Romo to Williams combo gets first test

Tony Romo and Roy Williams began practicing together in June to kick-start their development as quarterback and No. 1 receiver.

The first real progress report comes Thursday night.

Romo and Williams won't be on the field for long when the Dallas Cowboys face the Oakland Raiders in the preseason opener, but it should be long enough for No. 9 to start getting used to looking for No. 11 - instead of No. 81, the departed Terrell Owens.

"We just want to be productive," Williams said. "We might not score, but we might drive it down and kick a field goal. That's productive. Just don't turn the ball over. That's one thing that, if we want to be in the playoffs and want to win the Super Bowl, you can't turn the ball over."

Williams is downplaying this on-field season debut. It's understandable considering all the criticism since Dallas sent a bundle of picks to get him from Detroit last season, tacked on a $45 million contract extension, then dumped T.O. to make him Romo's top target.

Williams caught only 16 passes for 160 yards and no touchdowns in the seven games he played with Romo last season. But there should be a big difference now that he's the main man and they've had an offseason to get their timing down.

"It don't matter what we say or how we play, it's going to be criticized either way," Williams said. "If he's 0-for-3, 'They shouldn't have traded for this guy, they should've left him in Detroit.' If he's 3-for-3, then, you know, it's 'Whatever.' ... It's not about me and Tony, it's about this offense, moving the football down the field."

Injured cornerbacks Terence Newman (groin), Mike Jenkins (ankle) and rookie Michael Hawkins (knee) are being held out. Other guys being rested include fullback Deon Anderson (knee), running back Alonzo Coleman (knee) and rookie linebacker Stephen Hodge (knee).

Training camp has been incredibly smooth for the Cowboys, with no controversies or major injuries and only one position battle, a starting cornerback job that's not much of a battle because both will play on third downs anyway.

Instead, there's been plenty of excitement about the possibilities with running backs Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, and the progress of second-year tight end Martellus Bennett.

But don't expect any of them to be featured too much Thursday night in Oakland. Starters will play about a quarter, less if they are sharp. Most of all, this game is a chance for starters to get a little work against someone other than their teammates and for guys who have played well in practices to try proving to coaches they deserve second- or third-string jobs.

"Let's see them do it in the game so we can see the real truth," coach Wade Phillips said. "We'll cut down the game plan enough that we feel like they won't make many mistakes and can get after it."

This game also is a chance for the Cowboys to catch up with Greg Ellis, the longtime defensive starter and team captain who was cut this summer and signed with the Raiders. On his way out of town, Ellis accused DeMarcus Ware of hiding on the sideline to force Ellis onto the field, a strange barb considering Ware hardly ever missed any snaps.

"It will definitely be tough to see him in a different color jersey," linebacker Bradie James said. "We'll get a chance to 'chop it up' with him, as we say. In other words talk to him and it will be fine."

One quirk about this game is that the teams will meet again this season, at Thanksgiving. Phillips said that will hardly be a consideration.

"We're playing so many people the first preseason game it's a little tougher to gauge I would think, either side, who's going to do what in the regular season," Phillips said. "Plus, unless you play them the first game of the regular season, personnel and all those things have changed by that time."

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