Analysis Shows Many Upgrade Options

The Cowboys are in the heart of their scouting season, with the Senior Bowl behind them and the combine, free agency and the draft still ahead. A look back with a position-by-position needs analysis shows there are plenty of paths the Cowboys can take.

Starter -- Quincy Carter. Backups -- Chad Hutchinson, Tony Romo.

Quincy Carter surprisingly started all 16 games and passed for 3,302 yards, fifth most in Cowboys history. Also took team to playoffs in great comeback story from last year's benching. However, 21 interceptions can't be ignored. He must be better in 2004 and eliminate mistakes. That still won't preclude the Cowboys from seeking an upgrade in the offseason. After being pumped up by former offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet, Hutchinson's raw reality was deflated with a seat on Parcells' bench. Going to NFL Europe for extended spring training. Romo impressed more than Hutchinson did in the training camp. Got no snaps in regular season. But will also go to Europe.

Starter -- RB Troy Hambrick, FB Richie Anderson. Backups -- RB Erik Bickerstaff; RB Aveion Cason, RB ReShard Lee, FB Jamar Martin.

The Cowboys found out Hambrick is no Emmitt Smith, not the young one or the old one, rushing for just 972 yards and sealing his fate as nothing more than a solid backup. They will be in the market for a frontline runner, either in the draft, free agency or both.

Anderson was supposed to have the biggest impact in the locker room but turned into team's offensive MVP with team high 63 receptions and career high 306 rushing yards. Cason never developed into reliable third-down threat or change of pace option for Hambrick. Ended season on injured reserve. Martin improved on special teams as year went on and was devastating blocker when given the chance. Should have been given more. Bickerstaff came off practice squad and showed some potential. However, still has a long way to get before securing himself a long-term spot on the roster or place in the league.

Starters -- Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn. Backups -- Antonio Bryant, Randal Williams, Zuriel Smith.

Reasons abound for Joey Galloway's poor numbers. He was used mostly as a clear out guy for Glenn. He drew double coverage from opposing defenses and the best corner. Still, the money still paid the same. And 34 catches and a spate of untimely drops are not a good return on a $6 million a year investment. The Cowboys will likely cut Galloway and sign a possession receiver (Keyshawn Johnson) to play opposite Glenn, who showed "she" still has a lot of gas left in the tank with 52 catches for 754 yards and five touchdowns. However, is not a No. 1 receiver and had too many drops. Potential and mouth be damned with Bryant. Had 39 catches but still has a ways to go to live up to No. 88. Too many drops and poor route running. Smith's play was the one he didn't make against New York. Had too many drops on returns and didn't contribute as receiver. Williams is still not an option at receiver. But he is good at what he is -- one of the Cowboys reliable special teams performers.

Starter-- Dan Campbell. Backups -- Jason Witten, James Whalen, Jeff Robinson.

There are no problems here. Campbell was an invaluable free agent pickup, who bolstered the locker room with his veteran leadership and was tough as nails as a blocking tight end. With 35 catches for 347 yards -- ranking fourth among all rookie pass catchers -- Witten showed flashes as the next great Cowboys tight end behind Billy Joe Dupree and Jay Novacek. Robinson showed why he is considered the league's best deep snapper. Also had two touchdowns as a goal-line tight end. Whalen was a niche player who could not carve out a role on the team. Came into the season as a special teams maven. Ended it with four deactivations.

Starters -- LT Flozell Adams, LG Larry Allen, C Matt Lehr, RG Andre Gurode, RT Kurt Vollers. Backups -- G Tyson Walter, T Javier Collins, T Ryan Young, G/T Torrin Tucker, G/C Gennaro DiNapoli, C Al Johnson.

The Cowboys showed Adams the money in the offseason and he rewarded them with a Pro Bowl performance. Enough said.

Questions about everywhere else. Don't let Allen's Pro Bowl selection fool you. The Cowboys wanted and needed more from the declining Allen in 2003. He butted heads with Parcells from the outset and must be on the same page heading into training camp in 2004. Gurode flashed star potential a year ago, now there is a question about his future. Not only was he plagued by penalties but there was no sign of dominance in 2003. Young, who was benched as the starting right tackle this season, will compete for the starting job at guard next season.

