By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Just How Much ‘Gitty Up’ Will Those Cowboys Have For 2006?
DALLAS— It’s never a dull moment at Texas Stadium, but the drama that has ensued during Cowboys training camp and preseason put them too deep in the spotlight, with the showstopper that wouldn’t quit.
Terrell Eldorado Owens. He had me at Eldorado!
While many of us media folks harped on one topic, Parcells got his troops prepared and a 3-0-1 record (thanks to ‘Jack’ leg) in preseason, and raising some eyebrows of hope.
Jerry Jones says ’tis the season for the Cowboys to be in the mix for title contention. Heck, it should be- they’re 10 years removed from their last playoff win. Jones says “he was desperate and wants to win.” So throw out the fact that #81 ran to that ‘star’ in 2001, using Dallas as a scapegoat to pull the rug from under the great Jerry Rice tenure in San Fran.
The Cowboys look good on paper, but it’s going to be a tough conference and NFC East division. Every team in it upgraded to some degree. Dallas Cowboys are still the underdogs, but it doesn’t mean they won’t be ready for football.
Here’s how the team looks:
WHO’S THA MAN?
Three seasons past, people laughed when I said Tony Romo was fit to start for the Cowboys, but the team’s played musical chairs with quarterbacks since Aikman’s departure. His mobility and passing is a plus, but he has to wait a year before taking over.
For now, Bledsoe gives the better chance to win due to his experience. But granted, as big as he is (6-5) he’s too slow (a liability) and unless the line can protect him, the team is in trouble. No Quarterback controversy in Dallas, but Romo wants the job.
Bledsoe’s sanity and Julius Jones’ health rides on them. Larry Allen’s presence has left a hole and the next best thing in Flozell Adams is questionable after being kicked in the calf during preseason. With Rob Petiti losing out (now with the Saints) to Pat McQuistan, they have shuffled assignments and it looks as if Andre Gurode will have the nod to start at Center- the only certainty-I think! It’s wait and see TV.
WHAT ABOUT THAT OTHER RECEIVER?!
If we ever what to know what it’s like walking on hot coals, I’m sure the appropriate person to ask is Terry Glenn!
Terrell Owens is not yet ‘married’ to Bledsoe-they haven’t truly connected, so whether he plays or not, the Cowboys are in ‘good hands’ with Terry Glenn. He’s established good hand-eye coordination with the QB and during the media’s negligence of his skills and contribution to the Cowboys passing game, Glenn had an impressive preseason despite battling the blisters on the bottom of his feet. He’s the man and as long as he remains healthy and no one nails his hands to a wall, he will have the better season.
Best believe, T.O. will force his way into live action, and when he gets the ball, he’ll make plays.
Don’t forget about Patrick Crayton- he can make any secondary bite the dust as long as his ankles don’t first. His biggest impact should be in the middle of the field.
THE BACKFIELD and Tight Ends
Parcells plans to use two tight ends to mix things, including rookie Jason Fasano with Jason Whitten. Let’s wait and see how that plays out, but it should be interesting.
That backfield, it’s stacked with talent. But, I can’t help but be concerned about Julius Jones. His injuries will be his achilles heel (no pun intended). Texas is an ‘at will’ state-there’s no such thing as job security (NFL included)- so I suggest he get his wheels rotated and balanced on the regular, or Marion Barber will eventually take it at starter. Tyson Thompson is a Parcells project and he scored major cool points making Thompson the first Irving, Texas native to play for the Cowboys. He’s fast as heck, and may return more kicks this year as long as he stops playing hot potato with the ball. Parcells also may use him more in the backfield on third down.
DEFENSE MAY BE THE BEST THING GOING
The Dallas Cowboys defense has been good through the worst years, and may be the deepest of all units on this team (six to seven deep at ends and linebackers). Greg Ellis moving from defensive end to linebacker was a squeezer at first, but a man who’s perfected his craft as an end for all his career is making strides (even if Parcells doesn’t give him his propers). With Roy Williams and Terrence Newman, I’m looking for some big things-hits!
P.S. – IS IT A HOME-COMING OR HOME-GOING?
Akin Ayodele (AY-DEL). I got to throw this player in the mix and brag on him just a touch. He’s one of the most productive but underrated linebackers in the NFL (we’re sort of cut from the same cloth-graduates of MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas). Family and friends hope he can score some tickets, but look for him to make some things happen on defense for Dallas. He begins his fifth year in the NFL after spending his first four record setting years as a Jaguar as their starting linebacker, posting 100 or more tackles each season in Del Rio’s 4-3 defense. Chatting with him in the locker room, he admits the challenge of learning the 3-4 defense style of Parcells, where “he’s not as free to roam the field to make plays.” Sunday’s a big game for Akin but he wasn’t looking forward to facing his former teammates so soon. “Yeah, it’ll be a bittersweet homecoming (Florida), says Ayodele, but it was a reason he took less money compared to other offers on the table to come home to Dallas – it’s where his heart is and he’s playing to win. Not bad for a former ball boy for the Cowboys.
Much of Dallas coined him as “the white T.O.” and he’s got this swagger that kickers just don’t have. The 2 million dollar man Mike Vanderjagt has tried calling the shots since his arrival, but the unsuspected groin injury caused Parcells to keep another kicker (Shaun Suisham) which he didn’t want, prompting a chain reaction that sent valuable players packing (i.e. special teams player/WR Terrence Copper). Jack leg’s in hot water!
The sideshow has hopefully taken a backseat, and the Boys’ insist they’re focused on the task at hand-and hopefully getting to Miami. Now that’s all good, but fans-hold off on the reservations to South Beach until Dallas survives the first game- just get your popcorn ready! I’m putting hot sauce on mine.
Game 1: Dallas Cowboys @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday September 10, 4:15 pm ET/3:15 CT
Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville, FL (FOX)
HOW THE COWBOYS CAN PULL OFF THEIR FIRST WIN AGAINST THE JAGUARS?
Jaguars Linebacker Mike Peterson doesn’t suit up-he questionable due to knee, and possibly one less monster Bledsoe doesn’t have to avoid.
Parcells should switch out running backs Julius Jones (power) and Marion Barber (speed) often than none. Plus, with that offensive line, they’ll appreciate the breathers.
Say no to conservatism! Parcells should mind his business- let Todd Haley do what he’s paid to- open the offense. It worked when the Cowboys blasted the Eagles 33-10 in 2005 but Parcells didn’t get credit, so he shut it down for the remainder of the season.
Roy Williams is “one biscuit away from being a linebacker,” says Parcells. Yeah? Well let him play closer to the line of scrimmage- Leftwich won’t have too many chances.
Akin Ayodele tore out a page or two from the Jaguars’ defensive playbook, sharing secrets with Drew Bledsoe and the offensive line.
Contain the Jaguars running game. Jimmy Smith’s departure hurts that offense more than they care to admit. Matt Jones is a nice alternative, but don’t let them lie to you!
Alltel Stadium should make room for at least 5000 Cowboys fans bearing fresh bags of popcorn so T.O. can smell it.
Can’t say this enough-don’t hold back on Terry Glenn.
No Doubt it will be hot and heavy in Jacksonville, but not possibly hotter than Texas. The Cowboys look to steal a victory on the road in their first regular season game against the Jaguars despite being tagged as the underdogs. The season is theirs to win and to lose.