The calendar was circled early, although nobody really needed the reminder: October 8, 2006 - Terrell Owens is back in town. The Eagles and Cowboys didn't really need an added storyline to their rivalry, but it can never hurt.
is drawing all the headlines as he gets ready to make his return to Philadelphia on Sunday to face his former team.
But Owens is just one of the challenges facing the Eagles defense in this important early-season NFC East battle. The Cowboys may have the best wide receiver-tight end trio in the league in Owens, Terry Glenn and Jason Witten.
"I wish it was just T.O. that we had to worry about," defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "But it's not. We're going against a lot of (good) skill people."
"There's going to be different combinations we have to do on T.O. and Glenn and Witten. You've got three skilled people as far as the passing game. So, it's not going to be easy. But there'll be some things we'll do."
Johnson will have starting corner Lito Sheppard back. Sheppard missed the last three games with an ankle injury. But he won't have number three corner Rod Hood, who will miss his second consecutive game with a heel strain.
Hood will be replaced by Joselio Hanson. An NFL Europe alum, Hanson started Monday night against the Packers when both Hood and Sheppard were out.
"Hanson did a nice job last week," Johnson said. "I was happy with him, and he's playing better every week. Of course, getting Lito back, we'll see how the game progresses, how we're going to attack."
The other key story surrounding the Cowboys is center Andre Gurode.
Gurode, who was stomped in the head last Sunday by Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth will play Sunday after practicing for the first time Thursday. He went through all the drills and should be ready to go, according to coach Bill Parcells.
Gurode received 30 stitches to repair seven lacerations. Although he still has occasional headaches, he no longer has blurred vision.
Haynesworth was suspended five games by the NFL. He will not appeal his suspension. Gurode also has decided not to press charges.
No decision has been made on whether Gurode will file a civil suit. That may not come until after the season, when Gurode, who will be an unrestricted free agent, tests the market.
He was having his best season by far. If he slips now and doesn't get what he expected in free agency, look for Gurode to go after Haynesworth for financial compensation.
"We have only focused on what's been in front of us, and that was the charges," agent Kennard McGuire said. "He's moving forward."
Haynesworth spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since his suspension. He said he will get anger-management counseling and spend time working with kids during his time away.
"Albert Haynesworth is known for something despicable, not for being a good player or the face of the NFL," he said. "I still don't know why I did something like that."
News on the 'boys...
TE Jason Witten has not been himself through three games. He has nine catches for 97 yards with no touchdowns. Don't blame the addition of WR Terrell Owens. Blame Witten. "He's been dropping the ball," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells
said. "That's not like him."
TE Andy Thorn was signed to the practice squad. Thorn was in training camp with Philadelphia, and the Cowboys are trying to pick his brain for tips about the Eagles.
LB Greg Ellis knows the Eagles will try to take advantage of him with mismatches on RB Brian Westbrook, but Ellis said he is ready. He said he understands he won't be covering Westbrook one-on-one; he just has to cover him
for a while and know where his help is coming from.
K Mike Vanderjagt will handle field goals against the Eagles, but Cowboys coach Bill Parcells remains undecided whether Vanderjagt will handle kickoffs as well. He is a liability on kickoffs, so the Cowboys could use Shaun Suisham instead.
RB Julius Jones is playing better, according to coach Bill Parcells. "I think he's a little more patient," Parcells said. "I think he has a better understanding of his plays and how to read them. He is not just running on instincts now." Jones has five career 100-yard games.
Breaking Down the Dallas Offense:
The Cowboys are sixth in the NFL in total offense (fourth in the NFC) with an average of 362.0 total yards-per-game. Dallas is fifth in the NFL in rushing (second in the NFC) with an average of 147.7 yards-per- game on the ground. The Cowboys are 15th in the NFL (12th in the NFC) in passing yardage with an average of 214.3 yards per outing.
The Dallas offense has engineered a first quarter touchdown drive in each of their first three games of the year (on either their first or second possession of each game). Dallas has scored 27 first quarter points in three games.
The Cowboys are currently successful on 41.5% (17-of-41)of their third down conversion attempts, a figure that is seventh best in the NFL (third in the NFC). The Eagles defense has allowed 34.5% (20-of-58) of third down conversions.
The Cowboys have had at least four offensive drives of at least 40 yards in each of their first three games in 2006. The team has compiled five drives of 70-yards or more thus far in 2006.
The Dallas offensive line has allowed just one sack in the last two games. The Cowboys are currently fourth in the NFL in sacks-per-pass play having allowed just three sacks in 94 passing plays. The Eagles pass rush was dominant through the first three games of the season, but was unable to get to Brett Favre on Monday night.
The Cowboys are currently ranked second in the NFL in scoring with an average of 29.7 points-per-game. The Eagles defense has allowed 18.2 points per game, 14th in the NFL, 8th in the NFC.
Breaking Down the Dallas Defense...
The starting unit averages 4.5 years of NFL experience per-man and five of the 11 starters are first round selections by the club.
Dallas is fifth in the NFL (second in the NFC) in total defense, allowing an average of 260.3 yards per game. The Eagles' offense leads the NFL with 426 yards per game.
In the rushing defense category, Dallas is ninth in the NFL (fifth in the NFC) with an average of 83.0 yards per game. The Eagles are seventh in the NFL (third in the NFC) in rushing yards per game (129).
The Cowboys pass defense is ranked eighth in the NFL (fourth in the NFC) with a three-game average of 177.3 yards allowed. The Eagles offense leads the NFL in passing with 297 yards per game.
The Dallas defense has allowed opposing offenses to score four offensive touchdowns in three games this year (1.3 per-game). Only seven other defensive units have allowed fewer opposing offensive touchdowns per game: Chicago (one in four games), Atlanta (one in four) Denver (one in three), Kansas City (two in three), Baltimore (three in four), San Diego (three in three) and Minnesota (five in four).
Dallas has allowed opponents to convert on just 13-of-39 attempts on third downs for a 33.3% success rate. The Eagles' offense has converted 46% (23-of-50) of their third down plays.
Dallas is currently eighth in the NFL in the sacks per passing play department with nine quarterback sacks on 105 opponents passing plays.