ill-effects from kicking those rock-hard K-balls they use in the NFL, but matches him in camp field goal for field goal. Or, if the Cowboys decide they just want Folk to beat out the veteran Gramatica. You know, that stuff happens in the NFL.
The biggest worry at the end of training camp, and remember, camp will continue once the Cowboys return back to The Ranch for another 1½ weeks, will be just who is going to be the backup nose tackle behind Jason Ferguson. They would like to give youngsters Montavious Stanley, Remi Ayodele and Ola Dagunduro a legitimate shot at winning their confidence. Maybe one will, but what are the odds? I mean we're looking at a sixth-round pick who basically washed out as a rookie in two places last year and two guys who entered the league as rookie free agents.
Here's another limb-tester: There will be a Terrell Owens incident. Who knows what, but there will be something to take attention away from the rest of the team during training camp. Having said that, as attention-seeking as Owens is, the veteran receiver will be much happier this year, and here are a couple of reasons why. Two of his local confidantes, Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin, are onboard with Phillips replacing Parcells. And both of these former Cowboys players will be out-front supporters of Jason Garrett, the man in charge of this offense. They will be in Owens' ear, convincing him Garrett will have his best interest in hand and that Red Ball is a man he can trust. Garrett earned that respect from both Pro Bowl players while working behind Troy Aikman during their time with the Cowboys. They know his act and have openly applauded the hire, and if Owens cares to listen, he will, too.
This Cowboys offense under Garrett won't be as AFL or XFL or whatever alternative-FL you can name as so many people seem to anticipate. Sure the Cowboys might throw deep a few more times, but this isn't going to be the Run And Shoot, you know. Garrett learned his offense from Norv Turner and Ernie Zampese, and then a little more from Chan Gailey, and then Sean Payton and Jon Gruden, too. We aren't exactly talking about a bunch of offensive-hippies or anything. And Troy Aikman? Hey, the guy took his shots, but it's not as if he was throwing for 300 yards a game. Garrett learned the best offense is one of precision, not one that let's its shoulder-length hair down series after series. The best thing Phillips and Garrett can do is not put winning and losing every week solely in the hands of Tony Romo.
This will not be a flawless, 16-game season for Romo. There will be a few bumps in the road for the fourth new quarterback to start a Cowboys season in the seven years since Aikman was cast aside following 2000. And while Garrett doesn't want to stifle Romo's creativity, he won't allow him to drift too far away from precision quarterbacking. Guarantee you, the choker leash will be yanked hard if Romo puts on a couple of those hully-gully performances back to back. Those aren't in Garrett's makeup, nor that of quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson's.
Here are two candidates for this year's most improved player: Defensive end Marcus Spears and safety Patrick Watkins. The wraps will come off Spears at defensive end, where he will be able to use his quickness and instincts in this style of the 3-4 more often than last year when he was constantly asked to play macho football. And if legitimately allowed, watch for Watkins in his second year to push Hamlin for playing time. The kid has range. He has the smarts. Let's see if he's gained the necessary confidence to become a leader back there. The secondary yearns for a take-charge guy.
OK, that should be enough to get us going and whet your football appetites with another year about to commence. And I know without a doubt you guys will keep careful score on all this, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Here's to hoping to at least break even with all this.