1999 Review: Cowboys Bank on Tar Heel DEs and a Rocket
After their loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the 1998 playoffs, the Cowboys had some work to do on the roster. Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin had moments where they showed some greatness, but each had as many moments that left fans frustrated.
To help Aikman and Irvin in the passing game, Dallas brought some speed to the second wide receiver position by signing Rocket Ismail from the Carolina Panthers. Ismail had been a minor disappointment in his first five seasons in the league, but he gained more than 1,000 yards in 1998 with Carolina. Dallas was convinced that Rocket would ease the burden on Irvin.
The team improved its offensive line with three moves. Dallas brought back Mark Stepnoski after he had spent four seasons with the Oilers. Dallas also moved Flozell Adams to left tackle, which allowed the Cowboys to move Larry Allen back to guard. Everett McIver returned from injury to start 14 games in 1999.
On defense, Randall Godfrey moved from outside linebacker to middle linebacker, and Darren Hambrick became the new starter at left outside backer. Kevin Smith, who never returned to form after returning from an Achilles injury suffered in 1995, only played in eight games in 1999.
When the draft came around, the Cowboys for the fourth time in six seasons selected a defensive end with their first pick. Dallas believed that the combination of former North Carolina standouts Greg Ellis and Ebenezer Ekuban would give the team bookend defensive ends for years to come. But while Ellis was a solid player for more than a decade, Ekuban only lasted five seasons after recording 12.5 sacks with the Cowboys. He did, however, have more success with Cleveland and Denver.
Here is the entire draft:
1(20) Ebenezer Ekuban, DE, North Carolina
2(55) Solomon Page, G, West Virginia
3(85) Dat Nguyen, LB, Texas A&M
4(118) Wane McGarity, WR, Texas
4(132) Peppi Zellner, DE, Fort Valley State
6(193) MarTay Jenkins, WR, Nebraska-Omaha
7(229) Mike Lucky, TE, Arizona
7(243) Kelvin Garmon, G, Baylor
- Nguyen turned out to be the best player in this group, though he only managed three full seasons as a starter.
- Page, Garmon, and Zellner became starters, though they played when the team was especially poor in the early 2000s. ‘
- McGarity was not a bad slot receiver, but the team cut him in the middle of the 2001 season after he failed to meet expectations as a slot receiver.
- Lucky was a blocking tight end for three seasons.
- Jenkins never played for the Cowboys but later played for the Cardinals.