A Feast on the East: The Dallas Cowboys

After years of salary cap hell, loss of number one draft picks, injuries, and poor drafting, the Dallas Cowboys have lifted the heavy yoke of the NFL from their necks. Jones has removed the salary cap burden along with lack of top draft choices and from where I stand he looks much smarter than six months ago.

It started with a free agent window of opportunity that produced three top-flight players. Albeit there are clouds on their horizons, but if they play to expectations, the team is well on its way to regaining respect in the league.

Jack Reilly has been promoted to the head of building maintenance and has been informed his presence in the command center on Sunday's is no longer needed. ‘Push that broom Jack and stay out of the way,' I believe it was stated.

His replacement is Bruce Coslet. A former tight end and offensive coordinator and then head coach, Coslet is a no nonsense type leader that uses his voice as a reminder the offense will be run his way. There is no player safe from his eye or comment, as Quincy Carter will attest.

Coslet brings in a new offense that has been labeled as the West Coast Offense. He denies it is such and claims he has bastardized it to the point it's just like every other offense in the NFL to a degree. He claims it hails back to the real originator of the WCO, which was Paul Brown. With a touch of Don Coryell and a little Tommy Prothro for good measure.

He likes the power running game and does include both deep balls and timing patterns for those that are confused at this stage of the game.

Added to the offense is Jeff Robinson of the Rams as a tight end and deep snapper. He also specializes in FB and some H-back. A jack-of-all-trades, Robinson should solve the mystery that was special teams deep snaps from last season.

Along with Robinson is Tony McGee. A tight end from Cincinnati that has worked in Coslet's offense, he is a veteran of 10 years that can catch as well as block. He won't fool anyone in believing he is Tony Gonzales but he is a player that is short on mistakes and long on discipline.

On the defensive side of the ball several positive changes have occurred. The premiere defensive tackle on the free agent market was added in La'Roi Glover from the New Orleans Saints. Glover had a down year last season and still recorded 8 sacks and 45 tackles, securing a berth in the Pro Bowl. He will create room for Ellis and Ekuban by commanding double teams and letting the ends run to the quarterback.

Kevin Hardy was also signed away from Jacksonville as a strong side linebacker. In 5 NFL seasons Hardy has recorded 28.5 sacks from his linebacker spot. He will bring something the Cowboys haven't had from a linebacker and that is an outside pass rusher. Hardy will also play some at defensive end when the mood strikes Mike Zimmer, the defensive coordinator. He must overcome his knee injury but he has stated recently that he is at 90% recovery and expects to make it back by training camp.

At cornerback is the University of Texas product Bryant Westbrook. He is a solid player with Pro Bowl potential that fell to an Achilles injury two seasons ago. He is making his comeback with the Cowboys and all the coaches and players say his speed and cutting ability have returned. He brings to the team a player that can man-up and leave the safeties to become more involved in both the passing game and run defense. He plays both off the receiver and the bump and run and is excellent in run support.

Jerry Jones has been noted as being ill prepared when it came to the draft. Choosing talent from the collegiate pool seems to have been something Jerry wasn't accomplished at, as past drafts have resulted in the Kavika Pittman's and Shante Carver's of the NFL world.

This season with a #1 choice for the first time in two years after giving them away to Seattle for Joey Galloway, Jerry had ammo and the right spot to make things happen on draft day.

His first choice was Oklahoma's Roy Williams. A hard hitter whose game is equated to Ronnie Lott, has shown on the practice field he is the real deal. Zimmer has taken him off of tight ends in pass coverage and put him on receivers since the tight ends couldn't get open.

Roy will play free safety next to Darren Woodson and there may not be a better pair of safeties in the league. Fans are looking forward to Roy exterminating any receiver that dares to cross the middle of the field because in his words "I like contact."

The second choice of the Cowboys was Andre Gurode. A guard center from Colorado, he is know for "pancaking" opponents. Knocking them to the ground. In a game against Nebraska the replay showed he took his man out of the back of the end zone and pancaked him near the band.

He is mean and strong and will play center most likely. The notion of Larry Allen and Andre Gurode together will help the quarterback sleep better at night. And Emmitt Smith should enjoy the gaping holes he saw in the early nineties as this pair plow open defenses.

Antonio Bryant from Pittsburgh was taken late in round two and he is proving to be as fluid a receiver as Dallas has seen since the likes of Michael Irvin.

A great route runner and with terrific hands he has the ability to make the highlight catch and break them for major gains.

The fact that he was taken so late has lit a fire in him to show the league they made a major mistake. Dallas will benefit from his desire.

Derek Ross from Ohio State was selected next and the cornerback has the tools to be a starter before the season ends. A player of size that breaks on the ball well, he will be a terrific addition to the nickel and will push Edwards this year.

Another "Buckeye" player was selected next. Jamar Martin is the replacement for Daryl Johnston. Larry Lacewell went to see a linebacker this past season and the team he was playing was Ohio State. Martin obliterated the linebacker all day long. Lacewell made a note and Martin is a Cowboy.

A free agent pick up that is seen as a rookie is Chad Hutchinson. He played for Stanford as a college quarterback and can throw all the passes. After a stint as a pitcher in the St. Louis farm clubs, he is coming back to football. Jones outbid every other team and added a player that has a great deal of potential. It's said his passes look like Aikman's. But four years of rust will have to be knocked off before he can justifiably challenge Quincy Cater for a starting position.

Dallas along with Washington have made the most strides forward this off-season. Dallas will only go as far as Quincy Carter can take them. The team will be working together to aid Emmitt Smith as he is set to take the crown jewel of pro football records when he eclipses Walter Payton's rushing mark of 16,726 yards. That's just 540 yards to go.

At this juncture I can't see the team winning more than 9 games. But a 9-7 record after two years of 5-11 would be a terrific platform to build on for 2003.

Dallas is rapidly returning to the days it was the measuring stick of the East. Washington is on the rise as well but ownership at this point hinders more than helps that franchise.

The Eagles will again be the division winners unless injury takes their best player. But with the track record of Andy Reid's stewardship as the GM, it won't be long before they fall back to earth with or without McNabb.

The Giants are a team with aging stars or malcontents and an ownership that is so old school they cannot move out of the 1960's.

As Dallas ascends to its rightful place atop the NFC East once again, it reminds me of John Steinbeck's novel, "Cannery Row." A time when all was right with the world.

‘And once again the world is spinning on greased grooves.'

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