One big plus for the Cowboys in the receiving department is the acquisition of Raymond Berry, who retired after 11 years as an end with the Baltimore Colts to become a coach. Berry, who holds most career records for receiving in the NFL, is one of the most knowledgeable football men in the league in his specialty. "You can see the improvement in our receivers already," says Landry.
There is not much room for improvement in the Dallas defense. The front line of George Andrie, Willie Townes, Jethro Pugh and Bob Lilly is on a par with the front four of the Rams, the Green Bay four or the four on the Baltimore Colts. It was among the best units in the NFL at trapping the quarterback in 1967, and it should improve with the years.
If there is any room for improvement, it may lie in depth at the line-backing post. Jerry Tubbs has retired and now coaches the Dallas linebackers, and Landry traded Harold Hays to the San Francisco 49ers. Lee Roy Jordan, Chuck Howley and Dave Edwards are a better than average threesome, but there is little to back them up. Rookie D.D. Lewis has demonstrated ability, but he is not ready to start. The Cowboys would trade for an experienced linebacker, if one were available.
In the secondary, most teams picked on Mike Johnson in 1967. This was partly because Mel Renfro was injured and unable to lend help. As a result, the Dallas pass defense did not control the game as well as Landry would have liked. Johnson was young—in only his second season—but he stood up to the beating well enough, and the experience should make him that much better in 1968. Cornell Green and Mike Gaechter were top quality, and they are back. With a recovered Renfro and a wise Johnson, the Cowboy secondary defense can match anyone.
The Cowboy kicking game was mediocre or worse in 1967, but the addition of Mike Clark, a placekicker from Pittsburgh, has made a big difference. Clark kicked a 54-yard field goal in a preseason game, and, according to Landry, he'll be a real help with kickoffs and field goals. "He may not kick many from between the 40-and 50-yard lines," say: Landry, "but he'll give you a thrill even if it misses."
The Cowboys will give you a thrill, in any case. This could be the year where they make the final yard ahead of the dying clock to go all the way.
NEW YORK GIANTS
When the four-division setup was made for the 16 NFL teams, a great clamor arose over where who was to play when. Finally, to assuage tempers and collect votes, it was decided that the New York Giants would play the first year (1967) in the Century Division with the Cleveland Browns, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The second year, they would trade with the New Orleans Saints and move into the Capitol Division, with the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.
They should have stayed in the Century. Ironically, the Giants might conceivably have won in their old division. They are a better club than two of the teams in their new division—Washington and Philadelphia—but they do not have the remotest chance of beating out the other team, the Dallas Cowboys.
Incidentally, the Giants will play the Coastal Division in the West while the other teams in their division play the Central. Last year this might have made a difference, when the Coastal Division had three strong clubs ( Los Angeles, Baltimore and San Francisco) to the Central's one ( Green Bay). This year, with the improvement of Chicago and Detroit, there is little difference between divisions, except that the Giants may have a small edge in playing Atlanta instead of Minnesota.