No Excuses for Cowboys in '06

The goal in Dallas is to make a Super Bowl run, and there will be no excuses. Now there might be some problems. But there will be no excuses.

Owner Jerry Jones and coach Bill Parcells know what they got themselves into when they signed receiver Terrell Owens in the offseason.

They knew there would be controversy and they knew there would be scrutiny. But they also understood what he brings to the table as a football player and that alone made it a gamble they were willing to take. That doesn't mean it hasn't been frustrating during the preseason as Parcells answered question after question regarding a hamstring injury that forced Owens to miss 21 practices.

"At the end of the day I knew when we acquired this player that I was going to be the one that had to deal with (it)," Parcells said. "I am going to do what I think is best for the Cowboys and whatever opinion anyone else has is totally irrelevant because they don't have all the facts. So I operate from a position of advantage. The only thing tedious to me is talking about it all the time."

Owens is one of a team-record eight free agent signees. Add that to a strong rookie class and an already strong base of holdovers and this is not only the most talented Cowboys team since Bill Parcells took over in 2003 but the most talented Cowboys team in more than a decade.

With the addition of Owens and kicker Mike Vanderjagt, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, the Cowboys should not have any trouble scoring points.

The key will be whether the offensive line can keep quarterback Drew Bledsoe protected long enough to get the ball downfield. That is still a question going into the season opener because of concerns about left tackle Flozell Adams (calf strain) and the talent at right tackle with Jason Fabini and Marc Colombo.

Still, Owens' ability to draw double teams should help, as he will keep nine-man fronts off the running game and allow tight end Jason Witten and receiver Terry Glenn to face single coverage.

Either way, the offense will certainly draw some attention.

The strength of the team, however, is on the defensive side of the ball.

This will be the biggest and most physical unit in Cowboys history. Time well tell if it becomes Doomsday III.

But just the sight of former defensive end Greg Ellis at outside linebacker says volumes about the transformation of a unit that used to be led by fast and quick players.

The defense is still fast but the players bring punch when they get there.

Linebacker DeMarcus Ware, linebacker Bradie James, safety Roy Williams and cornerback Terence Newman are the stars of the defense.

But this developing defense has several players on the verge of breakout years, including defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, and Ellis, who reminds coach Bill Parcells of Willie McGinest at linebacker.

The Cowboys should be good and should be contenders the entire season. However, with six of their first nine games on the road, including three of their first four, they need to be ready to play at the onset.

Parcells spent the entire preseason preparing the Cowboys to run on all cylinders out of the chute.

Look for them to win the NFC East and lose in the divisional playoffs.

But mostly look for them to make national headlines weekly, thanks to the interest in everything about Owens.

Parcells is ready for that, too.

"It's a different era now than it was 15 years ago," Parcells said. "Just so much more electronic media than it used to be. It's a coast to coast thing too. It's not just local. It's a nationwide commentary on a circumstance here in Dallas. Most people don't know anything about it 800 miles away. They don't know what's going on here."

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