Edwards Suddenly a Priority

Signing a cornerback to play opposite Terence Newman became a bigger priority for the Cowboys when NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced the Cowboys will open the 2004 season at Minnesota in a nationally televised afternoon game on Fox.

"It will be a real challenge," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "That's a tough place to play. That's a big job to go up there and win that ball game."

"I think [the nationally televised opener] is a testament to where both teams have come in the past couple of years," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "Coach [Bill] Parcells has done a great job of getting that team on the right track. It's going to be a matchup of two very hard-working teams coming right out of training camp."

There had been speculation the Cowboys would be the first opponent for Joe Gibbs' second coming with the Washington Redskins. Instead, Dallas drew Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper.

The Vikings went 9-7 last season, barely missing the playoffs. They dropped seven of their last nine games, including an improbable 18-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on the game's final play.

Minnesota was the league's top-rated offense last season, averaging 393.45 yards per game, while the Cowboys were the league's top-rated defense, allowing an average of only 253.5 yards per game.

While the Cowboys believe they upgraded their pass rush with the addition of defensive end Marcellus Wiley, they have yet to upgrade at cornerback. They hoped to find someone better than Mario Edwards to play on the right side. But with all the top free agents already signed elsewhere, the Cowboys can only hope now they get someone as good as Edwards. With Pete Hunter and Donald Mitchell set to battle for the starting spot, the Cowboys are now considering re-signing Edwards, an unrestricted free agent.

The rest of the schedule won't be announced until sometime next month.

The Cowboys do know who they will play next season. Besides home and away games against division rivals Washington, Philadelphia and the New York Giants, the Cowboys will play host to Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New Orleans, and they will travel to Green Bay, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Seattle, as well as Minnesota.

"Although we won 10 games last year, when you look at the teams we're playing, we've got a real challenge," Jones said. "That's going to be exciting. I know that our fans are going to be interested in what we've done in the offseason, what Bill's strategy is regarding our offense, which will be dictated by some degree by additions in personnel that we've made in this offseason and may make in the future this offseason."

The Cowboys traded for receiver Keyshawn Johnson and quarterback Drew Henson, and signed free agent defensive end Marcellus Wiley. They have yet to address their needs at right tackle or running back.

While Jones said he expects to add a player at both positions, either through free agency or the draft, he also said he has faith in offensive lineman Torrin Tucker and fullback Richie Anderson to be more involved.

"We probably feel pretty good about some things we can do from within in our offensive line," Jones said. "... I know that we've got our thinking [at running back] that we may do some things differently with Richie Anderson. I wouldn't want to get specific, but he had a good year last year, made some big plays for us, and I think we can utilize his running and pass-catching ability even more."

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