QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Quincy Carter. Backups -- Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson, Tony Romo. Never mind the offseason additions of Testaverde and Henson, this is Carter's job to lose. He improved greatly in his first season with Bill Parcells and should be better in year two. Although he took the Cowboys to the playoffs with a 10-6 record, he has to be better to hold on to his job. His 22 interceptions to 17 touchdowns won't be tolerated in 2004. Unlike last year, the Cowboys have a viable alternative in Testaverde, who was brought to push Carter, take over if he falters and groom Henson to be the quarterback of the future.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Eddie George, FB Richie Anderson. Backups -- RB Julius Jones, RB Aveion Cason, RB ReShard Lee, FB Jamar Martin, FB Darian Barnes, Lousaka Polite.
Jones was next up in the search for Emmitt Smith's successor. The rookie from Notre Dame has the toughness to run inside and the speed to go the distance. His hands are questionable and he needs experience. That's why the Cowboys brought in George. He is a proven runner who will get 12 to 15 carries a game and allow Jones to be brought along slowly. Anderson will also help out by playing more running back than fullback this year. He will serve as the third-down back and be part of the running back committee that will include George, Jones, Lee and Cason. Martin, Barnes, Polite will likely be fighting for one spot. Barnes and Polite can contribute on special teams, which might give them the edge over Martin.
TIGHT END/H-BACK: Starters -- TE Dan Campbell. Backups -- Jason Witten, James Whalen, Jeff Robinson, Sean Ryan.
The Cowboys are pretty much set at tight end as any team in the league. Campbell is a standout run blocker, and Witten could be an emerging star. He was a big part of the Cowboys pass offense at the end of last year, and his role as a pass catcher will only increase in his sophomore year. Look for him and Keyshawn Johnson to give Carter two solid options on third down. Ryan will make the team as run blocker and special teams ace, likely costing the undersized Whalen his job.
WIDE RECIEVERS: Starters -- WR Keyshawn Johnson, WR Terry Glenn. Backups -- Antonio Bryant, Randal Williams, Zuriel Smith, Patrick Crayton, Cedric James, Dedric Ward.
There is no question that the presence of Keyshawn Johnson has improved the Cowboys' receiver corps. He is a standout blocker, and his size and toughness give Carter a chain-moving target on third down. Johnson should complement the outside speed of Bryant and Glenn. After the top three, however, questions abound. Ward was brought in to give the Cowboys increased depth, but he fractured a bone in his foot in June and will be sidelined at the beginning of training camp. The other receivers on the roster have a combined three career catches although the team expects Williams to emerge as player in his third year.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Flozell Adams, LG Larry Allen, C Al Johnston, RG Andre Gurode, RT Jacob Rogers. Backups -- G Tyson Walter, T Javier Collins, T Kurt Vollers, G Justin Bates, G/T Torrin Tucker, G/C Matt Lehr, C Gennaro DiNapoli, G Stephen Peterman.
The only sure thing on the offensive line is Adams, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season. However, the Cowboys are excited about the potential of this group. Allen is in much better condition than he was a year ago and should have a bounce-back season. Johnson has recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him a year ago and should be an upgrade at center. Gurode will have to be better or he will lose his job to promising rookie Peterman. Rogers, a rookie second-round pick, will get first dibs at right tackle. However, he will be pushed by Tucker.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- DE Greg Ellis, DT Willie Blade, DT La'Roi Glover, DE Marcellus Wiley. Backups -- DE Erik Ogbogu, DT Shaun Smith, DT Daleroy Stewart, DT Leo Carson, DT Jermaine Brooks, DE Kenyon Coleman.
