The Anderson Files

Peter King of Sports Illustrated suggested a few days before the June 1st cuts that Jamal Anderson of the Atlanta Falcons would be released. He then went on to say that the Dallas Cowboys were interested in picking him up.

The internet hummed after this rumor hit newsprint, with Cowboy fans everywhere chiming in on their opinion of this item. Few people see the wisdom in this move, if it really is a move at all. And some serious questions have arisen by the faithful of the Star as to why this might come about.

Here are perhaps some answers.

Anderson was drafted by the Falcons as a seventh round pick out of Utah in 1994. In his nine years as a Falcon he has logged 19 career 100-yard games. Two of which are in the all time Falcons top six. One of 188 yards and the other of 172, he amassed 5336 yards on the ground in his career.

Jamal was selected to the Pro-bowl in 1998 gaining 1846 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.

The man is still young enough to carry the ball and gain yardage in the NFL. That is a fact. However, he has had two major knee injuries that created the situation that ended his career in Atlanta.

But Anderson would not be brought into the fold in Dallas to be the focal point of their running game. Emmitt Smith holds those duties. The real function of retaining Jamal would be an insurance policy in the event something were to happen to the 33 year old Superstar.

There is a contingency in the fan base that feels Troy Hambrick should be given plenty of opportunity to show his wares this season. After the record is broken by Emmitt, some feel Troy should be given the ball so the team can see if they have the replacement after Smith chooses to retire.

But if the discussions about Anderson are not just newspaper fodder, then there is something that is causing the Cowboys to look elsewhere for a back up.

Hambrick's gaudy 5.1 yards per carry in 2001 was a surprise to all. Yet he has not shouldered the load for this team and consistency is the real question. Can he do it for 16 games a year and be the centerpiece for the teams running attack?

But more significantly for the 2002 season the possibility that the Cowboys might be close to a play-off berth could be the motivation for seeking a proven running back.

If the team was in the hunt late in the season, and for some reason Emmitt could not go, can Hambrick be trusted to carry the team? Can he force the defense to respect the running game and not load up against the pass because the Cowboys cannot move the ball on the ground?

Another concern is the rumor that Anderson would be coming in for goal line duties primarily. Emmitt still commands the respect he always has around the goal line. And this season, which will be a special one for number 22, will not be diminished by handing the ball to another back in the shadow of the goal posts. Emmitt will get his touches in the redzone.

The most significant reasons for entertaining the Anderson issue are these. He is a proven player that if managed correctly can contribute and be a safety net for a team that is significantly better than last season.

He would be sitting on the Dallas bench rather than in the backfield of a possible NFC East rival. The Eagles have expressed an interest after the season ending injury to Correll Buckhalter. Facing Jamal in practice is much more desirable than in a divisional game.

Anderson would be a good fit and a safeguard against the unforeseen. He could contribute in both the running and the passing game. To milk 350 yards on the ground and another 225 in the air would be a terrific boost to the franchise. And take some of the pressures off of both Emmitt and Quincy Carter. And Bruce Coslet covets the power running game and Jamal brings such a game as part of his arsenal.

But Anderson brings one more aspect to the fold that could be more of an intangible, but a very important issue. He sends a message to Troy Hambrick that if he expects to inherit the starting position with this club he has to be the best on the field.

One of the most under played aspects to the 2002 season is the depth the Cowboys have. There are battles at almost all positions to be the starter. Hambrick is biding his time waiting for a legend to retire. Pushing him with competition would either improve Mr. Hambrick or answer the burning question the team has about him.

Is he the man after Emmitt?

Injuries are a factor, and wasting cap money just to sign a body is foolish. But Jamal Anderson can still play in this league and will. He can bring veteran leadership to a back-up role, and be the understudy to the greatest running back of all time.

With depth at so many positions, this could be the smart money move in the last free agent market this season. The team has the financial resources to accommodate the ex-Falcon. And with the rule change that would allow the Cowboys to pay him as much as $750,000 and only count $450,000 against the cap, this is a win/win for the team. And nowhere in his resume has he shown that he is a slacker like Chris Warren proved to be a few years back.

Dallas may be interested or not. At this point the only real hint was the King article. And that and about $20 dollars will buy you a Dallas Cowboys ball cap.

But if the rumors are reality and the Cowboys are seriously looking at Anderson, this could be a solid move for a team on the move.

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