Small Steps

The Terrell Owens gamble notwithstanding, the Dallas Cowboys quietly are taking small steps to make big improvements next season. First, Dallas cured its chronic kicking cancer by signing Mike Vanderjagt. Despite being labeled an "idiot kicker" by Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning for running his mouth, and being nicknamed "Vandershank" by Colts fans still stinging from his horrible crunch-time miss against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC playoffs, Vanderjagt is a drastic upgrade from Jose Cortez, Scott Suisham, etc. It's not a stretch to think the Cowboys would've won an additional three games—-against the Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks--last season with a kicker who could simply make 35-yard field goals.

And now the Cowboys are at least investigating signing a veteran backup quarterback. Drew Bledsoe staying upright for all 16 games last year was a miracle. They shouldn't count on that again, especially with the release of their best offensive lineman, Larry Allen. Considering Bill Parcells' stubborn refusal to give even a couple of garbage-time snaps to inexperienced backups Tony Romo and Drew Henson, the Cowboys were a sprained knee away from total disaster. The Detroit Lions' Joey Harrington is hardly a savior, but he'd be a step in the right direction. Another one. --Richie Whitt

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