Cowboys have a lot of questions to answer

Friday, August 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Forget that rookie quarterback Chad Hutchinson is getting a trial run as the starter. The Dallas Cowboys have too many real issues to deal with in Saturday's preseason game against Atlanta.

Cowboys coach Dave Campo and offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet just want Hutchinson, their 25-year-old rookie, to work with the first team and against a first-team defense.

There is no quarterback controversy for now. Quincy Carter, who will play the second and third quarters, is still No. 1 and will be the starter for the Sept. 8 opener at Houston.

Atlanta, which like Dallas is 2-0 in the preseason, will stick with its starter for the first half Saturday night. Michael Vick is in control after starting just two games, one of them against Dallas, as a rookie.

The Cowboys have a lot of questions that need to be answered in the last two preseason games, and Saturday's is the last before the first NFL-mandated cuts.

_ Is rookie receiver Antonio Bryant indeed ready to take over as the starter for Raghib Ismail, who is out for season after neck injury, or does second-year player Ken-Yon Rambo deserve the starting nod?

_ Which cornerbacks are going to distinguish themselves? Eight players are still in the mix, with free agent pickup Bryant Westbrook and Mario Edwards (out with strained right hamstring) the likely starters.

_ Who will be kicking field goals? Incumbent Tim Seder and rookie Billy Cundiff are both 3-for-3 so far, with Seder hitting a 49-yarder and Cundiff a 52-yarder.

_ When will the starting offensive line be together? All five starting linemen have been hurt or held back at some point in camp. Only two or three of them will play Saturday.

_ How much of a problem is the snapper position? Jeff Robinson is out with a torn ACL and Campo expects a revolving door there. First in line is Mitch Palmer, who was signed Thursday. He has played for Tampa Bay and Minnesota, but got cut by the expansion Texans this summer before even going to camp.

As for the quarterbacks, Hutchinson will start a football game for the first time since his sophomore season at Stanford in 1997. He spent four years playing professional baseball.

Campo and Coslet also want to see how Carter handles making halftime adjustments in the new coordinator's West Coast-style offense.

``We didn't want Quincy to have to play three quarters to get that done,'' Campo said. ``He's making great progress and we feel comfortable with him. It's also a great opportunity to get Hutchinson in because there are not very many seasons you go through without using the backup.''

Carter, 21-of-27 passing for 177 yards in the preseason, missed half of his rookie season with injuries.

In his first career start last November against Dallas, Vick had an erratic first half. He alternated snaps with Doug Johnson after halftime as the Falcons came from behind to win 20-13.

Vick is calmer and in more control this year.

``That's something I won't do this year, get excited before a game,'' Vick said. ``I used to come out excited and pumped up, and being the quarterback, I can't do that.''

Johnson takes over after halftime. The Falcons also hope to get rookie Kurt Kittner in the game.