- What do the victories over the Rams and Cardinals in the final two games last year mean in looking ahead to 1988?
TL: It’s a real motivating factor for your offseason program. Anytime you finish strong against teams that are going for the playoffs, it tells your players they’re not far ‘from being playoff contenders themselves. We left last season with a lot of hope for this season.
Q: How does Washington’s overwhelming victory in the Super Bowl affect the team’s attitude? :
TL: That also helps your confidence because we played the Redskins tough in Washington in December. We’re in a tough division with a lot of prestige, now that we’ve produced the last two Super Bowl champs. We better gear up for a tough schedule because we’ve got five games against the last three Super Bowl champs (Redskins, Giants and Bears) plus four other games against playoff teams from last year (Minnesota, New Orleans, Houston and Cleveland).
Q: How far are you from being a playoff team again?
TL: Not far at all. We had a chance to win every game we played last year, but we lost quite a few tough ones. We just need to continue to do what we did last year, which was. 10 add good, young players and let them play. We’re developing the personality of a physically tough and tough minded team. As. Soon as these young guys learn how to win consistently, we’ll be back in the playoffs
Qin what specific areas does the club need to improve?
TL: We have to mature, especially on offense where we have so many young players. And we need to strengthen our defense. We have enough good, young players on offense now that we should score points if they continue to develop as we expect. On defense we need a stronger pass rush and we need more depth, so that when older players like Randy White, Ed Jones and Mike Hegman are ready to step down, we have quality replacements for them. Therefore, in the draft, we’ll be looking for defense. We’ll still take the best player but if we have three or four players rated on the same plateau we’ll be looking for the defense. End or outside linebacker. Because of injuries and age, we need immediate help at those positions. If we can get a few more top prospects we could improve fairly quickly because we’ve already got a pretty good nucleus of young players. We probably finished last year with more young guys playing than ever before. I can’t remember winning a couple of games with that many young players on the field. That’s encouraging.
- There’s a lot of talk about the quarterback position. What’s your view?
TL: We have quarterbacks who can win for us. Steve Peluer is the frontrunner, ‘mainly because he won the last two games, he’s young and he’s got his confidence back.
We just feel he’s the one who to get the shot
This spring we’ll watch Danny White to see if his wrist has improved. He wants 10 lay and he thinks he can start and win for us. It’s a question of whether he can be ‘consistent in his throwing motion, which is where he had trouble last year.
Naturally, you lean toward Peluer because he’s younger and healthier, but he’s going 10 have 0 earn the job, there won’t be any guarantees at he quarterback position going into training camp. But even if Pelluer is the starter, Danny could play a very important role as a backup.
We also want to see what Kevin Sweeney can do. He has some awfully good qualities, as we saw in the replacement games. He can really throw the football. It’s a matter of whether he’s strong enough to hold up under the punishment you have to take as an NFL ‘quarterback. We’re going to see what he can do this summer.
Q::No matter who is the quarterback, though, your key man on offense will be Herschel Walker. True?
TL: Sure. We’re counting on Herschel1o play the dominant role because he has that Kind of ability. We are building for the future with Herschel as the foundation. If he can Stay healthy, we’re going of be okay.
Herschel started the last seven games at tailback and if you project his totals in those games over a 16game season, you’re looking at over 1,500 yards rushing and 1,000 receiving.
Herschel is going to be singled out as the one guy you have to stop to beat the Cowboys.
That means we must come up with productive players in other skill positions, whether it’s Kelvin Edwards developing or Darryl Clack stepping in or some rookie we don’t even know about yet. Our running game will be a force that teams will have to reckon with because of Herschel. Of course, when you have that kind of situation, you usually end up going against eight men on the line of scrimmage. That forces you to throw the ball, and that’s why other players have to produce to take the whole burden off Herschel.
Q: The development of the young offensive line would seem to be a key factor this year?
TL: Our ability to have a consistent running game will depend on the line’s development. That’s true. It will be interesting to see how much those young guys can improve; they showed a lot of potential last year. And they were so green. Daryle Smith 4nd Kevin Gogan were pure rookies who played pretty well at tackle. We have two very big, very talented guards in Nate Newton and Jeff Zimmerman. If they keep their weight under control, we’re going to be pretty good. Cray ford Keris solid at guard and should ‘get better. He’s been our only steady player at any of the offensive line positions over the ‘last two years, Mark Tuinei will be coming back from a knee injury and should be able to help us. Tom Rafferty will probably be used like he was last year al center, on passing downs and on field goals, with George Lilja playing in run situations. Just based on the experience gained last year, our line should be improved.
