After 3 consecutive 5-11 seasons under former head coach Dave Campo, Bill Parcells proved to be just what the doctor ordered as the Cowboys marched through a 10-6 regular season on their way to the playoffs for the first time since 1998.
Unfortunately, their undoing came in the first round at the hands of the Carolina Panthers.
The inability to establish any sort of consistency running the football allowed the Panthers to pin their ears back and attack Quincy Carter from all angles.
The end result? A 29-10 loss to a team that the Cowboys had managed to defeat just a month earlier, and a quick exit to an otherwise unbelievable season.
There's little doubt that in two weeks, the Cowboys will have to improve in several areas to have any hopes of improving on last year's record. And without question, one the biggest areas of concern that will be addressed in the 2004 NFL Draft will be at running back, where several players are currently sitting atop the board.
Headlining the most realistic of wish lists, is Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones.
Make no mistake about it, Kevin Jones is who we believe the Cowboys will ultimately draft with the 22nd overall selection on April 24th.
|Jones rushed for 1,419 yards during his junior year, which established a new single-season rushing record at Virginia Tech.|
Certainly, it goes without saying that in a draft that isn't incredibly deep in the offensive backfield, Jones headlines the small group of "impact players."
"He's an explosive runner with great elusiveness, speed, and athleticism," notes NFL Draft Expert Tony Pauline. "He runs with good lean and balance, and keeps his footing after the initial hit. He's also patient, and fast enough to run outside of tackle yet tough enough to handle the ball on the inside."
The Cowboys currently own the 22nd pick in the draft, which obviously puts them on the edge of acquiring the services of a running back like Jones. Nevertheless, the interest in Valley Ranch is high, and rightfully so.
Veteran running back Troy Hambrick averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in 2003 while never fully gaining the confidence of Bill Parcells.
And where Hambrick faltered, Jones would likely excel. He's a proven workhorse that can flourish in a run-oriented offense where the running back is depended on to carry the load.
"He is a great combination of innate abilities, football skills, and physical stature. His athleticism leads one to believe he can be used in a variety of offensive systems that rely on running the ball," adds Pauline.
Jones is projected by most draft services to be one of the top three running backs available this year, and the only thing that could prevent him from becoming a Dallas Cowboy would be for another team to grab before the Cowboys go on the clock with the 22nd overall selection.
"They aren't going to trade up this year," a source told SilverStarDigest earlier this week. "Everybody knows that Jerry Jones likes to wheel and deal, but they are relatively content with their position right now. Jones is a guy they like a lot, the only question out there is, will he actually be available. I tend to think he will be."
Even with the loss of Mario Edwards, the Cowboys need more help on offense, and there are plenty of quality cornerbacks that should be available in the later rounds.
"It just makes sense," added the source. "The Cowboys have made all the right moves the last two years when it comes to the NFL Draft, and there's no reason to think they won't do it this year. The smart money is on a running back."