2006 Keys for the Cowboys

The Cowboys took a gamble on Terrell Owens. Now they have to make sure it pays off. He is clearly one of the league's most potent playmakers. Never mind the talk about how his presence will open things up for Terry Glenn, Jason Witten and Julius Jones.

Get to know Terrell Owens: The Cowboys took a gamble on Terrell Owens. Now they have to make sure it pays off.

He is clearly one of the league's most potent playmakers. Never mind the talk about how his presence will open things up for Terry Glenn, Jason Witten and Julius Jones.

Getting Owens the ball is a must for him to be comfortable and for the Cowboys to get the most out of the relationship.

He is simply the most complete wide receiver the team has had since the days of Michael Irvin. No, he won't catch 100 balls in Bill Parcells' offense, but he still can score double digit touchdowns.

It all starts in training camp with him getting on the same page with quarterback Drew Bledsoe and developing some camaraderie with his teammates.

The Cowboys say they are going to give Owens a clean slate and not hold his problems in Philadelphia and San Francisco against him. But the truth is that it will always been in the back of their minds. As soon as something goes awry, it will almost certainly bubble to the surface.

"It's a work in progress," Owens said. "You learn from your mistakes and try not to make those same ones again. Just try to get familiar with my surroundings and get acclimated and gel with the guys -- try to create some camaraderie. But it's day to day."

Settle the offensive line: Despite all their offseason moves, the biggest question facing the Cowboys is their offensive line.

Terrell Owens can help by getting open faster and drawing double teams to eliminate eight-man fronts. But at some point the offensive line is going to have to stand up on its own, especially if the Cowboys are going to realize their Super Bowl dreams. The Cowboys hope that the line will be better with the return of left tackle Flozell Adams from injury, the return to health of guard Marco Rivera and the addition of Jason Fabini at right tackle.

But there are some unknowns that could rock this group. Kyle Kosier might be younger and more athletic than the departed Larry Allen at left guard. He still might not be a better player. Al Johnson and Andre Gurode are still fighting to hold their own at center. This is crucial because up the middle protection is key for the immobile Drew Bledsoe. That is where teams concentrate most of their pressure and blitzes. The Cowboys have to be strong up the middle. Kosier needs to prove he is worthy of replacing Allen. And either Johnson or Gurode has to step up. The Cowboys are already excited that Rivera is way ahead of where he was last year at this point when he was rehabbing from offseason back surgery and never quite got back into shape.

Alleviate remaining defensive concerns: It appears the Cowboys won't accommodate disgruntled defensive end Greg Ellis with a trade or release. So the question in training camp is how unhappy will he be and how will that impact the progress of the mostly young members of the defensive line. Ellis warned the Cowboys in minicamp that it would not be a good situation for anyone involved if they didn't adhere to his wishes for a new contract. Now it is time to see what the fall out will be. Ellis is generally a good soldier and was considered one of the few remaining veteran leaders on defense. His actions and attitude seem to state that he at least no longer wants to be a leader, which is crimpling for a unit that lost La'Roi Glover and Dat Nguyen in the offseason and is void of any true vocal leaders.

The Cowboys also must solve their problems at free safety, where Keith Davis will try to keep his starting job even after the team signed Marcus Coleman and drafted Pat Watkins.

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