Cowboys-Dolphins Preview & Prediction

The Dallas Cowboys look to improve to 2-0 on the season Sunday afternoon in Miami.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET

GAMEDATE: 9/16/07


TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

SERIES: 12th meeting. Miami leads the series, 7-4. Miami won the last meeting 40-21 in 2003. The Cowboys won the last meeting in Miami 29-10 in 1996.

KEYS TO THE GAME: After losing SS Yeremiah Bell for the season, the Dolphins signed former Jaguar Donovin Darius. He'll likely get thrown into the fire when Miami needs an eighth defender to help combat Cowboys RBs Julius Jones and Barber. QB Tony Romo is coming off a career-high 345 passing yards and four touchdowns last Sunday, and if he's given time to throw he will find open receivers against Miami's mediocre secondary. ... Expect Dolphins coach Cam Cameron to open the playbook a bit this week and attempt to exploit the Cowboys' secondary. CB Terence Newman is likely to miss his second consecutive game, and SS Roy Williams is not strong in coverage. The problem is Miami's offensive line isn't much improved over last season and QB Trent Green won't have much time to look downfield against the Cowboys' aggressive blitz packages.

KEY INJURIES: Cowboys: Newman (torn plantar fascia) is practicing, but his status is uncertain; OLB Greg Ellis (Achilles) is practicing, but unlikely to play. Dolphins: RB Jesse Chatman's (bruised knee) status is uncertain; CB Andre Goodman (shoulder) isn't expected to play.

FAST FACTS: Dolphins DE Jason Taylor's five career fumble returns for touchdowns is tied with Jessie Tuggle for most in NFL history. ... Cameron (offense) and Cowboys coach Wade Phillips (defense) were both coordinators for San Diego last season.

COWBOYS PERSONNEL NEWS: --WR Terry Glenn underwent arthroscopic right knee surgery Thursday morning in Columbus, Ohio by Ohio State's team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Christopher Kaeding. Glenn had torn cartilage removed and may still need micro-fracture surgery in the future. He chose to get scoped in hopes of getting back on the field this season. He should be out four to six weeks. The Cowboys are going to keep a roster spot open for him as long as possible.

--NT Remi Ayodele realized a dream when he was signed to the Cowboys to replace the injured Jason Ferguson. Ayodele gets to play alongside his brother, starting inside linebacker Akin Ayodele, for the first time.

"It's a dream come true," Remi Ayodele said. "I got a big smile on my face. That was the main goal trying to get on the same team. That rarely happens."

Ayodele went to training camp with the Cowboys but was released on final cutdowns. He was then signed by the Atlanta Falcons before being cut before the season opener. DT Jason Ferguson's injury in Sunday's game against the Giants paved the way for Remi's return. He will backup Jay Ratliff at nose tackle.

--LB Greg Ellis participated in individual drills on Thursday. It was his second straight day of doing something in practice for the first time since suffering a torn left Achilles. Coach Wade Phillips said he was encouraged by Ellis' progress but Ellis is not expected to play Sunday.

--CB Terence Newman participated in team drills and also played some nickel in practice Thursday for the first time since suffering a tear in his right plantar fascia a month ago. Coach Wade Phillips said he is encouraged by Newman's progress but said it could be a game time decision.

--NT Jay Ratliff has a new starting job and a new phone buddy. Ratliff talks every day with injured nose tackle Jason Ferguson, who Ratliff is replacing in the starting lineup.

Ferguson gives him tips and guidance on how to play the position. Though Ratliff is a defensive end by trade, he feels he can handle the move.

"It's an opportunity and I feel pretty comfortable with it," said Ratliff, who had the Cowboys' only sack against the Giants. "I believe if I couldn't handle it, I wouldn't be here."

DOLPHIS PERSONNEL NEWS: --RB Jesse Chatman has a bruised left knee and hasn't practiced this week, making him doubtful for Sunday's game. If so, then it's possible that rookie RB Lorenzo Booker will be activated to return kicks alongside rookie Ted Ginn Jr. "If they call on me I'll be ready. That's my job," Booker said.

--RB Patrick Cobbs, who had an outstanding exhibition season, will probably be activated Sunday after not making the active roster in the season opener. Cobbs also plays special teams, and should get a few carries in the backfield when Ronnie Brown tires or falters. "I prepare every week as if I'm going to play anyways," Cobbs said. "This week if I get the call I'll be ready for it."

--DE Rob Ninkovich, who was claimed off waivers from New Orleans last week, could be activated Sunday, particularly with the recent release of DE Akbar Gbaja-Biamila.

