Aikman intent on timing

Thursday, August 24th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

IRVING – Wes Chandler said he'll never forget the day quarterback Dan Fouts stepped onto the San Diego Chargers' practice field in 1982, and then-offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese handed him a blindfold.

What better way, said Zampese, to see how good the timing-based offense is working than to have Fouts throw passes blindfolded.

Chandler said Fouts threw about 10 passes. He completed them all, including a bomb.

Chandler, now the Cowboys receivers coach, said that's the standard Troy Aikman and Joey Galloway must strive to achieve.

They will get their last preseason opportunity to improve their timing Thursday night, when Dallas (0-4) plays St. Louis (1-2) at Texas Stadium.

"I could probably do that with Michael [Irvin]," Aikman said of completing passing blindfolded. "I should be able to do it with these guys by the end of the season."

Under offensive coordinator Jack Reilly, the Cowboys are returning to the timing-based offense that helped them win three Super Bowls in the '90s. Every offense includes some timing routes, but few are based around timing patterns that require the quarterback to deliver the ball before the receiver has completed his route.

It's an offense built on trust.

The quarterback must believe the receiver will be where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there, so the pass isn't intercepted or incomplete.

"We're further along than I anticipated, and we'll get better," Aikman said of his rapport with Galloway. "You can get it done in practice, if you practice at the level that you should. One of the reasons Michael and I got to be so good is that he practiced like it was the Super Bowl every day. Then you're not wasting repetitions on the practice field."

Still, nothing compares to game conditions.

This preseason, Galloway has caught only nine of 21 passes (42.8 percent) for 116 yards. He caught only two of eight passes in the Cowboys' 36-23 loss to Denver last week.

Most of the NFL's top receivers catch about 60 percent of the passes directed toward them. Among the NFL's leaders in receptions, Cris Carter caught 66.1 percent of the passes thrown to him last season.

There have been some obvious communication issues between Aikman and Galloway.

Against Oakland, Galloway ran a fly pattern, and Aikman threw an out that fell incomplete. Aikman missed a subtle hand signal Galloway gave him that he was changing the pattern because of the defense's coverage.

Most of the incompletions, however, have occurred because their timing needs work.

"He has to read my body and recognize when I'm about to make my break, whether it's at 10, 15 or 20 yards," Galloway said. "There's no doubt you get better with time and more games, but with a quarterback of his caliber, there's not as much of a learning curve.

"He's so good and so accurate that even if we're not on the same page, he can hurry up and jump to my page."

Aikman also must adjust to Galloway's speed because he's much faster than Irvin. An 18-yard skinny post to Irvin is a 25-yard skinny post to Galloway.

Aikman must change his arm angle on some passes. Others, he must throw with more depth to compensate for Galloway's speed. It's all part of the learning process.

During the preseason, Galloway and Aikman often can be seen on the sideline after drives discussing the previous series.

"I feel really good about how hard we've worked on it," Galloway said. "I feel really good about my line of communication with Troy.

"That's what happens when you play with a guy with his credentials. He just wants to get it done. Some guys' egos are so big, they can't do that."