Barber Making His Case

The strong play of Marion Barber will only embolden those who want him to replace Julius Jones as the starter. Barber rushed 11 times for 57 yards against the Broncos after getting 48 yards on 12 carries in the preseason opener.

Jones had 31 yards on nine carries against the Broncos after 22 yards on six carries against the Colts.

It's not a problem to the Cowboys, who believe they have two good backs. But the fact is, Barber is more productive than Jones, and the preseason performances are just a continuation of what happened last year.

Jones rushed for 1,084 yards and became the Cowboys' first 1,000-yard rusher since Emmitt Smith in 2001. However, he gained 40 yards or less in five of the final six games. Barber topped him in yards per carry for the season -- 4.8 to 4.1 -- albeit with half as many touches.

Barber ran for 684 yards and an NFC-leading 16 touchdowns. He seems justified in wanting a bigger role in the offense than he had last year, when he was the team's third-down and short-yardage running back.

"Of course you want to (start)," Barber said. "It's a goal of mine. If you are not motivated to start or train yourself like you are going to start, you shouldn't be playing. But you have to know your role. I just to try to be ready when they call my name."

Considering the Cowboys have a new coaching staff, there is support for Barber. Gone is Bill Parcells, the man who traded a first-round pick and chose Jones instead of St. Louis Rams phenom Steve Jackson.

Wade Phillips believes in employing a two-back system.

Said offensive coordinator Jason Garrett: "I love Marion Barber. He has tremendous intensity and passion for the game. He plays physical, smart and he is versatile. I'm excited about him."

And with Jones in the final year of his contract and not guaranteed to return next year, Barber could get his chance next year if he doesn't this year.

Barber says he simply wants to build off last year and take his game to the next level.

"I just pray for health," Barber said. "I never imagined that. Now I want to build on it. I say the sky is the limit."

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES
--The Cowboys-Broncos practice sessions fostered a number of intriguing matchups, including WR Terrell Owens vs. CB Champ Bailey and OG Leonard Davis facing DT Sam Adams of the Broncos.

But it also brought about mutual admiration between hard-hitting strong safeties Roy Williams of the Cowboys and John Lynch of the Broncos. The two are a few of the last of a dying breed of NFL safeties whose forte is to hit first and ask questions (i.e. cover) later.

"We respect each others' game," Williams said. "I respect his game. I know what he has done."

Lynch, a 15-year year veteran who says he sees a lot of himself in Williams, said the two players have gotten to know each other over the years at Pro Bowl in Hawaii. He said Williams has always been respectful and has come to him to pick his brain.

Lynch likes the way the Cowboys are going to use Williams in Wade Phillips' new scheme and predicts a big year for him.

"I'm excited for him, just hearing what they're doing with him, getting him in the mix, getting him more involved," Lynch said. "He's an impact player. He makes plays. He can do a lot of different things, but I think his skills are best suited. ... I haven't seen it, but from what they're talking about the way they're using him sounds good for him."

--The Cowboys and Broncos got a lot out of their practices sessions last week. It was certainly good for the players to hit someone rather than their own teammates. The practices will have repercussions during the regular season even though the two teams don't play each other.

It was good for the Cowboys' offense to go against a 4-3 defense, considering 14 of their 16 games are against 4-3 teams this year. Likewise, the best team in the Broncos' division last year, the San Diego Chargers, run the 3-4 developed by Phillips, their former defensive coordinator.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I really like what I'm seeing over on that side of the ball. We're swarming to the ball and the guys are playing as a team over there. It's early. I know that. And we've got a ways to go. But we've got a lot of talent over there and it's showing here in these (first two) games." -- Owner Jerry Jones on the play of the defense in the first two preseason games.

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