--S Cameron Worrell should get a lot of playing time Sunday because the new recently acquired safeties -- Lamont Thompson and Donovin Darius -- aren't familiar with the playbook yet. If he does, expect the Cowboys to attack his side of the field.

--LB Kelvin Smith, one of three seventh-round picks by the Dolphins last April, was re-signed to the practice squad after getting cut last week.

INSIDE THE COWBOYS: Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens is happy and looking forward to a big 2007 season.

Owens acknowledged he didn't have the impact season he had hoped for in 2006. Blame it partly on injuries and him not being in the best shape coming into the season. Blame also goes to former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells for not tailoring the passing game to get the most out of Owens.

That is not the case in 2007, where offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has made getting Owens the ball a top priority.

To that end, Owens is being moved all over the field. He has been put in motion and he is being put in the slot to gain mismatches and avoid double teams.

"It gives me more confidence I can go out there and play knowing there are opportunities to get my hands on the football," Owens said. "I just have to take advantage of it and do something with it."

That Owens understands as much is the main reason he didn't go off when he went catchless in the first half of the season opener against the Giants. Owens just stayed patient and caught three passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.

"Sunday's game was a perfect example of his attitude," receiver Patrick Crayton said. "He didn't have any catches at halftime.

"If that would have been last year, he would have been throwing a fit and cussing out (receivers coach) Todd Haley. And we would have gotten out of our game plan trying to change stuff to make (Owens) happy.

"This year he was patient. He caught two touchdowns in the second half. That is all you can say."

Crayton said the change in coaches from Parcells to the laid back Wade Phillips and the Owens-oriented offensive philosophy has made all the difference.

"He's happy," Crayton said. "Just look around. We are all happy. It's a whole different atmosphere. He's happy. And he knows (offensive coordinator Jason) Garrett is going to call plays to get him the ball. He is moving (Owens) around to different spots for him to have an opportunity for key matchups."

INSIDE THE DOLPHINS: With starting strong safety Yeremiah Bell lost for the season and running back Jesse Chatman most likely out with a bruised knee, the Dolphins' lack of depth on both sides of the ball could lead to a disappointing home opener against the potent Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.

It took two veteran safeties to plug the huge hole left by Bell. The Dolphins signed former Jaguars stud Donovin Darius -- the franchise's all-time leading tackler who has been battling injuries the last two seasons -- and Titans castoff Lamont Thompson, who after starting for them the last three years was replaced by a younger player in second-year safety Calvin Lowry.

Because Darius, 32, played for Dolphins defensive coordinator Dom Capers for two seasons in Jacksonville, he's more familiar with the system. However, it's expected that veteran Travares Tillman will start until Darius and Thompson are more familiar with the playbook.

Whoever lines up at strong safety, he'll have to deal with the NFL's No. 1-ranked passing offense and offense overall -- albeit after just one game -- as quarterback Tony Romo threw for a career-high 345 yards with four touchdown passes (two to wide receiver Terrell Owens).

"Whether you lose Yeremiah or not, you're talking about the No. 1 offense in the NFL right now," Dolphins coach Cam Cameron said. "They were in the top five a year ago. They can run the football, they can throw it up the field.

"They've got a quarterback who is awfully good. He plays with a lot of confidence, gets the ball out of his hands extremely quickly. If we were 100 percent healthy, that's still going to have its challenges."

Thompson, 29, is hoping to prove the Titans wrong for releasing him.

"The situation at Tennessee didn't work but I was confident that I'd get picked up because I worked hard during training camp and showed some of the teams what I was capable of doing during the preseason," said Thompson, who had 73 tackles and three interceptions last season.

Darius had 89 tackles and five interceptions in 2004, his last full season before knee and ankle injuries derailed his nine-year career. "Some of the terminology is different and a lot more complex because (Capers) plays a 3-4 here," Darius said. "When he was in Jacksonville we played a lot of 4-3 and some 5-2, but there is some carryover."

Chatman's absence gives starting running back Ronnie Brown another opportunity to prove to Cameron that he could be a featured, workhorse back. It seems that Cameron lost faith in Brown during training camp and the exhibition season, so he gave Chatman an opportunity to share the backfield in the season opening loss to the Redskins.

Brown had just 32 yards on 11 carries against a much-improved Redskins run defense. "I don't really know how it's going to come out over the next few days. I'm going out and preparing the same I would if he was playing," Brown said. "If it comes down to it and I have to carry the ball a little bit more. ... I accept the challenge.

"Any running back I think the key is trying to get into that rhythm and trying to get some consistency, and the more you touch the ball the more comfortable you get, and are able to see things a lot better."

PREDICTION: Cowboys 24-20

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