KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston, Chris Myers
SERIES: 8th meeting. The Cowboys lead the series 5-2. The teams last met in 1999 with the Jets taking a 22-21 victory in Dallas. Bill Parcells was coaching the Jets then. The Jets have won two of the last three games. The Cowboys last win was in 1993, a 28-7 victory in New York.
2003 RANKINGS: Cowboys: offense 2nd (9th rush, 1st pass); defense 19th (7th rush, 26th pass). Jets: offense 20th (32nd rush, 6th pass); defense 23rd (31st rush, 8th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jets have made six trips into the red zone this season, but have been held to just one touchdown. Offensive coordinator Paul Hackett blames an imbalance in the play calling: 13 rushes against only seven rushes. That goes with the overall theme of the Jets offense, which has been to pass-oriented. If New York can stay within striking distance, Hackett has vowed to get RB Curtis Martin involved. Dallas' strength is in its speedy receivers, but the Cowboys have also had trouble scoring touchdowns because of a weak running game that stalls the offense in the red zone. The team that scores more touchdowns than field goals has the big edge.
FAST FACTS: Cowboys: They are 10-4 in games following a bye week. ... Coach Bill Parcells was 30-20 as coach of the Jets from 1997-99. ... WR Joey Galloway needs two touchdown receptions for 50 in his career. Jets: QB Vinny Testaverde needs 252 passing yards to pass Joe Montana for seventh place all-time (40,564). ... The team is 15-1 under coach Herman Edwards when it leads a game in turnover margin.
PREDICTED SCORE: Cowboys 28, Jets 20
CB Derek Ross (sprained knee) feels good physically but it's his mental attitude that is clouding his status for Sunday's game against the Jets. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said for Ross to be activated as the nickel corner he must show some carefree confidence in the surgically repaired knee and practice with some abandon. "I am still looking for that," Parcells said. "We got a couple of more days to see." Pete Hunter will continue his role as the nickel cornerback if Ross can't go.
C Matt Lehr will continue to start with the first team. However, Genaro Dinapoli is set to get increased playing time Sunday against the Jets. The Cowboys signed Dinapoli, who started 18 games for the Titans last season, in training camp as insurance when rookie Al Johnson went down with a knee injury. However, Lehr's solid play and his slow adjustment to conditioning and the Cowboys' scheme have limited his impact with the offense. Now that Dinapoli is pretty much up to speed, coach Bill Parcells said he plans to play him quite a bit in tandem with Lehr.
RB Troy Hambrick knows the Cowboys' red zone woes have been placed at his feet. A team has to be able to run to score inside the 20-yard line, and Hambrick is the Cowboys' featured back. "Trusting in my linemen, trying to follow them up in the hole and take what they see instead of trying to do what I see. That is one thing I am learning," Hambrick said. "On film, it shows. I got to give it a shot."
Bill Parcells owns a 70-31 record in The Meadowlands, including playoffs. He has a winning record there with all four of the teams he has coached.
K Billy Cundiff was tested two days before last Monday's victory over the Giants when the Cowboys brought in rookie Jonathan Ruffin, the 2000 Lou Groza Award winner from Cincinnati. He had gone to training camp this year with Pittsburgh, but was released in the end, the Steelers instead staying with second-year kicker Jeff Reed, who was 17-of-19 last year. They worked him out right in front of Cundiff on Saturday morning, right in front of all the Cowboys. The Cowboys stuck with Cundiff, who missed a 33-yard field goal and an extra point in the season-opening loss to the Falcons, and he rewarded them with an NFL-record seven field goals against the Giants.
C Kevin Mawae left practice Thursday with a right knee strain. He walked off on his own but was limping slightly. An MRI was negative and Mawae is listed as probable and is expected to play Sunday. J.P. Machado took over at C and would play if Mawae can't go, a situation that certainly won't help the Jets' poor running game.
C J.P. Machado worked with the first team during the latter part of practice Thursday when starter Kevin Mawae left with a sprained knee. Machado started the first 12 games of last season at left guard and didn't play well. He's better suited to be a reserve.
DE John Abraham was upgraded to probable but didn't practice, working on the sideline instead. He will play Sunday but could be limited because of a sore right hamstring. Second-year DE Bryan Thomas could get extra playing time.
DE Bryan Thomas will see more plays Sunday if John Abraham is limited by a sore right hamstring. He had a good game against the Patriots with his first career sack.
WR Wayne Chrebet also returned to practice Thursday but is still bothered by a sore knee that was injured two weeks ago. He practiced lightly last week and still played so he will play this week against the Cowboys.
LB Jason Glenn is back practicing on his sore right ankle and should play Sunday. With rookie Victor Hobson working at strong-side LB and backing up Mo Lewis, Glenn is working more at backing up weak-side LB Sam Cowart. One day, the Jets would like to get Hobson and Glenn on the field at the same time but it's unlikely right now.
LB Victor Hobson may see an increase in playing time as Mo Lewis continues to struggle. Barring a massive turnaround in Lewis' play, Hobson could start alternating with him or even start for him following the bye week.
