2006 Dallas Cowboy Fever
A truly shocking thing happened to me the other day. One of my fellow Powerhouse writers said this was a slow time for sports news. Said something about waiting out the inevitable with the Rangers and some other such smack.
Seems he forgot the unforgettable. The Dallas Cowboys are in training camp. Not only that but, today, they play their first preseason game. A preseason that starts with a mountain of storylines as only befits America's Team. So enjoy this preseason preview:
Is the Hotel Open?- Flozell Adams is attempting to come back from last season's knee injury. Received the Larry Allen tretament early in camp being placed on a bike after being unable tocomplete the conditioning tests at the beginning of camp and getting head starts on wind sprints. Has been said to be coming on the last week and it's time for the fans to see if that's true. He's an average player overrated by coaches and fans alike because there's no one behind him. But will he be the three-star hotel we've come to know or will Drew Bledsoe fill like he's in Quentin Tarrantino's hostel?
The O-Gaps- This is what is usually known as the O-Line. If you recall, though, last year all they did was create gaps for the defense to run through. Can Marco Rivera return to form? Can Kyle Kosier be an effective guard when linemen challenged Detroit didn't re-sign him? Has Rob Pettiti's new body type really made him a better player? Can Andre Gurode and/or Al Johnson take the center play to a whole new level? The season hinges on these question.
The Directional Illinois Connection-Eastern Illinois' Tony Romo has had a strong camp and gets the start in tonight's preseason game. Northern Illinois' Sam Hurd has received numerous reps in T.O's absence and has reportedly been a stud in practice and in last week's scrimmage. Can they carry that over to the game?
Is Romo the Once and Future QB?- Rumor has it Parcells wants to start the kid at some point this season and not only if Drew Bledsoe gets hurt. Cowboys coaches think Bledsoe is a 9-7 to 10-6 QB at best, so they want to see if Romo can give them more. Jerry Jones is not a fan of the idea because he thinks this team has a chance to contend this season and those chances decrease with a "rookie" QB. (Romo's not a rookie but his career consists of a pair of kneel downs. Can you smell the controversy brewing?
Is Pat Watkins for Real?- Reports are this 6'5" safety can cover ground in a hurry. This former Seminole has been carrying a chip on his shoulder after being drafted in the fourth round and has been a beast in practice. Now let's check his game focus.
Is the Defensive Front Seven Fools Gold?- All we've heard is about the front seven and their practice dominance. DeMarcus Ware has new pass rush moves and is really coming on this year. Greg Ellis has adapted beautifully to outside linebacker. Kevin Burnett has returned from reconstructive knee surgery and has stuffed the run and covered well. Bobby Carpenter is having a great rookie camp. Bradie James and Akin Ayodele have been their veteran selves. Even Jay Ratliff and fourth round risk Jason Hatcher have caught the coaches' eyes. So why the concern? They practice against an offensive line that's full of question marks. What if that's the reason they have been so good?
Vanderjagt or Vanderjacked?!?- The big dollar kicker signed this offseason has struggled in practice. Said he's never been very good in practice and he is the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Let's wait this one out a bit and hope that ugly miss against Pittsburgh last season wasn't the onset of kicker yips.
The Running Game- You wonder if Julius Jones is healthy. If so, you wonder if he is really the 2004 Julius Jones or the 2005 Julius Jones. We liked a lot of what we saw from Marion Barber last year but you wonder if he is a complete back. Tyson Thompson is a flash, but can he dash between the takcles? Parcells says all three will work with the first team. That seems to suggest there is not a clear cut number one, and that's not often a positive.
The Hammy Chamber- If that oxygen chamber of T.O.'s heals him in time to get in sync with his QB's, it could be the story of the season. Enough T.O. overkill, though.