Tony Banks is the starting quarterback and has shown some promise during the first week of camp. Anthony Wright and Quincy Carter are battling out for the back up job. These two old Southeastern Conference rivals have had their ups and downs during the first week of camp. I'm expecting Carter to win the job sometime towards the end of preseason, his work ethic exceeds that of Anthony Wright, and he also has the stronger arm.
No clear-cut favorite has emerged to back up Emmitt Smith at running back. John Avery, who has had some spectacular returns with the Miami Dolphins and most recently in the XFL, has shown some spark returning kickoffs. The knock on him is that he won't be able take the punishment of a 16 game season, even as a back up. The Cowboys would be foolish to waive Avery though, he is just too dangerous returning kickoffs. Keep your eyes on Michael Wiley, he could be the dark horse that contributes significantly to this team during the regular season.
At wide receiver, Joey Galloway and Ismail are seeing limited time in practice due to their injuries last season, but some other players are stepping up. Several names we've heard mentioned quite a bit in the papers are Damon Hodge and Jason Tucker.
The offensive line was hit hardest of all positions last week with injuries, but fortunately most of them were minor. Mark Stepnoski actually suffered through two injuries, but he should be ready to go for the first preseason game against the Raiders next Saturday.
Defensively, linebacker Darren Hambrick has started practicing with the first team again, although no depth charts have officially been released. Dat Nguyen has continued to be impressive and quick to the ball, as has Markus Steele. The defensive line still remains beat up, as four defensive tackles are currently injured.
This should be cause for concern as the team desperately needs to improve its defense against the run, especially playing in the physical NFC East. Dimitrius Underwood and Bryant Shaw are listed as day-to-day and should return to action this week.
Surprisingly, the secondary has looked better than expected. Izell Reese's transition to corner seems to be working and Mario Edwards and Duane Hawthorne have performed at high levels all week long in the eyes of the coaching staff. George Teague and Darren Woodson are already in the starting lineup at safety with Tony Dixon and Sean Key on the second team.
There were two special teams practices this week, Wayne McGarity will be fielding punts and Jason Tucker and John Avery have been receiving kickoffs. Avery, who was the leading rusher in the old XFL, should be able to secure a spot on this team simply because he is so explosive on his returns.
The first preseason game against the Oakland Raiders will take place next Saturday. Although a lot of people will want to discover who will emerge as the backup quarterback, I think it will be much more important to see how Tony Banks responds to the challenge that lies ahead of him.
Can he actually lead a team consistently through a 16 game season? Can he cut down on the number of interceptions and put seven points on the board in the red zone?
The fate of this team ultimately lies in his hands. A strong showing in the preseason would be a good start to win over his teammates and the fans.
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