Vollers was a valuable backup who became a starter when Young was benched. Has limitations and is not considered long-term answer. Likewise Lehr did a good job at center after Johnson was injured in training camp. However, he still not considered a long-term answer there. Look for Johnson to reclaim the job if his rehab from microfracture surgery is successful.

Starters -- DLE Greg Ellis, DT Willie Blade, DT La'Roi Glover, DRE Ebenezer Ekuban. Backups -- DE Erik Ogbogu, DE Kenyon Coleman, DT Jermaine Brooks, DT Leo Carson, DT Shaun Smith, DT Daleroy Stewart.

The biggest question on this unit is finding a catalytic pass rusher. The Cowboys need more sacks to create more big plays on defense. Ekuban is just not getting it done. He improved as a run stopper but this former first round pick has yet progress as a pass rusher. 2.5 sacks and three over the last two years are huge disappointments. He will likely be let go as an unrestricted free agent. No longer a draft bust, Blade became a solid starter and contributor in 2003. Never mind low tackle numbers (18), he helped anchor the run defense. Ellis' leadership is unparalleled and his play is solid. Led the team with a career high eight sacks for the third straight year. Glover had just five sacks but this four-time Pro Bowler had his best all-round season in anchoring the middle of the league's top-ranked defense. Coleman joined the team after training camp and provided some much needed size on the edge. Notched 15 tackles and two sacks in part time work behind Greg Ellis. No longer just a pitchman for Under Armor, Ogbogu notched 3.5 sacks and supplanted Ekuban as the starter at right end. Stewart finally proved he was worth the 2001 draft pick by being a regular contributor, although he faded midway through season after fast start.

Starters -- WLB Dexter Coakley, MLB Dat Nguyen, SLB Al Singleton. Backups -- Jamal Brooks, Bradie James, Keith O'Neil, Markus Steele.

It wasn't the Coakley of old but nobody's dissing a team-record seventh-straight 100 tackle season. Nguyen had a Pro Bowl season even if he wasn't rewarded for it, leading the league's best defense with 140 tackles and proving Parcells that little men can play this game. Singleton was a solid citizen and solid performer, whose impact went beyond his 57 tackles. Might have saved Cowboys season by calling team-meeting in Week 14. James finished third on the team with 16 special teams tackles. However, he was the team's best special teams player down the stretch. Steele began the season as the team's top-special teams performer. Although production waned, still finished third in special teams tackles with 16.

Starters -- CB Terence Newman, CB Mario Edwards, FS Roy Williams, SS Darren Woodson. Backups -- CB Pete Hunter, CB Donald Mitchell, S Tony Dixon, S Lynn Scott, CB Andrew Davison, CB Jemeel Powell.

Opponents targeted Mario Edwards late in the season for big plays and penalties; he led the Cowboys in interference flags. But he wasn't so bad to stop the Cowboys from ranking first in pass defense. He is an unrestricted free agent. The Cowboys can look for an upgrade but probably won't find a better bargain for the price than Edwards, considering how much they are paying Newman and Williams. Newman lived up to draft expectations as a shutdown corner with a team-leading four interceptions and 80 tackles. Williams has become the undisputed star of the Cowboys defense and arguably the league's most feared hitter. Recorded 86 tackles and a host of knockout blows in his first Pro Bowl season. Woodson recorded 99 tackles to just miss his eighth 100-tackle season. This three-time Super Bowl champion remained the leader of the league's top-ranked pass defense, though the Cowboys head into the offseason wondering how much he has left. Hunter had an up and down season as the nickel corner, surviving an early benching to come on strong late. Also chipped in 11 tackles on special teams. Secure in his role as a safety reserve, Dixon focused his efforts on being a special team's star, finishing as the team leader there with 20 tackles.

PK Billy Cundiff, P Toby Gowin, LS Jeff Robinson.

Cundiff overcame rookie inconsistencies with strong sophomore season. Made 23 of 29 field goals including an NFL-record tying seven in an overtime victory over the Giants. Gowin did not live up to expectations as punter or kickoff guy. Averaged just 39 yards per punt and recorded only two touchbacks on kickoffs. He must be better or he will be replaced in 2004. Again Robinson is the best at what he does.

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