It's Finally Here

Owner Jerry Jones knows it, as does coach Bill Parcells. The team has won just one playoff game since their last Super Bowl title in 1996.

Parcells, brought in to return the Cowboys to their days of glory, is 25-24 in three years. He has just one playoff appearance here, none in the past two years.

It's little wonder they overhauled the roster and the locker room in the offseason with the controversial signings of receiver Terrell Owens and kicker Mike Vanderjagt.

The Cowboys now have their most talented and ready-to-win team in a decade.

And they are ready to pounce.

It all starts Sunday against the Jaguars. The players are ready and so is Parcells, who took a chance himself in coming to the Cowboys in 2003.

Already a Hall-of-Fame-in-waiting coach with two Super Bowl titles to his credit, Parcells is in danger of tarnishing his legacy with the Cowboys.

In addition to winning two Super Bowls with the Giants, Parcells took the Patriots to the Super Bowl and the Jets to the AFC title game.

Sure he led the Cowboys to a wildcard playoff appearance his first year in Dallas, but 6-10 and 9-7 seasons followed.

He likely cares little about his legacy at this point. But Parcells is a competitor. He hates to lose and he hates to fail.

Anything short of a big year in Dallas would be a huge disappointment for him.

The same can be said of Jones, quarterback Drew Bledsoe and receiver Terrell Owens.

All have something to prove. All are looking at this season as a chance to prove their critics wrong.

All are desperate to win.

"I know Bill is highly motivated," quarterback Drew Bledsoe said. "I don't get the sense that there is any desperation or any sense of trying to prove anything to anybody. He likes the guys on this team. He said he thinks we have a chance to do something special."

Said linebacker Greg Ellis: "I think Bill is optimistic. He is not stupid. He's got his guys in here he was looking for. Things are coming into place the way he wants them to fall in place player wise. We just have to do it on the field."

The Cowboys hope to set the tone in Jacksonville, which starts a tough season-opening stretch where the Cowboys play six of their first nine on the road, including three of their first four games.

The Jaguars will not be an easy opponent. They were 12-4 last year and enter 2006 with Super Bowl aspirations of their own.

"I know the expectations what the goals are here and that's fine," Parcells said. "I know the expectations here are high and I am conscious of those. But now is not the time to be talking about the end result. You have a lot of roadblocks in front of you before you even can begin to consider those kinds of things. And the first one is against a division winner, 12-4 on the road in adverse circumstances. That's he first big roadblock we got. That is what I am focused on. I really am."

SERIES HISTORY: 4th meeting. The Dallas Cowboys lead series, 2-1. The Cowboys won the last meeting 21-19 in 2002. This will be the teams' first meeting at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville.

--Several Cowboys have changed numbers since the end of training camp. Tight end Anthony Fasano is No. 80, linebacker Oliver Hoyte is No. 53, nose tackle J'Vonne Parker is No. 60 and defensive end Jay Ratliff is No. 90.

--The Cowboys signed Mike Vanderjagt to be a kicking savior. He was given a $5.4 million contract for the next three years. So far he's a huge question mark.

His injury and inconsistency in the preseason caused the Cowboys to keep an extra kicker on the roster in Shaun Suisham and cost a player a roster spot.

Now coach Bill Parcells doesn't know what he has at kicker going into the season opener.

"It is the overall uncertainty," Parcells said. "When a guy says after the game he's not 100 percent, which he said, that concerns me."

Now the question is whether Vanderjagt's problems are mental or physical. And if there is some carry-over from last season's missed field goal with the Colts in the AFC title game against the Steelers.

"It's a difficult thing in sports. We've all seen those examples of things happening," Parcells said. "It's back to the confidence in demonstrated ability. Over the years, he has certainly demonstrated that, but as you go on, you need to reinforce that to yourself."

--WR Terrell Owens has declared himself healthy and ready to go for the season opener. Owens missed 21 practices over the last month due to a hamstring injury. He says he hasn't forgotten what has been said and written about him and plans to use it as extra motivation to put on a show against the Jaguars.

"I'll be ready," said Owens, who has 716 career receptions for 10,535 yards and 101 touchdowns. "Just to hear a lot of the criticisms from a lot of commentators around the nation, I've got those things in the back of my head. Everybody has their opinion about me, what's going on with me. Everybody is going to speculate. People that know me, they know I am going to come out and be ready to play. I'm going to be fired up."

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 --The Cowboys need eight regular-season wins to reach 400 in franchise history. Dallas' all-time regular-season record is 392-292-6.

251 --Drew Bledsoe needs 251 pass completions to become the fourth player (Dan Marino, Brett Favre and John Elway) in NFL history with 4,000 pass completions. In 13 seasons, Bledsoe has completed 3,749 passes.

14 - Terrell Owens needs 14 touchdowns to pass Tim Brown (105), Don Hutson (105), Barry Sanders (109), Marvin Harrison (110), Lenny Moore (113) and John Riggins (116) to move into eighth place all-time. In 10 NFL seasons, Owens has 103 career touchdowns.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm very fortunate for the opportunity that they have given me. Obviously this is a team that I felt when I looked at the market as far as a team that's been on the bubble, kind of on the edge of making the playoffs. I know last year, they missed a few games here and there from making the playoffs. I think with the addition of myself and a couple of guys on the team, we can get ourselves where we need to be." -- Receiver Terrell Owens.

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