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nfc East
September 02, 1996
Here are two scenarios for the Dallas Cowboys, and you can take your pick.
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September 02, 1996

Nfc East

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Speaking of starting over, here we go again with the Arizona Cardinals. New coach, new staff, new ideas, even a new old quarterback. Vince Tobin steps in to try to undo the damage done by departed coach Buddy Ryan last year. Tobin's first major move was to bring in 35-year-old Boomer Esiason, who quarterbacked the New York Jets to the worst record in the NFL last season, to replace Dave Krieg, who turns 38 in October. "We saved three years," said Tobin, who has to rebuild an offense that was 24th in the league in total offense last season.

Everyone knows the book on Esiason: can throw down the middle, long or short; can dump the ball to his backs with occasional accuracy; can't hit receivers on sideline routes—a necessary part of any passer's repertoire. Pinch off the middle on him and he's a dead duck. "When you've got receivers who can't go deep and the corners are playing right on top of them, you can't throw any 10-yard outs," Esiason says, defending himself by describing the situation with the Jets last season.

"He'd drift and roll and lose power on his throws," says Jim Fassel, the Cardinals' new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. "It's not a matter of arm strength. It's a matter of fundamentals, and they can be cured."

The philosophy of Ryan, and Joe Bugel before him, was to run the ball and win with defense, but last year that strategy backfired. Arizona was 29th in rushing and 30th in stopping the run, and that's a tougher fix than the pass-catch part of it. Esiason has capable wideouts in Frank Sanders and Rob Moore, his go-to guy in New York two years ago. The projected tight end, third-round draft pick Johnny McWilliams, was a holdout through camp.

It has been left up to second-round choice Leeland McElroy to carry the running game, after 1993 first-round selection Garrison Hearst was cut to free up money to sign this year's first-round pick, defensive end Simeon Rice, who held out for most of camp. It looks like another struggle in Arizona this year.

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