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Next Up: Drew Bledsoe

Demarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Kevin Burnett and Chris Canty, they can win on defense alone. 

That's not going to happen. This defense should be improved, and you had better hope it is over last year's 25-points-a-game crew. But by changing defenses and being forced to rely on so many rookie and first-time starters, this isn't going to be the Big, Bad Bears of 1985 shuffling to the Super Bowl. 

The Cowboys still need to score points - maybe average as many as 22 a game to do business on the winning side of the ledger. 

Another thing. Just because Julius Jones showed last year in seven starts he just might be the real deal, and that this Cowboys offense might finally throw down a serious running game, that doesn't mean the Cowboys can run their way to a winning record. That just won't happen, either, because you know what, it just doesn't go down like that in the NFL these days. 

Come on, name me a team to run its way to a Super Bowl title. And I'm talking today. Don't bring me back to Bronko Nagurski or something. 

Need I remind you that when Emmitt Smith rushed for 1,713 yards to win the NFL rushing title in 1992 and the Cowboys went on to win Super Bowl XXVII that season, Smith became the first NFL rushing leader to win a Super Bowl in the same season. 

But even at that, Aikman threw for 3,445 yards and 23 touchdowns, and Michael Irvin logged 1,396 yards receiving that 13-3 season. Aikman's QB rating, by the way? Try 89.5. 

So I'm telling you, do not think the Cowboys can play some game of cozy football by taking the air out of the ball with Ground Julius and the stuffing out with Doomsday III to win games. That's just not going to happen. 

Bledsoe must be a player in all this. 

He must complete like 60 percent of his passes. He must throw for at least close to 3,000 yards, if not more. He must drop like 20 touchdown passes on the league. And he had better not end up with a 20 spot when it comes to interceptions. 

And . . . and . . . is it asking too much for the Cowboys' leading quarterback to be sacked fewer than the at least 34 they have suffered in each of the past three seasons?  

Nope, not if they want to win. 

This is the deal. Sorry, there is no getting around quarterback play. The Cowboys might have briefly in 2003, but then they had the league's No. 1 defense. Yet, what did that get them in the playoffs? One-and-out? Just score, baby. 

Talk all you want about defense and running game and lines and corners. Worry all you want about free safeties and right tackles and outside linebackers and wide receivers. 

But for my money, I'd be circling quarterback. That's means Bledsoe, projected to be the eighth swing the Cowboys have taken at finding a starter in this year of 5 A.T. 

And he had better be a line drive up the alley.   


!   Just as expected, the Cowboys continue to systematically agree to terms with their draft choices, finalizing deals with fourth-round picks Marion Barber and Chris Canty as they were preparing to leave on their Thursday afternoon charter flight to Oxnard, Calif. They remain optimistic about getting deals done with their top three picks, including their first pick, Demarcus Ware, who was expected to fly here with his agent Pat Dye, Jr. 
!   Evidently, Lance Schulters just might have over-valued himself when he turned down the Titans' offer to take a pay cut. So might a whole bunch of people who thought the Cowboys were crazy not to sign the veteran safety. Why he only signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins, and was expected to get only the minimum plus incentives. That tells you what the rest of the league must have thought of the veteran coming off football surgery. 
!   Man, if it is accurate that all the Redskins could get for Rod Gardner was a conditional

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