'Boys/Browns Preview & Prediction

The Browns are 9-3 against the Cowboys at home. However, the Cowboys are 2-0 in season openers at Cleveland. The Cowboys won the last meeting between the two teams, 19-12 in 2004.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET

GAMEDATE: 9/7/08

SURFACE: Grass

TV: FOX (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver)

SERIES: 26th meeting. Browns lead series, 15-10.

The Browns are 9-3 against the Cowboys at home. However, the Cowboys are 2-0 in season openers at Cleveland. The Cowboys won the last meeting between the two teams, 19-12 in 2004. The Cowboys have won six of the last nine meetings.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns like the tandem of young CBs Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald, but Cleveland still has questions to answer in the secondary after allowing 230.1 passing yards per game and an AFC-high 29 touchdown passes last season. Cowboys QB Tony Romo will pick the secondary apart unless the Browns get a consistent pass rush. But Cleveland also allowed 129.5 rushing yards per game in '07, so their front seven has its work cut out to contain RB Marion Barber as well. ... QB Derek Anderson appears completely over his concussion, but the Browns have to be a bit worried about the conditioning of RB Jamal Lewis (hamstring) and WR Braylon Edwards (foot) coming off injuries that sidelined them most of the preseason. Cleveland will likely have to turn this into a track meet to keep pace, but pass protection is also a concern with a slew of injuries likely to leave Seth McKinney starting at right guard.

KEY INJURIES: Cowboys: No. 3 WR Isaiah Stanback (shoulder) is putting off surgery and will wear a harness all season. WRs Sam Hurd (ankle) and Miles Austin (knee) and OG Kyle Kosier (foot) are out. Browns: OG Rex Hadnot (knee) is out. RG Ryan Tucker (hip) has an outside shot to play. Cribbs (ankle) has increased his practice reps in hopes of playing.

NEED TO KNOW: Cowboys WR Terrell Owens needs two touchdown receptions to pass Cris Carter (130) for second most in NFL history. ... This is one of three games in which Dallas will wear its blue jerseys this season. ... The Browns have not won double-digit games since 1988.

COWBOYS PERSONNEL NEWS: WR Terrell Owens has gone from pariah to team captain. Once a controversial figure who was considered a locker room divider, Owens was named one of the eight team captains. He joins Tony Romo, Jason Witten and Marion Barber on offense. Defensive captains are linebacker Bradie James, safety Ken Hamlin and linebacker Greg Ellis. Keith Davis was named special teams captain.

--SS Keith Davis joined the Cowboys on Wednesday after being cut by the Dolphins. On Thursday, he was named team captain, which speaks volumes about how much he was missed and what his teammates think of him.

--CB Terence Newman remains bothered by a training camp groin injury and may not start against the Browns, if he plays. The Cowboys plan to bring Newman along slowly so he just may play in the nickel.

--CB Adam Jones will likely start against the Browns in place of the hobbled Terence Newman. It would be quite a comeback for Jones, who was suspended for the 2007 season for repeated violations of the NFL's personal-conduct policy. It will be his first start since December 2006, when he was with Tennessee. It is also his first official game since then.

--RB Felix Jones will alternate with CB Adam Jones on returning kickoffs in the season opener. Adam Jones will be the primary punt returner.

BROWNS PERSONNEL NEWS: S Brodney Pool did not practice Thursday. He was limited Wednesday in his first practice since suffering a concussion Aug. 18. Mike Adams will start if Pool cannot.

--OL Ryan Tucker worked with the tackles in practice Thursday. His status for the Cowboys is uncertain. He is trying to recover from a fractured hip.

--G Rex Hadnot did not practice because of a knee injury. He might miss the Pittsburgh game next week.

--RB Jamal Lewis worked on blitz pick-up drills. He is battling a hamstring injury.

--LB Kris Griffin missed practice with an elbow injury. He is a key contributor on special teams.

INSIDE THE DALLAS CAMP: Cowboys safety Roy Williams knows he will be a target for the Browns offense this week.

Heck, he has been a target all offseason from inside and outside the locker room for his poor coverage skills.

Why would he expect anything to be different come the 2008 season opener, especially against a Browns team that features Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow.

"Why wouldn't they?" Williams said. "I expect (them) to come at (me) all the time. Plus, plus when they have Winslow, he is basically another receiver.

So you know they are. Not to sugarcoat it, they are going to flex him out and try to create one-on-one situations."

"Personally, I never felt like I couldn't get it done," Williams continued. "I don't worry about that. When they put me in man situations, I will have to man up and play."

Williams vowed during the offseason to prove his critics wrong in 2008. Although he always believed he could do it, he put time in training camp working against wide receivers to improve his coverage skills.

"I covered receivers in camp, I am not worried about covering," Williams said. "Last year, I really didn't cover receivers in camp. I did it to remind myself I can do it when I get some work at it. It's about getting some work."

INSIDE THE CLEVELAND CAMP: Pass-rushing linebacker Antwan Peek suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice Wednesday. Coach Romeo Crennel said Peek tore his right patellar tendon. Peek was operated on Thursday morning.

The injury means an increased role for rookie Alex Hall, a seventh-round pick from Saint Augustine's College in Raleigh, N.C.

"It is a big jump, but I'm ready for it," Hall said when asked about facing the Cowboys in the season opener Sunday. "They didn't bring me in just to sit around and look. They brought me in to help and play. I'm prepared."

The Browns filled Peek's roster spot by re-signing Shantee Orr, a linebacker they signed in the offseason to replace Chaun Thompson as a special teams player and a fill-in at linebacker. Orr was released Saturday when rosters were cut to 53.

Orr had 10.5 sacks over the first five years of his career. Seven of those were in 2005 when he was with Houston. He had 1.5 sacks over the last two years.

The Browns were counting on Peek to provide pressure from the left side with Kamerion Wimbley rushing from the right. Peek was bothered by minor injuries in 2007. He missed only two games, but because he was always hurt, he was never completely healthy. He had only four sacks.

Peek underwent arthroscopic surgery on July 31 to remove cartilage in his knee. He was excited to practice in full pads Wednesday. Then his season ended and the Browns' pass-rush plans had to be adjusted.

"Antwan is a good player. It hurts to lose him," Wimbley said. "But we still have Willie McGinest. We have Shantee Orr back and we have Alex Hall. All those players are capable of playing. I think we'll be fine."

Hall started against the Lions and Bears and totaled two tackles and a quarterback hurry, causing coach Romeo Crennel to say Hall looked better in practice than in games. But now here the rookie is, focusing on Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. McGinest will start. Hall, lanky at 6-5, 250, would play in pass-rush situations.

"Hall and Orr will both have to play Sunday," Crennel said. "The fact Hall has made some progress during training camp is a plus for him. Experience is a plus for Orr. Orr has good first-step quickness. He showed ability to rush the passer. He might surprise some people.

"Hall continued to make progress -- maybe not as fast as initially. You flash in this league, more gets added to your plate. Sometimes that progress slows a little bit, but he's still coming along. We still like him."

PREDICTION: Cowboys 34-17


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