Keyshawn & Vinny: Like Clockwork

Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson was a huge supporter of recently released quarterback Quincy Carter. He says his absence will be an initial setback for the team. Yet, Johnson also can't deny his fondness for Testaverde as a quarterback, dating to their days together with the New York Jets in 1998-99.

It was Testaverde who helped the "throw-me-the-damn ball" receiver reach his greatest heights in the NFL.

Now Johnson says he ready to pick up with Testaverde where they left off in New York -- that is if they haven't already.

"Vinny and I are working like clockwork," Johnson said with a smile. "And it's only going to get better."

The good feelings are mutual. Testaverde gives the 6-foot-4, 212-pound Johnson most of the credit, saying it's easy throwing to a receiver with his size and ballhawking skills.

"I think any time you have a guy that is willing to go after any ball you throw, whether it's high, low or over the middle, making the tough catches, always wanting the ball ... it's easy to throw to a guy like that," Testaverde said. "(In 1998) I just threw it where he could catch it. He made some great plays."

Coach Bill Parcells said only 20 percent of the offense changes based on the quarterback. They will just emphasize some things Testaverde does best (drop back passing) and deemphasize things that Carter did (rollouts and bootlegs). Actually, the offensive might be expanded more.

As good as Carter was in 2003, and he deserves plenty of credit for a 10-6 season and a playoff berth, he was running a dumbed-down version of the offense.

The Cowboys were almost singularly a play-action passing team in 2003, a necessity because it solidified shaky protection and required that Carter only read half of the field. And it worked, especially early in the season. The problems came when the Cowboys fell behind in games and later in the season when opponents had plenty of film on Dallas.

Testaverde knows the offense because it's the same one he ran when he was with the Jets with Parcells and offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, who said the Cowboys will still play field and emphasize the ground game.

"We still have the same plays we had for Quincy," offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon said. "We run those same plays. Vinny is good at rolling out and throwing the ball. He did that when we were in New York. We got those same things here. Quite naturally, Quincy did those things well. I don't see those things changing. Vinny is at his best with a good running game."

Conventional wisdom says Testaverde is going to good for the offensive line as well as the receivers.

Although he is not a scrambler, he has a quick release, which means he gets the ball off faster and doesn't take as many sacks. He's also strong as an ox.

"We've got to block for him," Parcells said. "Quincy could improvise a little more than Vinny can. That's certainly the case. I think these young kids will be able to improvise a little more than Vinny. The thing you're going to notice about Vinny, if you watch him for any time, Vinny is pretty hard to sack, because even when you try to tackle him, he's so strong sometimes you can't get him down."

Testaverde's knowledge of the game as a 17-year NFL veteran means he knows how to anticipate routes and when a covered receiver will break into the clear.

"If these receivers here will let Vinny take them in, he will be their best ally," Parcells said. "That is the way he is. He is very giving. He works with them. He finds out what they like.

"He finds out what they can do well. He likes to feed it to them."

Parcells already likes what he is seeing. Before he could tell Antonio Bryant to make a connection with Testaverde, the third-year receiver proved to be one step ahead.

"I know Vinny is already on Antonio," Parcells said. "And I told Antonio, 'You need to get to know this guy.' He already is. He has given me five things that he knows about him. He does this. He does that. This is the way his ball is. He is already learning about the guy."

Bryant's first lesson was likely one of protection -- unless, that is, he likes perfect spirals stuck in his face mask.

"I think you've got to get your hands up almost before you leave the line of scrimmage, because the ball gets there so fast," Bryant said. "He has a nice delivery, but he's also got a nice soft ball, too. It's not a vicious throw."

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