Another year, another change at quarterback for Bill Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys. After the Vinny Testeverde experiment fails to result in another playoff birth, Parcells turns to another one of his former QB’s, former Patriots star Drew Bledsoe. 918kiss
Strengths: After missing much of the early part of the season due to injury woes, running back Julius Jones came on strong in the second half of the season to make Coach Parcells look like a genius for taking a flyer on him so high in the 2004 draft. With better play in front of him on the offensive line, Jones could put up 1,300 rushing yards this season. Dallas has brought in former Bear Anthony “A-Train” Thomas to provide depth, but Jones will get 20-25 carries a game n 2005.
The defense will improve in 2005, with the acquisition of some fine talent in the draft, namely defensive linemen Demarcus Ware and Marcus Spears, both 1st round draft choices. Ware will be shifted to outside linebacker. Former Jet Jason Ferguson steps into the nose tackle spot in Parcells and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s new 3-4 scheme. Ferguson has played under Parcells before in New York, and he has been brought in to stuff the run. DE Greg Ellis remains the best player on the D-Line.
The shaky secondary was also addressed in the off season, with the signings of cornerbacks Aaron Glenn and Anthony Henry, from the Jets and Browns respectively. Both are an immediate upgrade from last season. Henry will start at one corner, with Terence Newman getting the nod at the other corner spot. Glenn will provide much needed help in nickel situations. The star of the secondary, safety Roy Williams, moved from free safety over to the strong side to maximize his skills.
Weaknesses: RB Jones will be expected to be the workhorse of the offense, as Bledsoe and wide receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn are no longer in their prime, and all three will need to kick it up a notch “Emeril” style for this offense to be effective. It’s no secret Parcells loves veteran guys, but these guys best days are behind them. On the bright side for the offense, TE Jason Witten established himself as one of the est at his position in the league.
Questions on special teams: Kicker Billy Cundiff is accurate until you get him past 40 yards, so the team has brought in a couple guys to compete with him for place kicking duties. The return game is up for grabs since Rashard Lee is gone, and it looks like it’ll be at least a three-way competition between Lance Frazier, Terrence Cooper, and Jacques Reeves. Punter Mat McBriar was solid in 2004 though, and returns this season.
There will be some new faces at linebacker in the new 3-4 defense, with the departure of Dexter Coakley. Rookie DL Ware may be moving into the outside linebacker spot, where they’ll be much pressure on him to make plays immediately. Veteran Al Singleton will be counted on to step up at inside linebacker beside Dat Nguyen to help stop the run. Untested 3rd-yr man Bradie James will also see plenty of time this season. How well this unit performs will be a key to the success of this new defense.
Also….The shaky at times offensive line should improve with the acquisition of Pro Bowl guard Marco Rivera (FA Green Bay). Flozell Adams and Larry Allen return at the tackle positions, but there will be a battle for the other guard spot.
Overall: Parcells has always been a “win now” guy, and he expects this squad to make the playoffs this year. With vets Bledsoe, Johnson, and Glenn on offense, the future is now. The new 3-4 defense is the same one Parcells implemented with success with the Giants and Patriots, with fantastic results.
How well this team adjusts to the scheme, and if running back Jones can stay healthy will go a long way to deciding if this team goes to the post season. After last years disappointing 6-10 campaign, I have the utmost confidence “the Big Tuna” turns this team around and makes a playoff run. 9-7 may get them in.