Defense Takes a Hit

Defense was one area the Cowboys weren't supposed to have to worry about. Ranked No. 1 in the league a year ago, the focus on defense this year was to get better, especially in areas of sacks and turnovers.

One preseason game down and the Cowboys have not only not improved in their focus areas but they look nothing like the dominant group of a year ago.

Despite the offseason free-agent addition of defensive end Marcellus Wiley, the Cowboys didn't come close sacking Texans quarterback David Carr Saturday night.

In fact, Carr calmly completed seven of eight passes for 89 yards and a touchdown in leading the Texans to the 18-0 shutout victory.

And as far as turnovers are concerned, the Cowboys had failed in two chances to recover fumbles in the game and possibly change the momentum.

Most disappointing, however, was the defense's overall inability to stop the Texans, which scored on their first three possessions against the Cowboys' starters.

"It didn't feel good," linebacker Dexter Coakley said. "I can't explain what happened. That is not the type of football we are capable of playing. That's not the type of football we want to be known for."

The Cowboys' biggest concerns on defense coming into the game were cornerback Pete Hunter and safety Tony Dixon. Hunter, who is trying to replace Mario Edwards opposite left corner Terence Newman, didn't have a strong outing. Although he didn't get challenged much through the air, Hunter didn't tackle well.

The Cowboys failed in their pursuit of free agent corners Ahmed Plummer and Antoine Winfield in the offseason. They may regret their lack of interest in Bobby Taylor, who wanted to come to Dallas but signed with Seattle.

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells also acknowledges they are scanning the waiver wire for help at safety. Dixon is starting in place of Darren Woodson, who is out six to eight weeks after having back surgery. Woodson may or may not be back after the second game of the season. The jury is still out on whether Dixon can hold down the fort.

On Saturday, Parcells was most disappointed by the play of the defensive line.

The pass rush was non existent. And the Cowboys also gave up some yardage on the ground. Texans backup running Tony Hollings gashed them for 57 yards on 14 carries. The line played without starting defensive tackle Leo Carson (knee). Jermaine Brooks, filling in for Carson, was flagged for defensive holding on a Texans scoring drive.

Despite spraining an ankle, reserve tackle Daleroy Stewart drew Parcells' biggest wrath. "He needs work bad," Parcells said. "Our defensive line was disappointing."

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