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The VRR: The Cowboys Need Marion Barber to Be Mr.Reliable

Between the hype surrounding the return of Felix Jones and the always entertaining videos from Tashard Choice, Marion Barber has had a relatively quiet offseason. Barber, the lead back in Dallas' Three-Headed RB Monster, is a relatively quiet guy. Something tells me he is just waiting to put the pads on, ready to start hitting again.

Though limited by a toe injury last season, Barber still had some big games. In Green Bay, he rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown. The downside to that game is that he lost a fumble. It was the first fumble he had lost in his pro career and the first of three he lost on the year. Whether he remains the starter at running back or returns to his role as a closer, the Cowboys will expect the same reliability from him as they have before.

ESPN puts Barber under the microscope in Jeffri Chadiha's ten "stars who need to rebound from harsh 2008 seasons."

9. Marion Barber, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Barber hasn't convinced many people that he has the stuff to be a lead runner in this league. After getting his first real shot at the job, he saw his average per carry drop (from 4.8 in 2007 to 3.8 last season) and scored only seven touchdowns (after producing 21 overall in the previous two seasons). Barber was supposed to be the relentless, hard-charging force who intimidated anybody who blocked his path to daylight. Last fall, Barber seemed more like an overhyped, inconsistent runner who was way out of his comfort zone as a starter.

Now for the good news. First, Felix Jones is back from injury, so both he and Tashard Choice should help ease Barber's load. Also, Barber should be more effective without the nagging toe injury that plagued him late last year. But the most important thing the Cowboys can do is return Barber to the role of being the second-half finisher for their offense. That's how Barber made his name in the first place, and that's how he'll rebound from an underwhelming 2008 campaign.

More VRR after the jump.

FOX Sports ranks the Cowboys offensive line at number 10 in the league in their Positional Power Rankins: OL Packages.

The Cowboys have two sure things on the line in Gurode and Davis. Both are coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons and are the anchors to the strong up-the-middle attack. Colombo is solid on the right side.

The big questions are on the left side where Adams is in full decline and Kosier is coming off a foot fracture that sidelined him last season. Maligned in the past, the Cowboys didn't realize Kosier's true value until he was gone. Now they hope he can return to form. And even still that might not be enough because Holland has held the position throughout the offseason and has the body the Cowboys prefer at the position. Adams, 34, gave up 7.25 sacks and was flagged for 12 penalties last season. It's not what the Cowboys expected after giving him a $43 million contract extension last season. If he doesn't improve in 2009, this will be his last season in Dallas.

Wade Phillips may not be seen by many as a tough coach, but he certainly is a strict coach.

Consider this scene from an offseason practice: A horn sounded, ending a drill and starting a break. A backup quarterback knew what drill was next, so he lined up folks and started throwing the ball around. Phillips hustled over, blew his whistle and hollered, "Don’t start until we start!"

Trivial as it might seem, cornerback Terence Newman brought that up as an example of the "new" Phillips.

"He just lets everybody know he’s going to hold them more accountable than he did last year," Newman said. "Not that he didn’t hold people accountable, but that’s an emphasis for him. … He’s just letting everybody know that this is the year. This has to be the year."

The players should expect a tough training camp from their head coach.

They got a glimpse of it during minicamps and OTAs. They were fined for being late for meetings. They ran plays over for penalties and fumbled snaps. Practice was held at crisper pace with less time in between drills.

Phillips has also been more vocal, yelling at players and coaches when things aren't done the way he wants them.

One player who can use a tough training camp to prepare him for the season is linebacker Bobby Carpenter. With the loss of Kevin Burnett to free agency, Carpenter is looking forward to contributing more on defense.

"But no one is tougher on me than myself. I come out every day with the desire and motivation to get better so that I can prove I'm a good player, because I know I am."

The knock is that Carpenter lacks the physical ability to take on an offensive lineman and shed him to make the tackle. Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart was never a big fan of Carpenter's work.

He's gone. So is Kevin Burnett, who was ahead of Carpenter on the depth chart.

Now, Carpenter is part of the team's third-down packages. He enters camp as one of the inside linebackers in nickel and dime situations, a role that could put him on the field up to 40 percent of the game. has completed its Cowboys Top 50 series. Beating out Emmitt Smith for the title of the number one Dallas Cowboys player is Roger Staubach.

The first 1,000-yard rusher for the Cowboys, Calvin Hill, will be the keynote speaker next month at Midwestern State's Third Annual Welcome Back Dinner.

What if the Cowboys didn't take Steve Walsh in the 1989 Supplemental Draft? This PFW article describes how keeping that first-round pick for 1990 could have changed the team's draft plans.

After having dealt Herschel Walker to Minnesota midway through the '89 season, the Cowboys were in search of a featured running back. In the 1990 draft, they got that player in Emmitt Smith. But would having the top pick have forced Dallas to consider doomed Penn State RB Blair Thomas, thus negating the team's need to move in front of Green Bay in order to select Smith at No. 17? That slight change in history could have destroyed the chain of dominoes that led to the franchise's good fortune in the years to come.

Arlington residents can get a free tour of Cowboys stadium.

The event will be from noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 9.

The city of San Antonio hopes the Cowboys extend their training camps at the Alamodome beyond 2011.

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