Thursday, December 3, 1998
Offensive-line woes just a distant memory
By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
Knight Ridder Newspapers
IRVING, Texas - One season after causing a stir because of
their inept play, the Dallas Cowboys' offensive linemen have
had some controversial moments again.
The issues pale in comparison to last year's problems - lack
of depth and injuries, which were considered the root of the
team's 6-10 record.
Instead of having trouble finding someone who can play, the
Cowboys are having trouble finding room for a bevy of talented
Center Clay Shiver, the starter since last season, has recently
been supplanted by former Canadian Football League standout Mike
The right-guard spot was also of some issue before Everett
McIver went out with a season-ending knee injury against the
Seattle Seahawks. Many observers felt it should have been rookie
Flozell Adams' job - citing Adams' immense potential and his
above-average performance in place of the injured McIver for
five games earlier in the season.
The Cowboys claimed that McIver was the better player. It's
all moot now.
And as a result, the Cowboys lead the league in fewest sacks
allowed (11). The line has paved the way for the league's second-best
running game and fourth-best offense.
Through it all, however, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones simply
Only if they could have had these problems last season, when
the Cowboys faced the agony of having much-maligned George Hegamin
protect quarterback Troy Aikman's blind side at left tackle in
place of injured Mark Tuinei, who was headed for retirement.
Or having to insert gimpy-kneed John Flannery at guard for an
injured Nate Newton. Or allowing Shiver to garner the center
spot largely unchallenged.
In addition to becoming stronger, the line is also deeper,
which has allowed the Cowboys to overcome a plethora of injuries.
Four of the five starters have missed some time, yet the offensive
line has seen no drop-off.
Jones said the Cowboys made improving the line an off-season
priority. And he gives a lot of credit to scouting director Larry
Lacewell and his department for finding Kiselak, drafting Adams,
and signing top reserve Tony Hutson, who joined the team from
the practice squad last season and has seen time in place of
tackle Erik Williams.More on the lineThough upset about his team's
recent penchant for penalties, Cowboys coach Chan Gailey said
he will not reinstitute the penalty-lap discipline he used during
training camp. He said the lap might be a detriment on game day.
But the offensive linemen have been policing themselves for
a couple of years, levying fines on each other for, among other
infractions, penalties in practice, showing up late for meetings,
improper dress and eating in meetings.
According to Shiver, the fines start at $10 at the beginning
of the week and double each day as they get closer to game day.
Rookie Flozell Adams has been hit the hardest so far with $750
in fines. The money goes into a pot to pay for a party at the
end of the season.Getting it straightWilliams takes a lot of
heat from those in the press box for being the Cowboys' biggest
offender on pre-snap penalties. However, closer inspection, thanks
to Stats Inc., reveals that Williams has some company in the
Left tackle Larry Allen and tight end David Lafleur are tied
with Williams for the team lead with four. Center Kiselak, quarterback
Jason Garrett and guard Flozell Adams have been whistled twice
each.Things that make you go hmmmm!So the Cowboys signed Chris
Warren in the off-season as an insurance policy for running back
Emmitt Smith, who was criticized for coming out of too many games
last season because of injuries. So far in 1998, Warren has missed
four games and could miss a fifth on Sunday with a groin injury.
Smith has missed none and is fourth in NFL rushing ranks with
1,107 yards. ... Do you think injured cornerback Deion Sanders
will miss next week's matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, considering
that he'll get a chance to go against former Falcons buddy/foe
Andre Rison? Remember the tremendous battle the two waged in
1994, when Sanders was with the 49ers and Rison was still with
the Falcons? And they played football, too.Billups a 'Bad Boy'Rookie
cornerback Terry Billups is a bad boy for all the right reasons.
The former communications and pre-law major at North Carolina
is part of "Bad Boy Sports" marketing company in New
Jersey. It's an offshoot of Sean "Puffy" Combs' Bad
Boy Entertainment record label.
He also is part owner of a North Carolina-based production
company, which is working on two film documentaries.
YARD MARKERS: How far do the Cowboys have to go?
First and Goal
Was the cliche "he has a nose for the end zone"
made with Emmitt Smith in mind? Look at Thursday's game against
the Vikings. Smith wasn't particularly effective on the ground,
rushing for just 44 yards on 18 carries. However, when the Cowboys
neared the end zone, he was unstoppable, rushing for three touchdowns
to tie Marcus Allen atop the league's all-time list for rushing
First and 10
Quarterback Troy Aikman has thrown just one interception in
his last 184 attempts and set a team record against the Vikings
for attempts without an interception (57).
Moving back up
Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin is quietly moving back up the
league receiving charts after 18 catches for 235 yards in the
past two games. Irvin is third in the NFC with 62 receptions
and fifth in yardage with 868.
(c) 1998, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
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