Work in progress

The Cowboys will open the season in roughly two weeks and they remain a team with a split personality.

Offensively, they seem to be hitting their stride and look like a potentially explosive unit.

But there remain concerns on the defensive side of the ball where the Cowboys don't look much different than the abominable unit that couldn't stop the run and gave up too many big plays in 2010.

The Cowboys' first-team defense has given up 30 points in nine possession in the preseason. It has repeatedly been gashed on the ground.

The so-called dress rehearsal against the Vikings was no different as Adrian Peterson rushed for 69 yards on 11 carries in the first half. The Cowboys did record their first turnover of the preseason with a tipped interception off of Donovan McNabb.

But this unit remains a work in progress as it attempts to grasp Rob Ryan's new defensive scheme. And considering the Cowboys brought back 10 of 11 starters from last year's unit that was not only one of the worst in the league but among the worst defenses in team history, the pressure is on Ryan to make a difference in 2011.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says he is not worried at this time and is hoping things will be cleared up before the season opener against the Jets.

"They were very effective running the ball early, we know that," Jones said. "I can give you all the excuses. There were three or four breakdowns here, three or four breakdowns there. But you got to put those together. At this time, no I'm not worried. I'm very calm. I'm just not worried about it. I know what they are trying to do. At this time, I'm not concerned at all what we are doing out there on defense."

It should be noted the Cowboys are playing without starting defensive end Marcus Spears (groin) and starting cornerbacks Mike Jenkins (neck) and Terence Newman (groin). All three should be ready for the season opener.

What the Cowboys can feel good about is quarterback Tony Romo and the first-team offense. Romo appears to have his rhythm back after missing the last 10 games of 2010 with a fractured clavicle.

Running back Felix Jones has certainly taken the bull by the horns since being made the featured back following the release of Marion Barber.

Jones has been the team's most impressive player in the preseason not named DeMarcus Ware. He has run with speed and surprising power.

And then there is beastly receiver Dez Bryant, who the Cowboys plan to unleash on opposing defensive backs in 2011 without mercy. Bryant is more comfortable in the offense this season and still runs with attacking authority, similar to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. He is a load to bring down for defensive backs.

"He is a really good player," Romo said of Bryant. "When the ball is in the air he attacks and gets it. He has a bright future."

Overall Romo said he likes the work the Cowboys' offense got in the preseason.

"You want to go out there and execute and move the ball and score points," Romo said. "I thought we did a great job with that in the preseason. We had a good camp. I think our team is coming along. We need to continue to get better. But we have built a really good foundation."

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