Let's get one thing straight: Quincy Carter was never going to be the next Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman or even Danny White. So all the commotion over his release early in preseason may have been a little unwarranted. That said, quarterback is not exactly the Dallas Cowboys' strong suit. Vinny Testaverde will be 41 in November; Drew Henson is probably at least a year from becoming a bona fide starter; and few outside of Valley Ranch have heard of Tony Romo. Such circumstances are why owner Jerry Jones hired Bill Parcells, who validated his genius last season by leading the Cowboys to the playoffs despite the presence of Carter and Troy Hambrick at the two most important offensive positions. Now both are gone, and the challenge -- aside from salvaging production at quarterback -- is meeting expectations after the Cowboys' quick turnaround from 5-11 to 10-6.
"I told the players we're in a replacement business here," Parcells said. "I replaced somebody. Jerry replaced somebody. They replaced somebody, and somebody is going to replace all of us. I learned that a long time ago."
Vying to replace Hambrick at running back are durable Eddie George, who has never missed a game in his eight-year career and thrives in a ball-control offense, and rookie Julius Jones. The Cowboys had a chance to draft more highly regarded running backs Steven Jackson or Kevin Jones, but they passed. Dallas instead wound up trading its first-round pick for the Buffalo Bills' second-rounder and a first-round pick next season.
The league's top-ranked defense last season got better but will be under severe strain without starting strong safety Darren Woodson (back surgery) for the first six weeks of the season. Tony Dixon is slated to fill in after doing the same last season when Woodson was hurt. The signing of defensive end Marcellus Wiley turns a functional defensive line into potentially one of the league's best.
Best Hands: As Michael Irvin said in his retirement news conference: "I beat 'em all." His three Super Bowl rings and franchise receiving records confirm that.
Worst Hands: Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith came out of retirement to try to win a championship but instead is most remembered for dropping a sure touchdown pass from Roger Staubach in Super Bowl XIII.
Grading This Year's WRs: New arrival Keyshawn Johnson adds a big target as a possession receiver to complement deep threats Terry Glenn and Antonio Bryant.
WRs Grade: B