The Good, The Bad, And The Opinionated: Part I

The old saw ‘it's always quietest before the storm,' invariably seems to apply to the Cowboys this time of year. Other than equipment managers loading semi-trailers full of football gear, there isn't anything really happening with the team. A perfect time for some biased, opinionated, and absolutely partial persuasion is at hand.

This season the Cowboys will be in a flux. Continuous change will be the hallmark of a team that is retooling to some and rebuilding to others.

The offense holds the most hope for this season with the return of Emmitt Smith. Poised for the eclipse of Walter Payton's record in 1560 yards, Emmitt will be the focal point of the offensive side of the ball.

But defensive coordinators realize that he is the catalyst for the Cowboys success and will devise plans centered around stopping the ground game. Game plans of eight man fronts will be the weekly fare for the Cowboys until they prove they can move the ball through the unfriendly skies.

The passing game has many chinks in its armor starting with Tony Banks. His poor play with the Super Bowl winning Ravens last season can't be laid directly at his feet. Banks lacked receivers, which showed in weeks of searching in vain for the endzone, causing him to lose his job.

But throughout Tony's career he has shown an amazing propensity for putting the pigskin on the turf and into the hands of the other team. As anemic as this year's Cowboys squad could be, turnovers will be the most crippling miscue the offense can make.

Back from the trainers table comes Raghib ‘Rocket' Ismail and Joey Galloway. Both players will be counted on heavily to carry the passing game after constructive knee surgery last season.

Seldom does a player that has suffered the injury both starting wide receivers endured comes back to top form the next season. Banks will be counting on both to overcome rust, fear, and aggressive cornerbacks to create a passing game that will open holes for Emmitt.

The offensive line is back sans Erik Williams and perhaps has been upgraded because of his absence. Solomon Page will move out to tackle and Kelvin Garmon is projected to fill his guard roll.

After the incredible bench press of 700 pounds by Larry Allen recently, Garmon has topped 600 pounds showing Allen's weight room activities have been inspirational as well as amazing.

Yet a poor 2000-01 season for Flozell Adams and the first year starting at tackle for Page leaves questions unanswered at this point. Factor in Garmon's first year as a starter at guard and this could either be a good year or go south quickly.

The weakest link to the offensive line perhaps is Stepnoski at 33 years old. Still talented, his health has caused Mark to miss playing time the last two years. A fact that motivated the Cowboys to draft Matt Lehr.

A ‘Step' prototype being a smaller center that uses leverage instead of brute strength, the lineman from Virginia Tech is said to have the same intelligence for the game and mean streak of his mentor. But first year contributions at center are not to be expected and if Stepnoski falls look for Ben Fricke to spell him. A noticeable downgrade.

Mike Lucky, another returning wounded from the most severe knee injury on the team last season and a geriatric Jackie Harris will be the focal point at tight end. David LaFleur will limp through this season unless he is cut due to a degenerative back problem that caused Troy Aikman's early retirement. There isn't much after these players to count on.

Jack Reilly is in his second year as the offensive coordinator and at a seminal point with the team. Last years Cowboys were a woeful offense that let opportunities slip away when the defense rose to the occasion. Reilly's timing offense is still in place and will be either celebrated or dismissed after this campaign.

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