The hot camp story, though, was the quarterback battle between Danny White and his backup, Gary Hogeboom. A Dallas Morning News survey of the players gave Hogeboom a 20-4 edge, with 10 abstentions. Why are they so down on White, who's been highly productive? "Because he'll never take on Tom Landry like Roger Staubach would," one veteran says. "Roger was always fiddling with the patterns in the huddle, lengthening them or doing something. Danny will always obey orders." The whole thing might be academic because Hogeboom hyperextended his throwing elbow in the Cowboys' second preseason game. The missed practice time might be enough to tip the balance.
The ST. LOUIS CARDINALS are building a nice little team, but there's one problem: They're in the wrong division. They can't figure out how to beat Dallas or Washington. They're 0-7 against them in the last two seasons, 0-4 in '83, and the games weren't even close. Total points allowed in those '83 games: 152. Average score: 38-14. If they had split those games, the Cardinals would have been in the playoffs.
Don't count on rookies to change anything. St. Louis had a no-impact draft. The top choice, wide receiver Clyde Duncan, went shopping in the USFL for bigger bucks, and his position is one of the Cards' strengths anyway, with All-Pro Roy Green, Pat Tilley and converted cornerback Cedric Mack. The second-rounder, Doug Dawson, could push Terry Stieve out of a guard spot, but offensive line is another strong area. No. 3 was a backup quarterback, Rick McIvor.
Sacks seem to follow defensive line coach Floyd Peters wherever he goes, and last year his Cardinal crew won the NFL sack title (59), just as his units did in San Francisco and Detroit. Neil Lomax is a live quarterback, O.J. Anderson's a big-league runner, and E.J. Junior should challenge the Bears' Mike Singletary as the best 4-3 middle linebacker in the game.
It's a pretty solid team that Jim Hanifan has built. Put the Cards in the NFC Central and they'd probably come away with a title. But right now the Cowboys and Redskins are keeping them in the land of the .500.
The NEW YORK GIANTS remind me of an old AFL team that had this real nice guy for a coach. The younger guys started taking advantage of him; they started letting it slide. The old guard, many of whom had played for some absolute storm troopers in their NFL days, took charge. "Look," they said, "you're never gonna play for a nicer guy. Shape up! We wanna keep him around." The team made the playoffs.
End of parable. Those were the old days, before players got $1.9 million, four-year packages, but the Giants better listen up. Coach Bill Parcells—Coach Tuna, the players used to call him—is one nice guy. He's also hanging by a thread. Joe Paterno, Howard Schnellenberger—those were the names you heard mentioned in the off-season. "I know I'm on the edge of the cliff," Parcells has said.
He's a defensive coach, one of the best. Though desperate for offensive help, the Giants went for defense with their first pick each of the last two years—safety-man Terry Kinard in '83, linebacker Carl Banks this season. Banks looks like an impact player. Even with old pros Brad Van Pelt and Brian Kelley gone, the Giants' linebacking, led by Lawrence Taylor, will be close to the best in the NFL. The secondary's O.K. The defensive line plays with high emotion; guys like Jerome Sally, a free-agent pickup two years ago, and Leonard Marshall were hell on wheels at the end of last season, when the Giants were going nowhere.
The defense will again be one of the league's best, but oh, that offense. Every week last year a different wide receiver would look like an All-Pro, and the next week he'd drop three balls. The runners, minus Rob Carpenter, who was out the last six weeks of the season with a knee injury, would turn it on one week, go in the tank the next. The line got overrun. The ever-shifting quarterback picture kept headline writers busy.
Phil Simms is the QB now. Carpenter is back. Brad Benson, switched from left tackle, is a competent right guard. The Giants are hoping Karl Nelson can handle right tackle, replacing the injured Gordon King. And at left tackle, well, there's prayer. William Roberts, the club's second No. 1 pick, got the first and longest look. In the opening exhibition game, the Patriots ate him up. Waiting in the wings are rookie Conrad Goode and ex-USFLer Chris Godfrey. Everyone's keeping his fingers crossed.