Q: It doesn’t look as if you can count on Mike Sherrard returning this year. How does your receiving corps stack up without him?
‘TL: Is really a shame what’s happened to Mike, who is such a great talent. We can’t count on him for this season, but that doesn’t rule anything out. All we know right now is he’ll definitely miss camp and preseason. Beyond that, we’ll just have to Walt and see, ‘and hope for the best.
Even without Sherrard, I1hink our receiver corps will be better than it’s been in a few Years: Kelvin Edwards can become a solid deep threat, which would help us more than anything. Kelvin Martin, another rookie, is also a hitter. That’s what we want Plus Jeff Rohrer is steady outside, and Jesse Penn was having a good game in L.A. when he broke his leg. So we’ve got some potential at linebacker.
Q: Any chance you’ll switch to a three man defensive line?
TL: It could be one of our multiple sets, but I don’t see us playing a three man line to ‘any extent because we don’t have the outside linebackers who can make a three man line work. We don’t have the size or the pass rusher that you need out there.
Q: What role will Randy White play this year?
TL: He’s got a problem with his neck, which bothered him last year. He may have to become a spot player on the outside as a standup rusher. The right tackle spot will probably be handled by Danny Noonan. He has two great assets strength and speed.
He’s fast for a lineman and he’s powerful. He’s stronger than anybody I’ve seen on the line of scrimmage since Bob Lilly. He can move people.
Kevin Brooks can be solid at the other tackle, so I’m not 100 worried about that position. But we need more production from our ends. Ed Jones can still play, but ‘probably not consistently over a full season at his age. Jim Jeff f coat is a good player, but the needs to get his sack total back up. Maybe Robert Smith can help us. He has ability as a pass rusher, but spent last year on the injured list with a broken forearm.
Q; how does the secondary shape up? TL: Everson Walls is solid at left corner. We started a rookie at the other corner last ‘year. Ron Francis got beat by some good receivers, but he has the speed, the closing ability and the competitive nature to be atop guy. Now he just has to do it. He never says ‘anything. I haven’t heard three words from him since he’s been here. But we know he can play, And Manny Hendrix showed promise when he filled in for Francis in our win over St, Louis to end the season.
At safety, Vince AL Britton is our most aggressive guy, so he’s competing for a starting Job now. Victor Scott is also aggressive and has good fundamentals. I don’t know how. Bad he wants to play. He needs to work more in the offseason to build his strength so he doesn’t get hurt so much.
The veteran starters are Michael Downs and Bill Bates. Down’s contract status up in the air, so don’t know what will happen there, Bates gives you the kind of hitting you want in the secondary.
Q: How about your special teams?
TL: We were improved last year because some young guys came through. That area is a plus for us. Roger Ruzek was the real bright spot. We cut him in camp, brought him back and he set a field goal accuracy record for us. That was remarkable. He has areal consistent, mechanical style. His ball turns properly; He doesn’t have the quirks in his kicking that inconsistent kickers have. So he has a chance to be atop kicker for many years. Mike Saxon is a line up and down with his punting, but he’s still young.
AL Britton, Burton, DeOssie and Bates give us excellent coverage on punts and kickoffs
And we have two young return guys with good potential in Kelvin Martin and Darryl Clack. Martin is quick and he’s courageous. Last year he fumbles and almost gets killed ‘on one play, then catches the ball and runs tough on the next. That’s what you look for in young players. That kind of reaction.
Clack has a real knack for running the ball, and not just on kickoff returns. We made mistake last year by not playing him more. But when you have Walker and Dorsett, it’s tough to get him in there. He’s going to get a lot of playing time this year. He has a lot of running ability.
Q: So, to sum up, the 1988 Cowboys will be big, strong and Herschel on offense: mean, strong and unpredictable on defense; and young all over.
TL: I couldn’t say it any better,
Article extracted from this publication >> August 19, 1988