New Scheme = More Big Plays?

If it seems that coach Wade Phillips' new defensive scheme was designed with safety Roy Williams and linebacker DeMarcus Ware in mind, that's purely coincidence.

Phillips has been running his version of the 3-4 dating back to his days with the Oilers.

It is very different than the 3-4 that Pittsburgh uses or the one Bill Parcells has always employed because of its aggressive philosophy.

The thing Phillips has always emphasized is that he tries to put his playmakers in position to make plays. That's where Williams and Ware come in.

Although the two were Pro Bowl performers last year, there is no question they could have had a bigger impact. In terms of Ware, it was a situation where the team's best pass rusher wasn't always used to pass rush. There were times a team could to take Ware out of the pass rush and put him into coverage, depending on their formation.

That won't happen any more, as Ware's primary responsibility in 2007 will be to rush the quarterback.

It will not be unlike how Phillips used Shawne Merriman in San Diego. Merriman notched 27 sacks over the past two seasons.

Ware is shooting for a certain sack number but he believes he will get more than 11.5 he notched while rushing on a part-time basis last season.

Regarding Williams, no one disputes his status as one the league's top safeties. No one will also argue that Williams doesn't have his shortcomings in pass coverage.

Those shortcomings were even more evident the past two years when Williams played deep safety in the Cowboys' Cover 2. He was exposed in coverage repeatedly and beat for big plays.

Williams is at his best close the line of scrimmage where he can make plays in the backfield. That is where he will play under Phillips, who will limit his deep coverage responsibility, even on passing downs. Williams will play linebacker in the nickel defense.

"It does feel better knowing that I am going o be involved more in the defense," Williams said. "Coach Phillips said they are going to install some plays for me. I don't know about blitzing. I look forward to more tackles for losses."

DEFENSIVE NOTES: LB Kevin Burnett is trying to make the most of his chance to work with the first-team defense. Burnett has gotten the reps in minicamp and the OTA workouts because starter Akin Ayodele is sidelined until training camp with a minor knee injury.

Burnett, who has been mainly a backup player and special teams performer since being made a second-round pick in 2005, has lobbied for more playing time.

"I am trying to take advantage of the opportunity," Burnett said. "Hopefully it can turn into something good."

* Fun is definitely back at the Cowboys headquarters now that Wade Phillips has replaced the demanding Bill Parcells.

The evidence is overwhelming, starting with how much fun the players are having in practice. Although the workouts are intense, there is a lot more chatter, trash talk and celebrating in practice.

"We are enjoying ourselves," safety Roy Williams said. "It's a new era. It's a new family vibe. We are enjoying ourselves and having a good time. We are going to make it fun. We are not going to stress."

More evidence was the cookout the Phillips threw for the team and their families on the final day of minicamp.

Families were not allowed in the locker room under Parcells.

And then there was this weekend's staff getaway to Las Vegas. Trips to Las Vegas were a staple of the Cowboys staff since the days of Jimmy Johnson. Parcells did away with the fun the past four years. But with Parcells gone, owner Jerry Jones has brought the tradition back.

The coaches, scouts and front-office personnel flew to Las Vegas on June 13 and returned June 16, in time for Fathers Day.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we've got a chance to go real deep. I think this team has a shot at winning the whole thing." -- Quarterback Tony Romo on the Cowboys making a Super Bowl run in 2007.

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