NSport: He’s good, but it is my sneaking suspicion that Bill Parcells is setting up his armies to roll through the brutally physical NFC East and then to the playoffs. Julius is a bit smallish; look at his great backs of old: Curtis Martin, Dave Meggett, Ottis Anderson, Keith Byars, none of them did it by themselves on the march to the Super Bowl. If Jones has a supporting cast, I am confident that Parcells will have the pieces he needs to go deep in the playoffs for years to come. I was at the draft party for the Cowboys last year and when they passed on Steven Jackson, people walked out shaking their heads. The ones that stayed knew that the former Jet GM knew what he was doing, and now he’s got people believing again.
.NET: Drew Bledsoe was unceremoniously shown the door in Buffalo last season and it seems as if he has resurrected his career with the Cowboys. To what do you attribute his newfound success?
NSport: That’s simple – Bill Parcells. In Buffalo, the system did not play to his strengths. What I find amazing is he is succeeding in his first year with the team. Can you name me 5 other quarterbacks who have done this well in their first year in recent memory? The supporting cast came pre-loaded with rapport, so as long as the “system” is similar to what he ran in New England under Parcells, then it makes sense that Drew should be able to succeed.
.NET: Did the blowup between Bledsoe and Keyshawn Johnson two weeks ago have any ill-effects on the team? Is their relationship strained at all?
NSport: Keyshawn can’t leave well-enough alone, and that bothers me. I love the mentality he brings to the team: Tough, unsettled, demanding, competitive, etc. His talk all throughout his pro career has never been backed up by anything substantial. Let’s face it, he’s big, but he’s also slow. The only thing he can really produce from a stats perspective is a solid resume of receptions and a few touchdowns. On the field, he is a presence, drawing bracketed coverage and safeties over the top. That frees up other players to catch the ball. Drew is smart enough to find everyone on the field. So back to the question, I am worried about Keyshawn taking this so-called leadership tactic a bit too far. So far, both players are saying it’s nothing, but at this point, I’m skeptical.
.NET: Losing Pro Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams for the season could really hurt the Cowboys' offensive attack. What are your feelings on his replacement and how does his loss affect the Cowboys’ game plan?
NSport: This will affect their pass protection schemes and their ability to run the ball. The Cowboys ask their linemen to do a lot, and so far this year, that is the case. The book is still out on Torrin Tucker - just look at his stats line. Worst part about the Adams injury is he was responsible for blind-side protection. Expect twin tight-end formations and the tailback to pick up any overflow on the left side before sprinting out to the flat.
.NET: It seems as if the Dallas defense has really started to step up this season, but their pass defense continues to struggle. How are the defensive backs holding up and is Roy Williams still a liability in coverage?
NSport: It was a bad break when I moved to Dallas towards the middle of Parcells' first year. I was ready to buy season tickets that summer after their 3rd season in a row at 5-11. But they had this miraculous defensive year that was made possible by the safety play of Darren Woodson. He anchored the defensive backs and then inexperienced Roy Williams and Terrence Newman. Last year, without Woodson, the defense faltered badly. Woodson is gone, but Roy has really come back strong after a horrible year. I think the DB’s are playing as a unit, and are making far fewer mistakes. I attribute this to their responsibilities lessening slightly after the switch to the 3-4 defense which features fast, athletic LB’s.
.NET: Rookie DE/OLB DeMarcus Ware had a career-day versus the Hawks in preseason and appeared to all but sew up the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in that game alone. How has he done this season and is he a player teams have to scheme against already?
NSport: That day against the Seahawks was probably the worst thing that could happen to DeMarcus. I watched the press conference after the game and Parcells hardly gave him credit for what he achieved that day. After 6 games, teams have tape on Ware and are handling him now. He is an up and coming star in this league, to the point that the analysts are saying that this is the Lawrence Taylor-type of player that Parcells had in his glory days in while coaching at the Giants. I like the fact he has 4 sacks in his last 4 games – project that out to 16 games and it is reasonable to think he’ll be sitting about 10 sacks for the year. But all the things he did in that preseason game have yet to come true, no forced fumbles, only one pass deflected, and no INT’s.
.NET: What is the weakest aspect of the defense right now? Are they better against the run or pass? How has that changed from last season?
NSport: This team was built to win in the NFC East. Take care of your own division and you will be in the playoffs. For this reason, take a look at the Giants and Eagles, shifty backs who catch a lot of balls (Brian Westbrook, Tiki Barber). I doubt anyone thought the Redskins would be any good this year, but they are, and guess who they lost to? The rematch at Washington should be a great game, expect a game plan that takes Santana Moss out of the equation. I think the Cowboys play to their strengths – speed on defense. This means they will suffer against both the run and the pass but are capable of creating game-changing plays. DeMarcus Ware, Dat Nguyen, Al Singleton, and Bradie James are all fast and capable players, while athletic safeties support the run and protect the corners with over-the-top coverage.
.NET: Is there a sense that this team is ready to take back the NFC East from the Philadelphia Eagles or do they still have a ways to go in the consistency aspect of becoming an elite team?
NSport: I was banned from the water cooler when I predicted the Cowboys would beat the Eagles at least once, if not twice this year. There is no question in my mind that Bill Parcells is interested in one thing and one thing only: Winning the NFC East. Is it possible? You better believe it. As I mentioned earlier, the Cowboys don’t care about the other NFC contenders, only the Redskins, Eagles, and Giants. So far, 2-1 record gives them first place and a leg up on the tiebreakers at the end of the year..
.NET: The Cowboys look like a M*A*S*H unit right now with how many injured players they have on their squad. How will the various injuries to starters affect this team or have they developed the type of depth needed to continue to play at a high level?
NSport: You should talk! The Seahawks have so many wounded, they had to build another tent for Hawkeye, Hot Lips, Trapper, and Burns. The NFL injury report has more key players on it across the league than I’ve seen in awhile. We have some key injuries that could upset the chemistry, Dat Nguyen, Patrick Crayton, Flozell Adams, and Dan Campbell are the notables, but they should all play this week.
.NET: Parcells seems more energized this season. How are things between him and owner Jerry Jones and will Parcells finish out his contract in Big D?
NSport: According to my observations, Jerry Jones is as hands-off as he’s ever been. This can only be good for football operations at Valley Ranch. The sense I had was that Parcells took a big risk by not signing the touted free agents last year and it cost him several wins en route to a 6-10 season. A strong start in 2005 called off the dogs and is giving the public and Jones the confidence Bill deserves. It shows in the stadium where the games are selling out once again, and my selection of season tickets are dwindling yet again.
Nick Shelly has been a professional sports analyst and handicapper for over 10 years. You can contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com.