LB Mo Lewis appears very close to losing his starting job to rookie Victor Hobson, or at least, having his role cut down to a platoon. Lewis and the rest of the linebacking corps are too slow, which is why teams are having so much success running the ball outside against the Jets.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Williams also has one forced fumble, one quarterback pressure and one pass deflection, all adding up to solid numbers for the second-year safety.
Williams, however, is no ordinary NFL sophomore. His expectations and those of the Cowboys are extraordinary.
That was the case on draft day 2002, when the Cowboys chose him with the eighth overall pick, making the former Oklahoma star the first safety chosen in the top 10 in more than a decade.
The expectations increased after a rookie season in which Williams made more big plays than any Cowboys defender. He finished with a Pro Bowl-worthy 127 tackles, five interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interception returns for touchdowns.
But so far in 2003 -- the year he was supposed to firmly establish himself as one of the league's rising stars -- there has been nothing.
And while the season is only two games old, no big plays from a player who is defined by the big play is troubling for Williams and the Cowboys.
"I think I have done all right, but I haven't played up to my expectations," Williams said. "I don't know why. I might be trying to do too much. But I need to do what I do, and that's make big plays. That's my game. I feel I need to make at least two big plays a game."
Cowboys coach Bill Parcells didn't call Williams by name when he said last week that several Cowboys have not played up to expectations so far this season.
Tuesday, though, he acknowledged that Williams "needs to pick it up."
Williams is not alone, considering the defensive letdown the Cowboys have had in the second half of both games this season. After getting only five first downs in the first half, including one in the second quarter, of the season opener, the Atlanta Falcons scored on four of five second-half possessions in a 27-13 comeback victory. And in their 35-32 overtime victory against the Giants, the Cowboys blew second-half leads of 16 and 15 points.
"When you give up the points we have given up, our defensive playmakers are obviously not playing well," Parcells said.
And that is a huge concern to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, whose biggest financial investments in improving the team have come on defense.
Of the 17 Cowboys with cap values of more than $1 million this season, 10 play on defense. The 10 are Williams ($1.8 million), tackle La'Roi Glover ($3.7 million), linebackers Al Singleton ($1.1 million), Dexter Coakley ($3.4 million) and Dat Nguyen ($1.9 million), ends Greg Ellis ($2.7 million) and Ebenezer Ekuban ($1.2 million), cornerbacks Terence Newman ($2 million) and Mario Edwards ($1 million) and safety Darren Woodson ($2.8 million).
Jones said the concern is not about money, but about the team's expectations of players to whom it has made big commitments. He said the same goes for the Cowboys' seven other millionaires -- receiver Joey Galloway ($6.6 million), fullback Richie Anderson ($1.1 million), tight end Dan Campbell ($1 million), tackles Ryan Young ($1.2 million) and Flozell Adams ($2.5 million), guard Larry Allen ($8.06 million) and deep snapper Jeff Robinson ($1.3 million).
Galloway, who leads the Cowboys with 10 catches for 182 yards and one touchdown, has to make plays on offense, and the team has to be able to run behind Adams and Allen.
"Those people have to make the plays," Jones said. "They are making a large percentage of what it takes to get here. Those guys have to play at a high level. They need to be represented in a big way toward our success or we are not doing it right."
According to Jones, the Cowboys "need more from that group," starting Sunday against the New York Jets in order to reach their potential as a team.
"They do need to be making bigger impacts," Jones said. "When you do get it from them and it falls short, that's how you lose to Atlanta."
Owner Woody Johnson raised a few eyebrows when he stated a day ago that the Jets had talent as good as any team in the NFL -- despite the fact they're 0-3.
"If you look at the talent on this team, it's equal or better than anything out there," Johnson said.
Johnson also defended the work done by general manager Terry Bradway, who has taken a lot of criticism recently considering the Jets have gotten off to their third straight bad start and of the team's 18 draft picks since 2001, only three are starters.
The interpretation was that if the Jets have all the talent needed to win and that it isn't the general manager's fault, then the blame must be placed on coach Herman Edwards and his staff.
When asked to respond, Edwards said Johnson should have high expectations for the Jets and that the coaching staff is always the main target for when a team loses. But he wouldn't comment on whether the Jets were as talented as any team in the NFL.
Johnson, however, was hardly making a Machiavellian move like those attributed to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Edwards has no bigger supporter than Johnson and the owner isn't likely to fire Edwards anytime soon -- and probably not for a long time. Even though Johnson wouldn't clarify his statements Thursday and declined to speak to reporters -- something of a questionable move - any heat placed on Edwards was considered inadvertent.
"I don't think Woody meant anything by that relative to our coaching staff," Bradway said. "He was trying to be positive about what we're doing."
Yet Edwards made a cryptic statement of his own following Thursday's practice, one attended by Johnson. After a post-practice speech in which Edwards was screaming, the coach was asked what was said.
"It was a message for the team but for other people too," said Edwards, hinting he may have taken some umbrage with Johnson's comments.
When asked to clarify that statement Edwards backed off somewhat.
"I don't want to get into that," Edwards said. "It was a message for the
football team. Let's leave it at that. It was a message for the football team,
this is what we need to do. That's what it was."