Campo's Coming Of Age

Posting a 5-11 record in the 2000 season, Dave Campo had less than an auspicious introduction into the head-coaching spotlight for the Dallas Cowboys. What did he take away from his baptism under fire that will allow him to be more effective his sophomore year?

His interview indicates changes in both his management and game planning to achieve better results.

"The biggest thing I found is I must do a better job of budgeting my time," Dave Campo told Mike Baldwin of the Daily Oklahoman.

"I have some strengths in the media area and public relations. But it took away too much, in my mind, from the football part," he said. Being an affable character, Campo makes himself available perhaps too much for the press. Defensive coordinators are rarely called on to sit in on Jerry Jones post-game interview, so juggling this new job requirement along with the head coaching duties took some getting used to. However, time management isn't the only area Campo intends to improve his production. "I think we panicked a little bit and tried to change some things (defensively) in mid stream (last season)… To be perfectly honest, we're going to go back to what I know and feel comfortable with. It's an attacking-style mentality. It's not just a blitz style but also more of an attack the line of scrimmage… That's what we do best."

Yet going to a style of front seven play the team is familiar with exposes the raw and unproven talent at cornerback. Campo has addressed this with a slight tweak of the coverage schemes they have played in the past. "Obviously, you'd like to have a little more veteran experience… We won't be a man-to-man defensive club on every down anymore. With the young guys we'll use more zone press."

His hopes are tied to being more aggressive with the front seven. If he can force teams out of their comfort zone, he may be able to cover his team's glaring Achilles Heel at cornerback. Otherwise, his weakness will be exposed creating a ripple throughout the defense. Stopping 200-yard ground games does little if you give up over 300 yards in the air each week.

Campo splits his time between defense and offense and likes what he sees on the field offensively. The comeback of both starters at wide receiver gives the Cowboys hope for a better offensive production from last season.

Speaking on Galloway and Ismail, Campo said, "There's no question we feel those guys are ready. We were cautious with them in mini-camp, but both of them showed they're close." The key to the offensive success in Campo's mind lies in the prosperity of Tony Banks. "He can make all the throws we ask, and not many quarterbacks in this league have that type of arm. We just need to make sure we don't ask him to do what he can't do."

Banks is not on an island though and has help in the elder statesman, Emmitt Smith. "One of our strengths is our offensive line and the ability of Emmitt Smith to run the football."

This mainstay of the Dallas offense will afford opportunities for Banks to stay within his capabilities and play to his strong suit of throwing deep. "We're certainly going to… take the approach we're going to run the football, use play-action and try to get the ball deep as many times as we can during a game."

The reality of young inexperienced players and dead money woes that eat up almost 30% of the cap give this season a dark pall. Yet Campo looks for the team to fare better than expected. "If we can stay away from injuries, there is no question in my mind that we can be a player in our division. Anything can happen from there."

The NFC East has improved over the NFC Least of a few years ago. While Washington is still trying to find it's rhythm and Arizona is in it's usual tailspin, the other two teams have discovered hard-nosed football.

New York played in last years Superbowl and should be a solid team, even though they will now have to face a winners schedule that normally finds them lacking.

Philadelphia will be the odds on favorite to take the East with one of the best defenses in the football. Even with losing both targets for McNabb's passing game they have the tools to be the front-runner at this point.

With this type of competition in his backyard Campo seems composed and likes his chances this season. "All I did was get a knot in my stomach watching the Super Bowl. Not to take anything away from those two teams but anything can happen in this league. If we stay healthy we'll be right back into it."

Perhaps Campo's replies are a bit of Polly Anna mixed with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. But he makes no bones about his optimism either. "I'm a positive person, and I'm going to find positive in anything."

Dave Campo will be tested again come September. On the field with question marks at the quarterback position, rehabbing receivers, and a defense that was a sieve at tackle and now cornerback. If the pre-season reviews are any indication, his positive outlook will be taking a few final exams, as well.

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