Parcells Impressed with Dixon

Maligned fourth-year safety Tony Dixon is tied for the team lead in sacks with three heading into Sunday's game against the Giants.

His current status as a force on the Cowboys is a far cry from where he was at the start of the season when Dixon's ability to replace the injured Darren Woodson was a legitimate concern.

His goal is to make as many plays as he can as long he can, while proving to the Cowboys he can be the long-term answer at the position.

Woodson, who had back surgery in July and was placed on the physically unable to perform list before the season, is eligible to return for the Oct. 24 matchup against Packers.

Given his age and the nature of the injury, the Cowboys don't plan on rushing Woodson, 35, into the lineup.

But no matter when he returns this season, there is no guarantee the 12-year veteran will return in 2005.

It's from that perspective Cowboys coach Bill Parcells is evaluating Dixon.

Although Parcells says it's still early, he acknowledges positives in what he's seen.

"I'm really encouraged," Parcells said. "That's the best word for what I see now. I'm hoping. Obviously I'm rooting for him. I'm starting to see a real understanding."

Parcells said Dixon has improved his technique in pass defense, a weakness before. He also has been a solid tackler and might have found a niche as a blitzer.

His two sacks in the 21-18 victory against the Redskins last Monday did not come as result of blitz calls from the sideline. He simply read the defense and made the most of the opportunities.

Dixon's play has proved a nice complement to Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams, who has been allowed to play the entire field rather than solely close to the line of scrimmage to take advantage of his own stellar blitz skills.

Williams has made his biggest impact as a head-hunting force in the secondary by breaking up passes with strong hits, and/or causing incompletions because receivers are too timid to extend their arms to make the catch.

Against the Redskins, Dixon had five tackles, two sacks, a quarterback pressure, a forced fumble and a pass deflection.

Williams had a career-high 14 tackles, including 13 solo stops, and two pass deflections. For the season, Williams' 27 tackles leads the team. Middle linebacker Dat Nguyen is second with 23 and Dixon is third with 17.

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