Cowboys Put the 'D' Back in 'Big D'

The Cowboys' strength lies with a strong, physical defense. That's not to excuse their offensive talent, including Terrell Owens, but the defense could be what makes this Dallas team the best it's been in 10 years. The Vikings will be tested on that Thursday night.

The goal in Dallas is to make a Super Bowl run, and there will be no excuses.

Now there might be some problems. But there will be no excuses. Owner Jerry Jones and coach Bill Parcells know what they got themselves into when they signed receiver Terrell Owens in the offseason.

They knew there would be controversy and they knew there would be scrutiny. But they also understood what he brings to the table as a football player and that alone made it a gamble they were willing to take. That doesn't mean it hasn't been frustrating during the preseason as Parcells answered question after question regarding a hamstring injury that forced Owens to miss 21 practices.

"At the end of the day I knew when we acquired this player that I was going to be the one that had to deal with (it)," Parcells said. "I am going to do what I think is best for the Cowboys and whatever opinion anyone else has is totally irrelevant because they don't have all the facts. So I operate from a position of advantage. The only thing tedious to me is talking about it all the time."

Owens is one of a team-record eight free agent signees. Add that to a strong rookie class and an already strong base of holdovers and this is not only the most talented Cowboys team since Bill Parcells took over in 2003 but the most talented Cowboys team in more than a decade.

With the addition of Owens and kicker Mike Vanderjagt, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, the Cowboys should not have any trouble scoring points.

The key will be whether the offensive line can keep quarterback Drew Bledsoe protected long enough to get the ball downfield. That is still a question going into the season opener because of concerns about left tackle Flozell Adams (calf strain) and the talent at right tackle with Jason Fabini and Marc Colombo.

Still, Owens' ability to draw double teams should help, as he will keep nine-man fronts off the running game and allow tight end Jason Witten and receiver Terry Glenn to face single coverage.

Either way, the offense will certainly draw some attention.

The strength of the team, however, is on the defensive side of the ball.

This will be the biggest and most physical unit in Cowboys history. Time well tell if it becomes Doomsday III.

But just the sight of former defensive end Greg Ellis at outside linebacker says volumes about the transformation of a unit that used to be led by fast and quick players.

The defense is still fast but the players bring punch when they get there.

Linebacker DeMarcus Ware, linebacker Bradie James, safety Roy Williams and cornerback Terence Newman are the stars of the defense.

But this developing defense has several players on the verge of breakout years, including defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, and Ellis, who reminds coach Bill Parcells of Willie McGinest at linebacker.

The Cowboys should be good and should be contenders the entire season. However, with six of their first nine games on the road, including three of their first four, they need to be ready to play at the onset.

Parcells spent the entire preseason preparing the Cowboys to run on all cylinders out of the chute.

Look for them to win the NFC East and lose in the divisional playoffs.

But mostly look for them to make national headlines weekly, thanks to the interest in everything about Owens.

Parcells is ready for that, too.

"It's a different era now than it was 15 years ago," Parcells said. "Just so much more electronic media than it used to be. It's a coast to coast thing too. It's not just local. It's a nationwide commentary on a circumstance here in Dallas. Most people don't know anything about it 800 miles away. They don't know what's going on here."

COACHING: Bill Parcells, 18th year, 4th with Cowboys (174-130-1).

REMEMBERING: 2005 record: 9-7 (3rd in NFC East)


  • WR Terrell Owens is back at practice and ready to play in the season opener. Ironically, his return came following what looked like the biggest controversy since he has been in Dallas. Owens missed a team meeting, a rehab session and was late to an offensive meeting Aug. 25 because he overslept. He was fined $9,500 by the Cowboys. Owens apologized to his teammates. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Bill Parcells said the incident was no big deal.

  • Think Bill Parcells is worried about Terrell Owens?

    Not as long as "she" is still around.

    Receiver Terry Glenn, referred to as "she" by Parcells when both were with the Patriots in 1997, had a great season in 2005 and has picked up where he left off in the preseason.

    Parcells said the 11th-year veteran remains one of the league's most dangerous receivers. Acquired for a sixth-round pick from Green Bay in 2003, Parcells said Glenn is playing the best football since he has been in Dallas and will serve as a capable go-to receiver for quarterback Drew Bledsoe until Owens returns to health.

    More important, he is someone Parcells trusts and whom he knows he can count on.

    "Terry understands everything about me," Parcells said. "He does. He's seen it all. He's been with me as a young player, he saw all of that. He's been with me in the big game, he's seen that. He knows what I want and he does it."

  • The roster is at 70 after releasing five players, including receiver LaShaun Ward, defensive back Lenny Williams, receiver J.R. Tolver, kicker/punter Tyler Fredrickson and safety Justin Beriault. The Cowboys have to be down to the maximum of 53 players on Saturday.

  • FS Keith Davis is back at practice after having a bullet removed from his leg last Friday and missing Saturday's preseason game. Davis was shot while driving on a Dallas freeway in July. He decided not to have a bullet removed from his right thigh at the time because he didn't want to miss the start of training camp.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 6 — The round in the draft that the Cowboys gave a pick to Green Bay in exchange for receiver Terry Glenn. Talk about a steal.

    11 — Number of years it has been since the Cowboys have had a double-digit sacker, Tony Tolbert with 12 in 1996.

    3 — Number of games lost by missed field goals last year, according to coach Bill Parcells. The Cowboys could have finished with 12 wins instead of nine.

    7 — Number of different players to lead the team in receptions since Michael Irvin's string of eight straight years was snapped in 1999. Look for it to go to eight with the addition of receiver Terrell Owens.

    4 — Number of years it has been since the Cowboys had a 1,000-yard rusher. Julius Jones hopes to end that streak in 2006.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "The only thing it would be is well, ‘what's he look like, how's he practiced what does it look like he knows?' There could be a lot of reasons why he might not play. Does he re-injure himself? I don't know what's going to happen. But if you're asking me right now, ‘do I know if he's going to play in Jacksonville?' The answer is no. I don't know if left tackle Flozell Adams is going to play, either." — Cowboys coach Bill Parcells on Terrell Owens playing in the season opener.

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