'Boys Optimistic for Sunday?

Excuse the Cowboys if they are not heading into Sunday's season opener against the Giants brimming with confidence and optimism.

Oh they still think this can be a special season.

But that swagger they entered training camp with back in July has been tempered by the reality that they will open the season possibly without their best team on the field.

Linebacker Greg Ellis is still rehabbing a torn left Achilles from last season. He missed the entire preseason and there is no timetable for when he might return.

Cornerback Terence Newman has a partial tear in his right plantar fascia. He has not practiced in more than two weeks and his availability for the Giants' game is still uncertain.

And linebacker Kevin Burnett, who replaces starter Bradie James in nickel situations, is questionable following arthroscopic surgery last week.

"This is our challenge," linebacker Bradie James said. "These are the guys we have been going to battle with and those guys are not going to be here and we have to rely on other guys to step up in their place and try to hold off and help us not miss a beat because those guys are not here. It's not good, we don't feel great about those guys not being here but we have to keep it going and have to keep it moving we just do what we do and try and win this game."

Dealing with injuries is part of football. Every team has the same issue at some point in time.

For the Cowboys, it's not the ideal way they wanted to start a season they hope would end with a Super Bowl run.

And while the Cowboys are confident that rookie top pick Anthony Spencer and backup Jacques Reeves can hold their own against the Giants, the facts are that the Cowboys are not as good a team without Newman and Ellis.

They are two of the five best players on the defense and their roles are crucial to everything the Cowboys want to do to be successful.

Ellis is the only other proven pass rusher on the team, next to DeMarcus Ware. The Cowboys' aggressive 3-4 simply doesn't work without at least two good pass rushers if not three.

Making matters worse is that Spencer has struggled in making the transition from college defensive end to NFL linebacker. He had no sacks and just two tackles in four preseason games.

And to a team that likes to blitz and get after the quarterback, there is no more important position on the field than a cover corner.

Newman is the only player on the Cowboys with the man-to-man skills to lock down the opposing team's best receiver.

Without him they will have to change what they plan to do defensively.

There is a chance the Cowboys will give Newman some painkillers to get him on the field for the game. But it may not matter for a cornerback because a hobbled cornerback is still a liability.

"I think Newman has to be healthy to play," coach Wade Phillips said. "If he's almost healthy, it's hard for a corner. I think either he's going to be ready or he's not."

SERIES HISTORY: 90th meeting. The Cowboys lead the series, 52-35-2. The two teams split in 2006 with Dallas winning in New York and losing at home. New York won two of the last three meetings. The Cowboys have only faced two teams -- Philadelphia (95) and Washington (94) -- more than they have faced the Giants (89).

CowboysHQ Top Stories