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SI's 2008 NFL Scouting Reports: Cowboys

SI's 2008 NFL Scouting Reports
Dallas Cowboys
Projected Finish: 2nd in NFC East
 
Given his cover skills, Jones likely won't be limited to the nickel for long.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
2008 Schedule
 
 
SPOTLIGHT
 

Adam Jones is the latest recovery project, and (mentored by TO and Tank!) a talent who could put Big D over the top.

Adam Jones hasbecome famous for so many reasons -- making it rain, flirting with pro wrestling,trying to rap, being interrogated by police, being interrogated by RogerGoodell -- that it's hard to recall whether his football ability was ever one ofthem.

Jones is back on the field after a yearlong suspension for his off-fieldmisdeeds, finding refuge in the most predictable place. Dallas has become theBoys Town of the NFL, owner Jerry Jones its Father Flanagan. Have a problem withyour quarterback, your firearm or the Las Vegas police department? Here, asFlanagan says in the movie, there is no such thing as a bad boy.

Two years ago the Cowboys reformed wide receiver Terrell Owens, who had ahistory of alienating quarterbacks. Last year they brought in nosetackle TankJohnson, who liked to store heavy artillery in his home. But those two are SillyPutty compared with AdamJones, who has been arrested six times and had at least 10 encounters withpolice since Tennessee took him with the sixth pick in 2005. Even for Boys Town,Jones represents something of a challenge.

"What's new?" Owens says. "With Jerry, you know the unexpected will happen."

It's obvious why Dallas took a chance on Owens, perhaps the best receiver ofhis generation. Johnson, while not as celebrated, helped anchor the Bears'defensive line when they went to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season. But Jones,who was expected to be formally reinstated by Goodell sometime before the seasonopener, has not played since '06, when he had four interceptionsand returned three punts for touchdowns. He was an exciting young talent, but noPro Bowl player. The Cowboys, after trading a fourth- and a sixth-round pick tothe Titans for him in April, slotted Jones as their third cornerback.

Why assume such risk for a guy who fills out the nickel package? Despite whatthe depth chart says, the club believes Jones has Deion Sanders-like athleticability and plans to exploit it. Coach Wade Phillips says he might use Jones atreceiver as well as on defense and have him return kickoffs in addition topunts. Clearly, Jones will soon start at corner.

"He's exceptionally quick, and he's got the great speed," Phillips says. "Buthe's also got a knack that some players don't have for seeing the football whenhe's playing man-to-man. A lot of players can only see their guy. He can see hisguy, but he sees the ball at the same time."

In training camp veteran cornerbacks often position themselves to coverrookie receivers in one-on-one drills. But in Cowboys camp Jones went the otherway, setting up to face Owens as much as possible. Whenever Jones broke up apass, secondary coach Dave Campo came running over barking, "Nice job, Pac!"(Jones says he's fine with teammates and coaches using his well-known nickname;the media is another story.)

Owens and Johnson are fashioning themselves as mentors to Jones -- which notlong ago would have been an amusing notion. Their protégé will need more polish,as evidenced by Jones's reflections on the Titans. "I don't mean to say anythingbad about Tennessee," he said early in camp. "But I don't ever want to go backto Tennessee. It sucks."

Dallas had the most talented team in the NFL before Jones arrived, and now itis even more so. The secondary, a perceived weak spot when it ranked 13th inpass defense last season, includes Jones, Terence Newman, Ken Hamlin, RoyWilliams, Anthony Henry and rookie Mike Jenkins -- a frightening ensemble.

Of course the Cowboys had an NFL record 13 players selected to the ProBowl last season, and all that group got was a loss to the Giants in the secondround of the playoffs and a long flight to Hawaii. Dallas hasn't won a playoffgame since 1996, but this final season at Texas Stadium might be the one inwhich the Cowboys snap that streak in style. As they plan a trip to Tampa,perhaps only their baggage will slow them down. -- LeeJenkins

 
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