Countdown to Training Camp: Wide Receiver

In this second of a summer-long series previewing the 2002 Dallas Cowboys, we take a detailed look at the wide receivers. Rookie Antonio Bryant has looked fantastic through the course of several QB schools, and Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail will look to take their games to the next level this fall.

In a year in which the quarterback situation was anything but stable, Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail were never really able to get on track last season. Galloway was only able to grab 52 passes for just under 700 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Ismail brought in a respectable 53 passes for 834 yards and 2 scores.

This year, under a new offense directed by Bruce Coslet, much more is expected out of this unit, pending the play of the quarterback of course.

"If you have a quarterback who doesn't play well, you're going to struggle because you're going to be inconsistent," Coslet said. "You're going to be punting the ball a lot."

"Quincy Carter has the talent," Coslet said. "He's mentally very, very sharp. I've seen him, even as a rookie, make tremendous plays. We're installing a new offense, new terminology, new everything. How fast he comes along depends on, No. 1, him and, No. 2, the people around him. My job is figuring out quickly what all these guys can do well."

Enter Joey Galloway, Raghib Ismail, and rookie Antonio Bryant, your three starting wide receivers for 2002.

Galloway is clearly the most talented receiver of the bunch, but he has yet to live up to expecations since signing his $42M contract two years ago. In fact, about midway through the season last year, head coach Dave Campo sat down the former all-pro to tell him that he needed to start doing the "little things" to start helping out this team in other ways.

"Little things" as in downfield blocking, disguising his routes better, and using his speed as a decoy to free up other receivers. From that point on, Galloway was a different player. "That happened to be my role a lot last year," said Galloway. "It goes with the territory. If that continues, Rocket will getting the big plays and that will be fine with me."

"I know people think we're paying Joey a lot of money to block," Campo said. "But Joey Galloway is doing everything that I've asked him to do." Campo.

With Coslet on board, look for a lot of that to change this season. "We'll be a progression passing team, which means that we call a play and there's a primary receiver. The quarterback goes through his progressions, 1-2-3, and he doesn't really care what the coverage is."

Look for a good bit of those progressions to start with Galloway, which in turn, should help elevate his numbers and make the offense more productive. Galloway's speed can naturally stretch a defense, but he'll also be utilized on deep crossing patterns as well as the quick hitch routes that get him the ball quickly in the open field.

"I'm still excited to be here. I like Dallas and I want to help get us some wins," said Galloway.

Rocket Ismail, who had a fine season last year by his standards, looks ready to continue to build on that success under the direction of Bruce Coslet. "I'm excited about what's been on so far this offseason, we are only going to get better from here on out," said Ismail.

Ismail developed into one of the favorite targets of Quincy Carter last season, in part because the two had started to develop a solid relationship during training camp last year, "I want everyone on the team to embrace him," Ismail said. "All the guys around him should have his back."

The third starting receiver will be rookie Antonio Bryant. "I've known about Antonio Bryant and actually, everyone has. This guy can play," said Bruce Coslet. "For whatever reasons, he fell in the draft, and we got him."

Bryant was a first team all-conference performer the past two seasons and winner of the Biletinkoff Award, an honor recogonizing the nation's top receiver as a sophomore. Fortunately, he also has been a part of the west coast offense for the last three years.

Pittsburgh head coach Walt Harris learned the West Coast offense from Bruce Coslet when the two were assistants with the New York Jets. Bryant doesn't really care what the circumstances are surrounding his past, he just wants to compete. "I just want to play. The cream rises to the top and eventually I will rise," said Bryant.

The former Panther has already been turning heads in mini-camp, and that is undoubtedly one the reasons why the Cowboys already cut Darrin Chiaverini. "Right now we have him practicing as the #3 guy behind Galloway and Ismail," said Campo. "He's been catching everything in sight out there."

While Bryant may not be as fast as Ismail or Galloway, he complements their speed with his fearless ability to get across the middle of the field. He'll likely become the bigtime possession receiver the Cowboys have longed for over the course of the last couple of seasons.

Backing up Galloway, Ismail, and Bryant will be Ken-Yon Rambo, Reggie Swinton, and Randal Williams.

Rambo has made the most noise so far through the course of three mini-camps. Several times he burned Roy Williams and Darren Woodson deep, and he also has seemingly caught everything thrown his direction. Randal Williams has also peformed at a higher level than a year ago.

Williams has worked extensively this offseason with strength and conditioning coach Joe Juraszek, and as a result, he has added 15 pounds of muscle yet retained his speed and quickness. He'll likely get a good look during training camp for more playing time.

Reggie Swinton hasn't really done anything to standout so far this offseason, but his job with the Cowboys is likely safe as a punt and kick-off return man. The former Arena League Star has finally found his niche in the NFL, and he'll likely be a mainstay as a backup receiver and special teams standout for the forseeable future.

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