Wide-Eyed But Ready

IRVING, Tex. - Rookie Dallas Cowboys receiver Dwayne Harris openly admitted he doesn't know what to expect when his new team kicks off the 2011 season Sunday night on the road against the New York Jets.

He knows the crowd will be bigger, the opponent bigger and faster and the spotlight brighter than anything he experienced as a college star at East Carolina. Beyond that … he is expecting surprises.

More than 82,000 fans will be crammed into MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Sunday night for the opener between the Cowboys and Jets, a crowd that should dwarf — in size and volume — the gathering of "about 60,000" who watched Harris and his ECU teammates play in Chapel Hill against North Carolina "… and they weren't that loud," Harris said.

He smiled when asked if new teammate Bryan McCann was the best cornerback he faced in college — ECU and McCann's SMU Mustangs are, after all, members of Conference USA.

"No," Harris said. "He's really good, but he's not the best. That was probably (Rashad "Roc") Cartwright at Virginia Tech (now a rookie with the Houston Texans). He was the best I ever played against."

Just making it to the NFL means Cartwright is a good player, but Harris and the rest of the Dallas receivers face a team Sunday night that has the best pair of cornerbacks in the AFC — and with all due respect to the Philadelphia Eagles, the argument could be made that Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie could be the best in the entire NFL.

"They're strong, they're smart, they're great athletes and they do everything well," Harris said when asked what makes Revis and Cromartie so effective.

At first glance, Harris might seem like someone likely to be little more than a bit player Sunday, going into the season opener as either the No. 4 or No. 5 receiver and a contributor on the kickoff return and punt return teams. He said he doesn't feel as nervous now as he did for his first college start, because he's older now, but also because he made his first start at ECU as a receiver … after being recruited as a quarterback and working briefly as a running back before moving to wideout.

But the Cowboys' top receiver, Miles Austin, has been bothered this summer by a hamstring injury and how effective he will be Sunday is unclear. Fellow starter Dez Bryant said this week that "Miles was ready a long time ago," but Austin was limited throughout training camp and didn't catch a pass during any of the Cowboys' exhibition games.

Of course, Bryant is not a doctor or trainer, and if Austin can't play, Kevin Ogletree steps into the starting lineup across from Bryant, and Harris and Jesse Holley suddenly become much more important parts of the offense. If that scenario unfolds, Harris said he is ready to step in as needed.

"Miles has been banged up this summer," Harris said. "I don't know exactly how he feels now, but if he can't play, or if he goes down during the game, we (Harris and Holley) have to be ready to step in.

"Whether it's to play a lot or just to give the other guys a breather for a few plays to keep them fresh, we'll be ready."

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