Several Questions Still Out There

Training camp is supposed to be about filling holes, answer questions and player development. The Cowboys did some of that. However, they ended their three week stay in Oxnard with a host of questions that concern coach Bill Parcells.

As far as positions are concerned, what he's going to do at quarterback with and behind starter Vinny Testaverde, 40, tops the list.

Can Testaverde, who was largely a backup the past two seasons with Jets, handle the job for 16 games? And do the Cowboys need an experienced backup or will Parcells trust either rookie Drew Henson or second-year man Tony Romo to handle the job?

Saturday's preseason match up against the Raiders went a long way towards answering some of those questions.

Testaverde wasn't perfect but he was much better than he was the first week against the Texans.

The 16-year veteran completed 13 of 17 passes for 124 yards while leading the Cowboys on three field goal drives.

He was a blazing nine for 10, including nine straight completions for a spike to stop clock during a field goal drive right before the half.

Clearly that the Cowboys had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns is evidence that more work needs to be done.

Parcells said Testaverde needs to continue work to get the rust off but allowed that progress was made against the Raiders.

The same can be said about the backup quarterback position as both Henson and Romo did some good things in the game.

Henson completed seven of nine passes for 53 yards while leading the Cowboys to their first touchdown of the preseason.

For Romo it was the case of what a difference a week makes. He threw two interceptions in loss to the Texans last week. He left the Raiders game a hero after leading the Cowboys to a come back victory. Down 20-15 late in fourth, Romo directed a 17-play 59 yard drive, capped by his one-yard sneak with seven seconds left to clinch a 21-20 victory.

Add in the fact that the Cowboys dominated time of possession in the game -- 35:48 to 24:12 -- and were a whopping 10 for 19 on third downs and three for three on fourth days, there is no question that all the quarterbacks did a good job in the game. The question still remain, however, whether Parcells will trust possible playoffs hopes on two inexperienced quarterbacks in case something happens to Testaverde, who turns 40 in November.

Parcells' other big concerns at the close of camp was at free safety, where Tony Dixon is playing in place of the injured Darren Woodson, and at defensive tackle, where a dependable rotation has yet to emerge. He knows what he has in La'Roi Glover but the play has been subpar by the other defensive tackles in the first two games. Both Houston and Oakland gashed the middle of the Cowboys defense with their running games.

Parcells also remains troubled about the numbers of players he is going to keep at linebacker, running back, receiver, tight end and along the defensive line. How it relates to special teams and the roles he expects the players to play.

"I'm having some consternation of the squad makeup here," Parcells said. "I'm already pretty far down the road mentally, but this last 20 percent is bothering me. I've got a lot of things I could do and any one of them could be wrong. That's really what it amounts to. I could keep four or five different combinations of players and any one of those could be wrong and any one of them could turn out to be right. The question is picking the right one."

But while starting positions remain undecided at right tackle and right cornerback, Parcells doesn't look see them as positions of concern. He says they have viable candidates for the jobs -- Pete Hunter, Jameel Powell and Bruce Thornton at cornerback and Jacob Rogers and Torrin Tucker at right tackle. They are just waiting for someone to emerge.

"Those aren't problems for me," Parcells said. "We have decent candidates. Now it's who comes to the forefront. The more we play the more it will become clearer.

At least we got some competitive things in place. It's when you sit there and don't have any recourse, that's what bothers you. Having position battles going on with guys that look talented, you feel better about that."

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