Bill Parcells ended the Cowboys mini-camp with a far-ranging press conference that tempered optimism with caution. While admitting that he was excited by some rookies he reminded the press that he had no idea of his team's heart or chemistry, and would not know until they faced opposition. Here are some key points:
Julius Jones knows much more about what it takes to be an effective NFL back. According to Parcells, Jones understands give-up plays and when to gamble; "he knows when to settle [now] for three yards instead of getting one yard trying to run for ten... he knows I'd rather have fifteen good runs than twelve good runs and ten give-ups."
Parcells compared rookie Marion Barber to former Jet Leon Johnson. "[Johnson] was our backup runner, our 3rd-down back and returned kickoffs." Parcells envisions a similar role for Barber, hoping he can play 20 to 25 plays on offense and 20 to 25 on special teams.
Drew Bledsoe will surprise fans with his legs. Parcells said Bledsoe is much better running than people realize. He hinted that the sprint-out passes Vinnie Testaverde used last season would stay in the playbook for Bledsoe. He also discounted criticisms that Bledsoe tips off defenders by tapping the ball in the pocket. "Joe Montana couldn't pat the ball fast enough," said Parcells. The problem for Bledsoe is not patting the ball, but holding it too long trying to make a great play.
Parcells has a double-secret escape plan for right tackle. He likes the competition there, but teased reporters by stating, "I have an idea of what I will do if it doesn't work out, but don't speculate because you're gonna be wrong."
Parcells likes Keith Davis as a free safety prospect, but is "torn" by the prospect of taking him off special teams because Davis is currently Dallas' best special teamer. "If you're good on defense and better-than-good on special teams, I'd rather have the better- than-good," he said of Davis. Parcells did compare Davis in an oblique way to Lester Hayes, saying that the ball seemed to find both players on pass plays.
Parcells explained his pre-season practice of playing the 3rd QB before the backup. He likes to insert the backup late in these games because they are often out of hand and give the backup a chance to lead a rally. If the backup can do so, the team gains confidence in him.
Parcells will spend his upcoming break working on his camp teaching schedule. He wants to keep both the offense and defense in the dark this year. He claimed each unit knew what the other was doing last year and cheated a bit by game planning early for the other, thus losing teaching opportunities. He wants a greater element of surprise, so the team can learn to adjust on the fly.