draft.
He'll shut down one side of the field.... If they don't blitz Roy
Williams 10 times a game, they're nuts. He's one of the most
athletic safeties to come into the league in years."

SCHEDULE

Sept. 7 ATLANTA
15 at N.Y. Giants (Mon.)
21 Open date
28 at N.Y. Jets

Oct. 5 ARIZONA
12 PHILADELPHIA
19 at Detroit
26 at Tampa Bay

Nov. 2 WASHINGTON
9 BUFFALO
16 at New England
23 CAROLINA
27 MIAMI (Thurs.)

Dec. 7 at Philadelphia
14 at Washington
21 N.Y. GIANTS
28 at New Orleans

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank: 2
Opponents' 2002 winning percentage: .541
Games against playoff teams: 7

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2002 statistics

2002 RECORD: 5-11
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total):
OFFENSE 19/31/30
DEFENSE 15/19/18

COACH: Bill Parcells; first season with Dallas (149-106-1 in NFL)

TROY HAMBRICK

POS. PVR ATT. YARDS AVG.
RB 94 79 317 4.0

REC YARDS AVG. TDs
21 99 4.7 1

QUINCY CARTER

POS. PVR ATT. COMP. %
QB 135 221 125 56.6

YARDS TDs INT. RATING
1,465 7 8 72.3

RICHIE ANDERSON[1]

POS. PVR ATT. YARDS AVG.
FB 126 5 27 5.4

REC. YARDS AVG. TDs
45 257 5.7 1

ANTONIO BRYANT

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 75 44 733 6

TONY MCGEE

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
TE 174 23 294 1

FLOZELL ADAMS

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LT 6'7" 357 lbs. 16 16

LARRY ALLEN

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LG 6'3" 335 lbs. 5 5

GENNARO DINAPOLI[1]

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
C 6'3" 287 lbs. 16 16

ANDRE GURODE

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RG 6'4" 326 lbs. 14 14

RYAN YOUNG[1]

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RT 6'5" 320 lbs. 9 8

JOEY GALLOWAY

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 106 61 908 6

DEFENSE

RE EBENEZER EKUBAN 31 tackles 1 sack
RT LA'ROI GLOVER 50 tackles 6 1/2 sacks
LT MICHAEL MYERS 35 tackles 1 sack
LE GREG ELLIS 67 tackles 7 1/2 sacks
OLB AL SINGLETON[1] 58 tackles 1 sack
MLB DAT NGUYEN 52 tackles 1 sack
OLB DEXTER COAKLEY 104 tackles 1 sack
CB DEREK ROSS 56 tackles 5 int.
SS DARREN WOODSON 50 tackles 1 int.
FS ROY WILLIAMS 92 tackles 5 int.
CB TERENCE NEWMAN (R)[1] 54 tackles 5 int.

SPECIAL TEAMS PVR

K BILLY CUNDIFF 296 25/25 XPS 12/19 FGS 61 PTS.
PR ZURIEL SMITH (R)[1] 409 27 RET. 18.5 AVG. 1 TD
KR WOODY DANTZLER 392 27 RET. 22.3 AVG. 1 TD
P TOBY GOWIN[1] 61 PUNTS 41.9 AVG.

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 89)

"Terence Newman was the best player in the draft. He'll shut
down one side of the field."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)