The Cowboys haven't had a player with double-digit sacks since Tony Tolbert had 12 in 1996. They are hoping Wiley changes that. He went to the Pro Bowl three years ago with 13 sacks in 14 games during his first season with the Chargers, but he has had only nine sacks in the two seasons since. Wiley will be an upgrade over Ebenezer Ekuban, the 20th pick in 1999, who had only 13.5 sacks in his five seasons in Dallas. If Wiley doesn't get double-digit sacks, Ellis or Glover might do it. Ellis has led the Cowboys in sacks the last two years. And Glover, a four time Pro Bowler, has 11.5 sacks the past two seasons, giving him 61.5 since the start of the 1997 season. Blade started off well last year before slumping back to mediocrity. His starting job and roster spot could be in jeopardy. Carson, Brooks and Smith and Stewart are all potential starters alongside Glover. All also give the Cowboys solid depth at the position.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- LB Dexter Coakley, MLB Dat Nguyen, SLB Al Singleton. Backups -- Jamal Brooks, Bradie James, Keith O'Neil, Markus Steele, Scott Shanle, Kalen Thornton.
Parcells grew to love Nguyen (5-11, 243) and Coakley (5-10, 236) last season. Nguyen (140 tackles) and Coakley (110) were the leading tacklers on the league's No. 1 defense -- big reasons the Cowboys allowed only 253.5 yards per game. However, he still prefers bigger linebackers, which is why James is being given an equal shot at replacing the three-time Pro Bowler Coakley at weak-side linebacker. Either way, look for those two to split time at the position. They are set on the other side with Singleton, who, at 6-2, 228, better fits Parcells' mold. Singleton had 57 tackles, a sack, two interceptions and seven quarterback pressures in his first season in Dallas.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- CB Terence Newman, CB Pete Hunter, FS Roy Williams, SS Darren Woodson. Backups -- CB Donald Mitchell, CB Andrew Davison, S Tony Dixon, S Keith Davis, S Lynn Scott, S Tom Crowder, CB Jameel Powell, CB Bruce Thornton, CB Jacques Reeves, CB Nathan Jones.
Roy Williams, the eighth pick in 2002, was a defensive player of the year candidate and a Pro Bowler after finishing fourth on the team with 86 tackles last season. Although Woodson has been replaced as the defensive leader by Williams, the veteran remains productive. He finished third on the team with 99 tackles and was the leader in passes defensed with 15. Terence Newman, the fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft, certainly lived up to his rookie hype. He had a team-leading four interceptions, including three against the Redskins on Dec. 14. He will have to be even better this season as the Cowboys will play without Mario Edwards (Tampa Bay) on the other side. Hunter, Thornton and Powell are vying for the starting job. All are inexperienced and will need safety help to survive, meaning that Newman will have to handle things by himself on the left side.
SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Billy Cundiff, P Mat McBriar, P Ryan Flinn, LS Jeff Robinson, KR Zuriel Smith, KR Patrick Crayton.
Cundiff and Robinson are the only sure things right now on special teams. Cundiff was 23 of 29 in 2003 with three field goals of at least 50 yards last season. Cundiff tied the NFL record with seven field goals, including a 52-yarder on the final play of regulation in a 35-32 overtime victory over the Giants. Robinson is simply the league's best deep snapper. Disappointing punter Toby Gowin was cut in the offseason, leaving unknowns Mat McBriar and Ryan Flynn competing for the job in training camp. McBriar is the early favorite. The Cowboys will head into training camp also looking to replace Zuriel Smith on returns. Crayton showed a lot of promise in minicamp.
Unit-by-Unit Training Camp Analysis
CowboysHQ Top Stories
Cowboys Tank Talks 1-On-1: 'I Am A Beast'Cowboys end Tank Lawrence is talking to me about the beauty of Boise, where his three children reside, before he shifts to his promise to be 'a beast' on the field. 'Beauty and The…
Romo Works In Cowboys Practice; Trade TalkCowboys STARCast: The Truth About Tony - As He Is On The Practice Field For The First Time - And The Truth About Trades ... And Ezekiel Elliott as the NFL's MVP?
CowboysHQYesterday at 9:53 AM
Cowboys Dak: A Bow-Tied Creature Of HabitI've talked to Dak Prescott enough now to know: He's a bow-tied creature of habit, with one best-habit-of-all ... Winning football games for the Cowboys. Now, is he prepared to do…
CowboysHQMonday at 3:15 PM
Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott To Get More 'Scary'?'I have yet to show the dominance at the second level,' Ezekiel Elliott says. 'Once that starts happening, it's going to be kind of scary.' As the 5- Cowboys exit the bye ... yes,…
CowboysHQMonday at 5:09 AM