If polled today, it's an assumptive, and probably safe, bet the Cowboy Nation believes Jason Fabini will man right tackle, Kyle Kosier is a lock at left guard, rookie, and first round draft choice, Bobby Carpenter immediately starts opposite DeMarcus Ware, Jason Ferguson garners nose tackle responsibilities and Marcus Coleman inherits the free safety spot. While completely logical, it would be highly presumptuous to assume any are guaranteed starters when the start of the season rolls around.
One of Bill Parcells' greatest traits is his stance on incumbency. In Parcells' world, it doesn't exist. Nothing is sacred, and everything has to be earned. The way it should be. When the opening bell sounds in Oxnard, the competition begins. Contrary to popular belief, starting positions are neither solidified or cast aside during mini camps. The stage is certainly set, and coach's notes are compiled, but the complete roster remains fluid throughout training camp and into the preseason games. Like the rookie helmet, a player's moniker must be earned through hard work, dedication and the "must have" ability to play with and through pain. Any shortcomings in any of these areas, and a player can find himself with a Quincy Carter bus pass out of town.
From all facets; fans, brass, coaches and players, the season can't arrive quickly enough. Prior to the ball being placed on the tee in Jacksonville, there will be a ton of drama and many sagas unfolding in the world of the famed blue star. This team, in a few short months following the "mailed in" Rams season finale, has gotten another injection of youth and exuberance. Did anyone catch the post-Draft excitement of Montavious Stanley, the Louisville defensive tackle? No one is quite sure what caliber of player he'll prove to be, but bring on that kind of excitement every day of the week.
This team has gotten younger and continues to push Father Time further into the future. The fear throughout the fan base is too much leadership has been lost during the off-season. Hog wash. The real issue of concern isn't so much leadership as it is the ability to police and enforce. Had Terrell Owens not arrived, the leadership issue would never have surfaced. The simple truth remains, if #81 decides to revert back to old ways, Dan Campbell's presence wasn't going curtail the wide receiver's antics. There's only one sheriff in town when it comes to a potential "lock down" on Owens. Rest assured if the only authority is threatened or disturbed in any capacity, the perpetrator will be dealt with expeditiously. There are leaders on this team, and it wouldn't even signify Armageddon if Terrell Eldorado Owens darned a supervisory cap of his own.
Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
With the thrills a mere two months away, it's time to pull out the personnel crystal ball for a little stargazing.
Call it gut instinct, but the opening day starting right tackle is Rob "I will not let you fail" Petitti. Does anyone remember the Parcells' proclamation of last year when he anointed the big man his personal pet project? It was no joke then, and it certainly stands true today. The masses were quick to magnify all the mistakes, and while there were many, consider the task at hand and the odds facing the young man from the onset. Rarely do guys with his Draft position even make a team. Valley Ranch reports have this guy completing a makeover and morphing into a physical force. Jason Fabini is veteran insurance as Parcells' personal project earns his wings and flexes his sophomore knowledge.
Kyle Kosier. Big bucks for a role player with offensive line flexibility, but a replacement for Larry Allen? Truth be told, there is no replacing an eventual Ring of Honor and Hall of Fame inductee. Even Steve Hutchinson would have come up woefully short of L.A. Many have written Kosier's name in pen let alone penciling him in the starting line-up. Best grab your white out. This will be the surprise position of the off-season. There will be no less than six or seven guys competing for the opportunity to park next to The Hotel. See, unlike left tackle, the sign at left guard reads "vacancy."
Jumping to the other side of the ball, Greg Ellis still wants out, and Jerry continues to pen him back in with promises of a new and handcrafted role within the defensive scheme. Whatever. It's becoming a broken record, and the "I'm not a fit" routine is starting to grow mold. Ellis is far too good of a person to allow himself to start acting like his Draft supplant, and forever link, Randy Moss. Hey Greg, this team is very close to doing something special, and upon last check, you own no Super Bowl jewelry. Just sit back, strap it on and enjoy the ride.
Yes, he sure has all the pedigree and pomp and circumstance necessary, but the newly drafted Buckeye doesn't see a starting role until mid-season at the earliest. Football is such a funny and unpredictable game. Sometimes the young buck surprises all, and sometimes the crafty and cagey old veteran shows the world he's not quite ready to go down without a fight. The Cowboys will do right by Carpenter and ease him through transition. There is no need to force-feed him DeMarcus Ware-like learning curves. None of this is to say he couldn't handle the responsibilities from day one, but smart money and sound decisions have Al Singleton locked and loaded to get the season started. On a side note, adding a little spice to the mix could be a healthy (big if) Kevin Burnett. Just watch.
Not quite sure if it will be Montavious Stanley, Jay Ratliff or a little sprinkle of Thomas "Pepper" Johnson, but someone is going to usher Jason Ferguson to the back-up, rotational role. Like offensive line mate Marco Rivera, this was an expensive proposition with marginal first-year return on investment. Ferguson is not all he's made out to be, and descriptors like overrated and lazy are not far from dead-on, accurate. He's not exactly Marcellus Wiley, but the hype sure doesn't fit the player, and it hasn't for years. Similar to Richie Anderson, this former Jet just doesn't have "championship caliber" play in him. Bring on the kids.
Lastly, there's one guy who just won't die or go away. He has more lives than a multi-faceted cat, but he should never be counted out or bet against. Right now the general populace backing the Boys has the batting order submitted as Marcus Coleman, Pat Watkins, Willie Pile and then "Killer." Just the way "Killer" wants it too. Doubt him. Tell him he can't do it. Stick to special teams. Take your millions and just run down would-be return men. Safe money. Take it and leave center field to "real" secondary players. He's your 45-1 Preakness long shot. Excuse me sir, put a $1000 on the #29 horse, please. To win. Re-read the Rob Petitti scenario above. Like the over-matched right tackle, Keith Davis, for all intents and purposes, was also a rookie. Now that rookie has another year of "eye opening" experience under his belt. Do not bet against this guy. Sean Payton wanted him, and Parcells made darn sure the offer was matched. The special teams contributions are unquestioned, but money says the kid comes with an expanded job description. Parcells knows Davis is light years beyond the unfortunate strip club parking lot incident. Big Bill lives for these types of underdogs.
There you have it. Preseason prognostication at its foggiest. Sure the crystal ball is mostly cloudy as it awakens from its post-Draft slumber, but the flakes and flecks floating around are of the intrigue and anticipatory nature. This team has to be hungry to finally break through as a feared contender and one of the favorites to make a strong push for Miami. The spirit of competition and the will to be a starter when this transformation occurs will provide the necessary sparks to have the 2006 Dallas Cowboys in a tightly contested horse race down the stretch.
Commence with the battles and let the competition begin!!
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