Cowboys Chapped By Loss

Expectations are big in Big D this year, but this weekend the Cowboys played like a very beatable team, which they were, exposing some flaws. On Thursday, the Vikings will see how good Dallas' first unit is for only a very short time.

After seemingly flawless performances in the first two preseason games, the Cowboys got a reality check on Saturday with a 28-16 embarrassing loss to the Houston Texans.

Sure, preseason games are meaningless.

That was the case when the Cowboys were undefeated and it's certainly the case after the loss.

But the performance was uninspired and listless.

It seems the Cowboys had been swept away in the euphoria their fans expressed following the team's first two preseason outings.

Super Bowl talk was mounting and the Cowboys came out against the Texans like all they had to do was show up.

They looked bored and they were flat.

It was a lesson the Cowboys needed to learn and certainly it's better to learn in the preseason when the games are meaningless than in the regular season.

With the starters not expected to play much in Thursday's preseason finale against the Vikings, the Cowboys will have to stew on this performance until the Sept. 9 season opener against the Giants.

What the Cowboys can take away from their performance against the Texans is that to realize their playoff dreams in 2007 they need to be at full strength.

They will struggle to be a good football team if linebacker Greg Ellis and cornerback Terence Newman don't return to health.

Ellis is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon from last season. He has not been on the field in the preseason. And while the Cowboys list him as day to day, there is growing concern he won't be ready for the season opener.

If Ellis is not on the field, the Cowboys' ability to put pressure on the quarterback will be severely hampered.

Rookie Anthony Spencer has potential but he is no Ellis. He does not yet play anywhere near Ellis' level and the Cowboys have no other options to help DeMarcus Ware get to the quarterback.

The Cowboys also learned against the Texans that they have no depth at cornerback behind starters Newman and Anthony Henry.

Newman has a plantar fascia tear in his right heel. The Cowboys believe he will return for the season opener but that is a tricky injury. It could linger all season.

That would be bad news because Aaron Glenn, Jacques Reeves, Joey Thomas and Alan Ball all proved they can't get the job done at cornerback.

"We played a lot of corners to see who would do something and we didn't see anything," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said.

NOTES

  • LB Greg Ellis went to get a second opinion on his injured left Achilles. There is growing concern he will not be ready for the season opener.

  • CB Terence Newman has a plantar fascia tear in his right heel. The Cowboys don't think it's serious and believe he will be ready for the season opener. But it is a tricky injury and it could linger all season. Newman has missed the past two preseason games.

  • TE Anthony Fasano (shoulder) was held out of the Texans game for precautionary reasons.

  • FB Oliver Hoyte (stinger) was held out of the Texans game for precautionary reasons.

  • PK Martin Gramatica is losing the battle with rookie Nick Folk. Gramatica missed an extra point against the Texans and then he suffered a hamstring injury on the ensuing kickoff. His status will be re-evaluated but it's not a good time to be injured for the veteran Gramatica.

  • LB Bobby Carpenter has been moved from inside linebacker to outside linebacker to give the team some depth in case Greg Ellis is not ready for the start of the regular season. It also is an opportunity for Carpenter to find a place to play. He was getting no time behind Bradie James at inside linebacker.

  • WR Terrell Owens caught a 35-yard touchdown pass against the Texans. He caught a slant and sprinted to the end zone. It was an example of how healthy and strong Owens is compared to last season. It was also an example of how the Cowboys plan on using him in 2007. They will get him the ball early and let him make plays with his feet. Or as he said, let him "do the rest."



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