How will Phillips and new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart teach their version of the 3-4 to players who were getting mixed messages from the old regime? How does new receivers coach Ray Sherman get along with Terrell Owens? Can new quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson move along the development of quarterback Tony Romo?
The Cowboys have the only new staff in the NFC East, so it will have to quickly get up to speed. They are the only NFC team to change coaching staffs after making the playoffs, which means the learning curve must be short. Phillips will be expected to pick up right where Parcells left off, with that darned snap slipping through the fingers of Romo in Seattle.
Three major offseason moves are expected to pay immediate dividends, but only one on offense. Signing huge offensive lineman Leonard Davis from Arizona should stabilize the front. Davis will replaced departed Marco Rivera at right guard unless left tackle Flozell Adams' right knee gives him trouble. Then some unwanted shuffling might occur. Davis has played left tackle but is more suited to guard. Left guard Kyle Kosier will be challenged by Pat McQuistan, Cory Procter and Joe Berger, while rookies James Marten and Doug Free watch and learn.
A whole bunch of receivers will compete with Sam Hurd and Miles Austin to make the team behind Owens, Terry Glenn and Patrick Crayton. Ex-Canadian Leaguer Jerrell Richardson might have an edge. With backup tight end Anthony Fasano nursing a sore shoulder, newly-arrived Adam Bergen from Arizona will get a shot behind Jason Witten.
Romo cannot expect any more tutoring from veteran Brad Johnson than he got from departed Drew Bledsoe. Johnson wants to play, not coach. There will be plenty of competition at fullback and running back. Three fullbacks — Oliver Hoyte, Lousaka Polite and rookie Deon Anderson — are vying to start. At running back, Julius Jones is in his contract year and trying to stay ahead of Marion Barber, with Tyson Thompson coming off injured reserve.
The other two moves were on defense, with Phillips drafting pass rusher Anthony Spencer to complement DeMarcus in his 3-4 attack. In San Diego, Phillips used Shaun Phillips to complement Shawne Merriman with excellent results.
The other move is the signing of former Seattle safety Ken Hamlin to patrol the deep middle and give beleaguered strong safety Roy Williams a break. The plan is to play Williams closer to the line of scrimmage, where he can hit and not be exposed in coverage. In looking for an upgrade to free safeties Patrick Watkins and Keith Davis, the Cowboys considered moving cornerback Anthony Henry inside but can leave him at corner with Hamlin. The other corner, Terence Newman, is outstanding, but cannot cover the whole field.
How Spencer meshes with Greg Ellis will be a challenge. Ellis is unhappy with his contract situation and coming off injured reserve, but is an effective pass rusher when healthy and the Cowboys have a shortage of pass rushers to help Ware.
Romo. After a surprisingly effective debut in his third year, Romo still must prove the scouts wrong by playing better than his grades coming out of little Eastern Illinois. An undrafted free agent, Romo beat out former overall No. 1 draft choice Bledsoe and sparked the Cowboys to the playoffs. But will defenses catch up? Was he playing over his head? Will he backslide? Will he be limited? Will the job and raised expectations get too big? Will Terrell Owens get on his case?
Former No. 1 draft pick Bobby Carpenter will get a chance to compete at inside linebacker, where Bradie James and Akin Ayodele started every game last year. Carpenter has bounced among the linebacking positions and would benefit by playing one place. The future appears to be inside. The Cowboys' middle-of-the-pack special teams should get a boost in returns from fourth-round converted quarterback Isaiah Stanback and are counting on sixth-round kicker Nick Folk to unseat Martin Gramatica.
Everybody has a shot in the NFC East. Phillips' biggest challenge is to hit the ground running and not allow his team to get off to a slow start as it transitions to the new coaching staff. The Cowboys open at home against the Giants, but they don't have another division game until after their bye in week eight.
CSN: Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Bears, announced his retirement from football Wenesday on his personal twitter account.
CSN: The Super Bowl's golden anniversary will be held in the Golden State. The new stadium, which opens in 2014, in Santa Clara will host Super Bowl L two years later, the NFL announced Tuesday.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
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